Gratitude Luncheon honors Crossroads Club director Tony Allerton

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By: Marisa Herman
Associate Editor

Tony Allerton, 91, says he wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for Alcoholics Anonymous and Crossroads Club.

The executive director of Crossroads in Delray Beach has been sober for 37 years. He had his last ounce of alcohol May 1982 and attended the first Crossroads meeting on Christmas of that same year.

Crossroads Club, a safe haven for anyone whose life has been adversely affected by, or through, the use of addictive substances, is open 365 days a year. Doors at the building, 1700 Lake Ida Road, open daily at 6:30 a.m. with the first meeting beginning at 7 a.m. and the last ending at 10 p.m. Groups are guided by the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which began in 1935.

Allerton attends early meetings most mornings and has worked to have an impact in some way on the 800 people who enter the building daily.

Some of those folks showed their gratitude to Allerton and Crossroads Club during the Inaugural Gratitude Luncheon, which honored Allerton for his service.

The ballroom at Seagate Country Club was at capacity with over 200 attendees.

Keynote speakers included best-selling author John Lipscomb and state attorney Dave Aronberg.

Lipscomb has been sober for 20 years. He shared his sobriety journey with the audience. It was the coldest day in history in St. Louis when he got sober. It was Jan. 5, 1999.

Three weeks before he turned 40 and had his last meal before he went on cycles of drinking and sleeping.

He had nothing left but an old, beat up work truck, he said. His family was gone, he hadn’t paid his taxes, he had cars repossessed and he had health problems including gout and high blood pressure. He remembered he had the shakes so bad he couldn’t hold a pencil as he filled out an intake form at the hospital.

“I hadn’t eaten in 3 weeks,” he said. “All I did was drink around the clock.”

He remembered seeing a room filled with happy people. He wondered why they were so happy at 8:30 a.m. when he was so miserable. It was an AA meeting. One he would begin to attend to help him on his path of recovery.

It took him time to get comfortable and understand the program, but once he did, he said his life “started to take off.”

He then moved to South Florida and found the Crossroads Club about 10 years ago, which he said made his transition to Florida easy.

“I went and I knew I was safe,” he said. “It’s home to me. We are all a big family. We are all learning from each other.”

Lipscomb has sponsored many men in recovery, written about recovery, fundraised for recovery and served on the boards of many recovery homes. He has brought AA programs into prisons and worked with people in maximum security prison and even prisoners on death row. He co-authored “The Painting and the Piano” and “Through Jasper’s Eyes” a memoir about his experience on death row, which has been commissioned to become a Broadway play.

State attorney Dave Aronberg shared the importance of having good recovery efforts like Crossroads available to people in the recovery community.

“You come to an event like this and you see the best of the best,” he said. “You need good providers that care about people over profits.”

Since his office set up a sober home task force in fall 2016, there have been 97 arrests made of bad operators involved with crimes such as patient brokering.

“When I started this effort, I didn’t realize how many good people there were wanting to clean up this industry,” he said.

His career with the drug industry began in 2001 when he began investigating Purdue Pharma and its marketing tactics for OxyContin. The company ultimately settled with the state.

Aronberg worked on shutting down pill mills and pain clinics, which at one point where more common in the county than McDonald’s. And when the pills turned to heroin and created the opioid epidemic, his office got to work.

“Nothing kills more people every day in the United States from accidental deaths than the opioid epidemic,” he said.

And while the county is combating the problem, he said the number of deaths, which had been down, is starting to increase because of the introduction of fentanyl from China.

“This is our latest war,” he said. “We are ready to fight it.”

He said his office with help from civilians familiar with recovery serving on the task force have allowed the state laws to go from “worst to first.”

He said Florida is the leader in cleaning up the industry and other states are reaching out to him to find out how they did it. His office even had a hand in taking on Google to help with the crack down on unscrupulous sober home operators who were paying to have their properties featured first on Google searches.

“We are the national leader in this fight,” he said. “We have the toughest laws. But there is more work to do.”

The event came to a close with Allerton receiving an award for his impact on the community.

His hope is that everyone will be back next year.