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Gicky-Pah means 'good sober fun'
AA conference targets youth
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It's technically called the Georgia Conference by Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous (GCYPAA). But the people who attend the event just call it "Gicky-Pah."

Targeted to AA members aged 18-30, the state conference includes round-the-clock meetings every hour on the hour, panel discussions, and even a dance with a live band. But of course no alcohol!

Gicky-Pah planning committee member Marie B. -- AA members keep strict anonymity when talking to the media -- says "it's very different from other conferences. There's a lot of craziness, people won't sleep all night, and it's all good sober fun."

While the conference is oriented to youth, in accordance with AA tradition any member is welcome.

"The main principle behind our traditions is to be inclusive," says host committee chairman Robert T., age 27. "The only requirement for membership in AA is to have a desire to stop drinking."

Marie, age 20, explains it like this:

"It does appeal more to a younger age group, but it's meant to be a conference put on by young people for everyone. A lot of the panelists are of an older generation that got sober young -- and I'm not saying young as in 15, I mean young as in 30, 35, 40. That's still young," she says.

While getting tanked to the gills is unfortunately still a key rite of passage for youth, social networking is adding a new twist. A generation of Facebook and texting-crazed young people seems to see less of a stigma with admitting they have a problem.

"There has been a big influx of young people," says Robert. "I guess social networking might have something to do with it -- with MySpace and Facebook, you just click and join a cause."

But what happens when AA's strict anonymity comes up against a new generation's obsession with making every intimate detail of their lives very, very public?

"My friends on Facebook, every two seconds they're updating their profile with another set of pictures.But I don't see it as that big a deal. Normal people don't know what 'Gicky-Pah' means," Marie says.

"We still have to be careful and say if you're going to take pictures make sure you have approval from everybody. A lot of people get around it by not saying it was an AA function. They just put, 'oh, we had fun this weekend,'" she laughs.

"Even though it's awesome that so many young people are joining, we're still a minority in AA," Marie continues. "When a young person who's in sobriety sees another young person coming in, it's sort of installed in our brains to make friends our age and help them."

Does the influx of young people into AA mean that young people are becoming addicted at younger ages than in years past?

 "I don't know if that's necessarily the case or if we're becoming better at helping people to identify their problems. I think we're just getting better at relating to people," muses Robert. 

"The men I sponsor, I basically want to disturb them about the question of alcoholism. I want to get them thinking about whether they've experienced the phenomenon of craving. I know people who were drinking for only six months, but it was sufficiently painful for them to where they could recognize that they had these things going on."

Marie says that despite their youth, Gicky-Pah planners and attendees go out of their way to stick with AA's hallowed traditions.

"I think it's really cool that we're constantly like, wait, does this go against traditions? Even though it would have been easier to just say ah, who cares," she says.

"The purpose of putting on this conference is to share the message and to show that yes, we still follow the traditions but we can still have a really good time."

Georgia Conference by Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous (GCYPAA)  

What: Annual state conference oriented to young people, but open to anyone with the desire to stop drinking.

When: Friday, July 10 through Sunday July 12. 


Where:  Holiday Inn Midtown, Savannah

Cost:  On-site registration fee $20