Our stories of hope and recovery
I was born in Redwood City, California, at a Kaiser Hospital, and grew up in East Palo Alto and Palo Alto then Mountain View. I was living in Campbell California when I got my DUI, and I knew I needed a change of scenery (I now know that what I did was “geographic”). An opportunity came for me to move to San Francisco and I jumped at it and have been here ever since.
I found the Club through an agency that I was working with. We had an event there and, ironically, I was hungover at the event. I didn't return again until I got sober. Since then, the CCC has helped me understand the importance of building and maintaining community. I re-learned how to show up.
Thanks to the Club I also found my Drag voice, Minnie Happy Returns, and, as Miss Castro Country Club, I was able to further develop the personality of this alter ego and use her vast powers of gab and humor to do good for the community. Now, I’m part of the team that runs the CCC podcast. What I love most about the Podcast is that Bonnie, Anthony, and I are constantly inviting room for growth.
Watch Louis’ Favorite Episodes here
I moved from NY to LA in 1988—I got sober there in 1990—then to San Francisco in 1993, where I continued my work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Believe it or not, I’ve only had two apartments in San Francisco, with me living in the one I’m in now for the past 26 years.
When I first moved here, the CCC was almost entirely men. The manager, wanting to diversify a bit, asked me if I wanted to be hired on and I said sure. Now, the staff is all-volunteer, including me. I love volunteering. It’s part of my DNA to help people.
I remember years ago meeting a man who would be sober for a minute, and come to meetings. Each time I saw him I would ask, “Are you with us today?” and he would say no, but keep coming to meetings. One day I asked him if he was with us and he said yes—then he asked me to be his sponsor. Today, he’s four years sober.
In 2018, I started the first women’s group at the CCC, the Castro Sober Sisters, and it’s still going strong, despite COVID. About half of the people who attend are straight women looking for a safe and supportive environment. This is what drew me in and why I love it here: the CCC embraces all kinds of people on every step of their journey.
Throughout my sober journey, I’ve had a desire that I would be known in my community, and loved for who I am. Now, I can truly say that I feel that way.
I moved to San Francisco in 1980, when I was 16 years old, in a van with some of my friends who were mostly in their 20s. Initially we spent our time sofa surfing and having a blast! This was the height of the disco era and there I was with my fake ID experimenting with all kinds of drugs and meeting exciting people. I always knew I felt different but it wasn’t until I met my first trans-woman in San Francisco that it all clicked. A year later, I was doing whatever it took to get hormone injections and started my transition.
I got sober first in 2005, then relapsed in 2010 after my partner of twenty years died of pancreatic cancer. He died in our bedroom, in my arms. Immediately after the coroner left, I opened up his medicine cabinet, filled with drugs to ease his suffering, and fell back into it.
On September 17, 2013, I got sober again, and have been clean ever since. I heard people talking about the CCC and decided to walk by. There were all these cool people on the front stairs and I was too intimidated to go up. Then one day there were only two people on the steps, so I stepped up. They were so welcoming that I went in and knew I’d found my community.
Now, I’m a well-known and loved part of the CCC family. I attribute everything I have and am—my youthfulness, my purpose, my work, my friends, my life—to my sobriety with the CCC at the center, the heartbeat, of my recovery community.
I got sober 15 years after I landed San Francisco with only 15 dollars in my pocket.
Back in 1995, I was 19 years old, doing door-to-door sales for this bunk cleaning product. It felt illegal and wrong, so I mentioned to the team that we should turn the owner in. Five minutes later she got wind of what I’d said and asked me to get in her car.
She drove us to the Greyhound bus station and told me she’d buy me a one-way ticket wherever I wanted. We were in Merced, CA. I had no place to go there and knew you could be homeless in San Francisco—so that’s where I went.
Right after the bus pulled in, I made my way to Golden Gate Park where I met some people who showed me how to live homeless.
Nine months later, on the night before Thanksgiving, I went to a rave and partied all night. Some guy gave me a ride back to Golden Gate Park, where I woke up later in the afternoon. I was hungry and alone and realized this was my first Thanksgiving away from my family.
Hungry and depressed, I tried get a meal but everything had closed—literally, everything. Not even McDonalds or the corner store was open. Then the same guy who had dropped me off the night before drove by and offered to take me to his friend Dennis Peron’s house for dinner.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a full Thanksgiving spread in a gorgeous house with lots of people—mostly hippies. I ate and ate all this strange foods, including green stuffing and strange brownies. Come to find out that all the food was made with marijuana. Needless to say, I got very high, passed out, and slept there.
When I woke up the next morning, Dennis suggested that I stay in trade for cleaning his house and his cannabis business and canvassing for signatures to get medical marijuana on the ballot—and that’s how I became an activist. All that year I went to rallies and protests. The feds were even tracking us. Proposition 215 passed in 1996, and not long after I left Dennis’s and was homeless again.
After 15 years of doing lots of drugs, especially meth at the end, my life had become unmanageable and out of control. I told my dealers and my friends that if I could get a dog, I could stay sober. I just needed someone to love who loved me, so I saved my money and got a dog—and stayed sober for about five days.
To avoid looking like a failure, I found new dealers who didn't know my old dealers and started getting high in “secret” until my dear friend Roberto—who was sober—called me out. I came clean and he said being around me was not only sad, but triggering him. He told me that if I kept using, he would leave our friendship. This made me see how many people I’d already lost and I decided to really get sober.
I gave away my drugs and locked myself up in Dennis’s house for three days, listening to “You Pulled me Through” on repeat and crying, crying, crying.
On day three I texted two of my former customers who had gotten sober, asking for help. One texted me back and took me to a meeting that night where I saw a few other people I knew from before. They hugged me and welcomed me and later took me to the Castro Country Club (CCC). After that, I hung out every day at the CCC, going to meetings and volunteering.
Billy Lemon, who’s now the Executive Director of the CCC, and I had become friends when we were both drug dealers. After I got sober, he was still using, but eventually he asked me for help—so I helped him the way I’d been helped.
Years later, Billy was working at the CCC and encouraged me to apply for the manager job. I did and began my first “real” job.
Billy and I have been there for each other on this wild journey together. We were dealers and users and now we are working at the CCC together, sober.
I came to San Francisco to finish college (after ten years in and out of school) and never left. Moving here was a huge culture shock from Los Angeles, but I felt at home in the city. I love the weather and all the clothing options it allows for, like hats, jackets, and scarves. I also love all the parks in our neighborhoods and the feeling of community.
My sober journey started around 2005 when I was told that I needed to get help for my drinking. To keep my job, I began going to meetings and was in and out of the rooms for a good 5 to 6 years. I struggled and my bottom kept dropping, but I kept going back to the rooms. Little by little, I gained more sober time and my life started to improve. The first room I rented in sobriety was on 17th and Hartford, around the block from the Country Club. Living so close, I started attending regular meetings there and decided to make Castro Monday Night Big Book my home group. I wasn't entirely comfortable in the Club at first, because I wasn't very comfortable with myself, but as I grew in my sobriety I started to love the Club and the community it serves.
The welcome I receive when I attend a meeting or stop by the cafe keeps me coming back. I'm a big fan of CCC and feel so fortunate to have this magical place in the heart of the Castro. My spirits are lifted by all the love in the place and I've learned so much about what it means to be a sober member of the community.