Clancy Imislund: A Tribute to an Extraordinary Individual
Clancy Imislund (7/7/1927 to 8/24/2020)
“The purpose of AA is to gradually accomplish what alcohol used to do rapidly; to alter the alcoholic’s perception of reality.”
Clancy was an iconic figure in Alcoholics Anonymous, revered for his exceptional contributions. With an impressive streak of 61 years of continuous sobriety, he founded the esteemed Pacific AA group in Los Angeles, providing assistance to countless individuals battling alcohol addiction.
The life journey of Clancy, a World War II veteran, took a turn for the worse as his drinking spiraled out of control, leading him to homelessness and a desperate suicide attempt. Eventually, on 10/31/1958, he achieved sobriety. During his early days of recovery, he resided in an abandoned car, conveniently parked in the vicinity of his local AA clubhouse.
Clancy’s Rise as an Esteemed AA Speaker
Clancy’s reputation soared when he became an AA circuit speaker, captivating audiences with his wit and wisdom. Though his talks were often filled with laughter, Clancy’s message carried profound sincerity.
He perceived alcoholism as an all-consuming mental illness, irrespective of whether the alcoholic was actively drinking or not. To Clancy, alcoholism was far more than a physical addiction to alcohol. Apart from his speaking engagements, he played a pivotal role in sponsoring numerous individuals through the twelve steps. Additionally, he dedicated his time to assisting the destitute alcoholics of downtown Los Angeles at the Midnight Mission, where he later became the managing director.
The Significance of LA’s Downtown Midnight Mission
Situated in Skid Row, downtown Los Angeles, the Midnight Mission is a secular nonprofit organization established in 1914. It offers crucial services such as food, drug and alcohol recovery programs, “safe sleep” initiatives, educational training, a mobile kitchen, and family housing. Its primary focus lies in fostering self-sufficiency among its beneficiaries.
The Midnight Mission recognized the substantial influence of alcoholism on the lives of the Skid Row population following a survey conducted in 1963. In response to this revelation, Clancy Imislund, a recovered alcoholic and renowned A.A. speaker, assumed the role of managing director in 1974, a position he held for several decades.
A Personal Account of Early Recovery
My own journey in sobriety commenced on May 15th, 1984, after almost two decades of enduring the hardships of addiction. Overwhelmed by a burning desire to transform my life, I found solace and a sense of belonging in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Being a confirmed agnostic, I initially struggled with the notion that a higher power or God was necessary to combat alcoholism. I questioned its relevance to my personal battle against the bottle. Similarly, I dismissed the idea that alcoholism was an illness and believed it to be a moral failing, a flaw in character.
Relating to the “Disease of Perception”
However, my perspective shifted when I stumbled upon Clancy’s enlightening discourse. His profound message resonated deeply within me. Clancy characterized alcoholism as a “disease of perception.” Suddenly, it all made sense. I couldn’t deny the inherent dysfunction in the way my mind processed reality. My extreme reactions to daily occurrences were unparalleled, and alcohol was the only remedy I knew to quiet my chaotic thoughts.
Clancy’s thought-provoking words struck a chord: “If alcohol was my problem, once I got sober, there would be no need for AA.” Alcohol was never my problem; it was always my solution. Clancy’s “disease of perception” accurately encapsulated the struggles I faced.
A Distorted Prism of Reality
As an alcoholic, my lens through which I viewed life was perpetually distorted. Whether intoxicated or sober, I interpreted the world through the prism of fear, resentment, self-pity, and blame. Chronic insecurity exacerbated my anxiety, leading me to adopt a victim mindset, believing that life’s negatives were somehow directed specifically at me.
To maintain my sobriety, I needed to break free from this destructive pattern of perception. Accepting spiritual assistance became imperative, especially when life seemed unbearable. For an agnostic like myself, spiritual guidance came in the form of working through the twelve steps with the guidance of a sponsor who understood and respected my beliefs. This ongoing process gradually dissipates the selfishness and self-centeredness that plagues individuals with alcoholism, ultimately leading to a life centered around love and service to others.
The Continuous Journey of Recovery
I humbly acknowledge that I am not cured of alcoholism. Instead, I recognize it as the “disease of perception.” Each day becomes a reprieve, contingent upon my commitment to maintaining a sound spiritual condition. By embracing this truth and adhering to the suggestions of AA, I find solace in Clancy’s words: “AA has indeed done for me slowly what alcohol used to do quickly.”
Rest in peace, Clancy.
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