What’s Good About Today? John F. Willey

RIP John Willey

My home group is a wonderful meeting at 7:00 am everyday but Sunday in Amesbury, MA called ‘What’s Good About Today‘ or WGAT.  The meeting is as positive as its name despite being a large meeting which averages ~70 people each morning dealing with all stages of recovery.  Some of the local, angry dry drunks frequently refer to it as the meeting with bunnies and puppies!   The format is that after the intro’s the discussion goes around the room with most people starting with “My name is Greg and I’m an alcoholic and what’s good about today is….”  I love the diversity of the meeting ranging from wise old-timers, steady “yuppy-row”, young desperate opiate addicts, to candid Hell’s Angels … yet it’s amazing how we’re all so similar.

I found the meeting a few days after my last drink when I came in so raw and met my first temporary sponsor, Tim, one of my closest sober brothers, Tom, and several others who have helped me so much in my recovery.  Due to my work I rarely make it during the week but I start my Saturday’s with this new family.  My two young sons have both been on several occasions including my two anniversaries when most every speakers commented on their father which was so powerful for them to hear.  It is truly a special PIC which I never leave in a bad mood having found something said that I needed.

My other home group is the sober community I’ve pieced together over the past two years on Twitter (which I’ll talk about often).  I was fortunate last summer to come across a woman named Catherine (@TheBubbleHour) who along with a group of women hosts a online weekly recovery webcast called The Bubble Hour (www.thebubblehour.com).  Catherine reached out to me when she saw that my twitter handle, NewburyportDad, referenced her home town.  Now living in NYC she and her husband where traveling to Plum Island (Newburyport) and she wanted to know of any good meetings.  Of course I told her of WGAT and we ended up attending that Saturday together. Catherine was one of those visitors who spoke wisdom and touched most in the room.  She’s continued to visit WGAT whenever back from NYC visiting her family.

Catherine introduced me to sweet, 86 year old ‘old-timer’ named John F. Willey with 45 years sobriety.  John also lives in NYC and grew up in the Merrimack Valley of Boston’s North Shore.  As his family’s patriarch, he was traveling through the area for a family vacation on Bailey Island, Maine. Catherine had told him he had to contact me and visit us at WGAT!

John lit the room up when he spoke.  One of our regulars remembered John from the “Waco Meeting” in Haverhill back in the day.  His positive message of sticking with the winners and stepping out of your comfort zone to meet others in need of help has inspired me to do just that.  John added me to a regular email that he sends out and we’ve kept in touch since.  Less than a month ago I received his email update, titled LIFE and it read in part:

Last year Catherine informed me about a PIC in far off Amesbury, Massachusetts named “What’s Good About Today. ” I went and never forgot the sense of Optimism that pervaded the meeting.  Today I awoke to a refrain that would not stop, “What’s good about today” over and over. I decided I had to contact Catherine to respond to the refrain; either that or go nuts. Then I remembered the Optimist’s Creed.

As you ramble through Life, Brother,
Whatever be your Goal,
Keep your Eye upon the Doughnut
And not upon the Hole.

Tuesday night Catherine let me know that John was in a NYC hospital and asked me to please pray for him.  She visited John yesterday and reported that despite the gravity of his health he remains his positive self.  “He told a guy with 6-7 months who went to see him today – if you go out, I’ll haunt you!”  She also read this Top 10 list to John which I told her I’d share at WGAT tomorrow morning:

Top 10 things I learned from John Willey (aka. What’s Good About Today)

1. I’m so damn grateful to be sobah! This should be your daily starting point.
2. God gave you free will and a brain. Use them! That is, get off your ass and take action, make a change.
3. Get the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth. If you really listen, you’ll learn something to be excited about.
4. Be excited about life!! It’s an honor to be here to grow and learn.
5. Keep learning. Read everything. Study. Don’t stop.
6. Forget about your mother issues and your father issues. It’s over. Know they did their best. And get into action. (See item two)
7. Twelve step service isn’t about the other guy and what he does or doesn’t do. Did it keep you sober today? Then it was a success.
8. Be willing to change your mind. You can change your perspective about anything, at any time.
9. Laugh and show up. Even when you don’t feel well. Do it anyway. It’ll help you (and you may help someone else.)
10. The first forty years of sobriety are the hardest. So just keep coming back.
John’s sober anniversary 4/7

BTW, John is also an author and his biography, Living the Life I Always Wanted, highlights that despite some bumps along the way, John has lived an amazing life surrounded by adventure, loving relationships, and friends. He did not sit and watch life go by but participated in it every step of the way. Learn from his experiences and find inspiration in Living the Life I Always Wanted. You can find here:



Have you every met someone in this fellowship that makes you feel so blessed to be a part of this?  John & Catherine both are two of those people.

Updated 4-25-16
Last night Catherine informed me that John passed away yesterday.  Over the past several days, she had the privilege of visiting with John and his family. She described John as comfortable and lucid.  He knew the end was near and he was ok with it although sad about leaving his wife, Barbara.  He did have a son on the other side that he would soon be reunited with.  Friday night she let me know he had been moved to hospice care where he was surrounded by lots of family members.  Catherine and I discussed how it was like a scene out of A Wonderful Life.  Here is a man totally at peace with leaving this life for another.  He no longer has to worry about ‘One Day at a Time’ as he could see the finish line in sight and he knew he used his final 45 years to finish strong.  I described the odd feeling over the past few days of not praying for healing and recovery but instead for John’s family.  As our local WGAT prophet, Rodney, likes to quote most of us Ragamuffins can etch the same epitaph on our tombstones, “I’ve Been Worse.”
RIP, John Francis Willey

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Please join us all in praying for John, his wife Barbara and family and all of those he helped through his many years of service.



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