About Brain Damaged
How the Brain Damaged meeting came to be.
Disturbing the comfortable, comforting the disturbed.
- Be sure to sign up for the Retreat as soon as possible.
- Look here for upcoming events that you can attend!
- Remember, the 8:00 Friday night meeting starts promptly at 8:05
Who Are These Guys?
My first meeting at Brain Damaged was an accident- back when I believed in
accidents. It was early in my sobriety and I had a roommate Matt who had a few
more 24 hours than I did. He had met up with a group of guys who he thought
were “hanging out” at a cigar lounge in Villa Park. Matt struck up a conversation
with one of them and found that they shared a common disease and that this
fellow’s home group was in Elmhurst- a group called Brain Damaged. Since I had
a car and was willing- we headed out to the Yorkfield Presbyterian Church the next
What I found there was quite different from previous meetings I’d been to. First
of all- everyone seemed to know each other- but they were quick to introduce
themselves. Each one of them at some point in the introduction said a similar thing-
“This will be an unusual meeting- keep coming back”. Puzzled, I went downstairs.
The meeting started normally enough- introduction of the chair, preamble, How It
Works, a reading from the 24 hour book. However- the next agenda item was new
to me. The chair announced “Does anyone have any jokes?” Jokes? As a formal
part of an AA meeting? This is different- and then came the jokes! I can honestly
say that when the chair asked “Is there anything bothering anyone’s sobriety
tonite?” I almost responded- “The jokes!”
As the meeting progressed I noticed a few other unusual twists. Crosstalk was
not only allowed, it was expected! Many members seemed to have a nickname-
some not fit for repeating outside the room. Another thing that struck me was the
diversity in the room. The person with the most sobriety that night was Jimmy K-
more than 50 years! There were quite a few men with in excess of 20 years, but
quite a few others with less than a year. Looking for a group with a plethora of life
experiences? Doctors, lawyers, bakers, bankers, truck drivers, used car salesmen,
and, I was later to find out- some homeless as well. It turns out there was even an
Indian chief. Each had their own unique way of flavoring the ongoing comments-
some comical, some profane, all of them insightful. Needless to say- I was hooked
from my first meeting and have made this my home group.
There is a deep sense of tradition in the group- tracing their history back to some
of the first AA groups in DuPage County. Their heritage starts with the Whetley
group, founded by John W. in Villa Park. There were four chronic relapsers in that
group who, along with Bill B. split off to start the Slippers group. From 5 men
meeting in Bill B.’s basement, the group eventually grew so large that they needed
to search for a larger meeting space and thus Excuse Makers was born. The story
goes that Bill B. had trouble remembering people’s names as the group got larger
and thus the nickname tradition began. The Judge, the Doctor, Gown Clown,
Windows, Harry the Heat, Cash Flow, the Baron were all members of that group.
Eventually Excuse Makers split and gave rise to Resentmentville. The traditions
of these groups were similar- all were quite service oriented and commonly took
newcomers on 12 step calls. The idea was that both the potential recruit and the
new guy would each benefit from the interaction of 12 stepping. There was another
fundamental principle common to these groups that still persists today. Splits
were seen as good for the program as they allowed for the formation of lifelong
fellowships in a smaller protected environment. Two other important guiding
principles also remain from these early groups. The first is “Do what you are told”
and the second, “Shut up, smile and step back”.
Resentmentville eventually spawned two other groups- Quarry Rats and Brain
Damaged. All three are healthy and still growing to this day. As for Brain Damaged-
I wouldn’t want anyone to think that it is merely a meeting of old drunks swapping
drunkalogues and early AA memories. While I’ve never laughed harder than at a
Brain Damaged meeting (the story of how Shark Bait got his nickname comes to
mind) I have also witnessed how quickly these men become deadly serious when
talking about recovery and the program. They recognize our common illness as
being incurable, fatal and progressive and respond accordingly. The amount of
service work being done through this fellowship is a great example. They reach
out to many groups- the Hines VA meeting, the sponsorship of new “recruits” from
various halfway houses and the winter Fatima Retreat serve as incredible service
opportunities. Last year’s Fatima Retreat brought together nearly 100 men from 7
states for three days of fellowship. Many of our members support
a new tradition of taking their fifth step there.
The warning that I received at my first meeting holds true- it is an unusual
meeting and has played a major role in my sobriety and that of the men who
“keep coming back”. If you want what we have- Brain Damaged is a group who
exemplifies the fact that we AA’s are wired differently. Oh- by the way- the meeting
doesn’t actually start until ~8:05 pm on Fridays and the format still includes a
couple of jokes. Yours in service - Dan P.