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Fallaw's 'amazing grace' impacts recovery residents

Jim Fallaw was honored recently by officials and residents at GraceWay and The Anchorage for his volunteer work in teaching Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program to recovering alcoholics. (Staff Photos: Carlton Fletcher)

Jim Fallaw was honored recently by officials and residents at GraceWay and The Anchorage for his volunteer work in teaching Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program to recovering alcoholics. (Staff Photos: Carlton Fletcher)

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Tim and Debbie Mazur, standing, helped honor volunteer Jim Fallaw for his work with residents in recovery at GraceWay in Albany and The Anchorage in Lee County. (Carlton Fletcher)

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The Anchorage Clinical Director Dudley Thomas Jr., right, presented Jim Fallaw with a plaque honoring Fallaw for 10 years of service at both The Anchorage and GraceWay recovery residences during a recent celebration at the Lee County facility.

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Jim Fallaw shows off his book “One Man’s Journey” during a recent event held to honor the volunteer who has, according to officials, helped save many people’s lives. (Carlton Fletcher)

LEESBURG — Kathy, a 52-year-old mother of two grown children, developed an alcohol problem late in life. But after working the 12 steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program in Atlanta, she thought she had her problem licked.

And for nine months she did.

“I’d never been in a treatment program; I didn’t think I needed one,” Kathy, who is involved in the GraceWay recovery residence program, said. “But I relapsed. Hard.”

A friend told Kathy about GraceWay, and she’s been in Albany the last few weeks, working toward a recovery that will stick.

“Here’s what happened with me: In Atlanta, I just breezed through the 12-step A-A program,” she said. “I didn’t really take the time to prepare and really live each step. It was just, ‘That one’s done, on to the next one.’ It took me about 30 minutes in Atlanta to ‘complete’ Step One.

“Since I’ve been at GraceWay and started doing the 12 steps with Mr. Jim, I realize that I didn’t really do them before. Step One is ‘Admit you are powerless over alcohol and turn your weakness over to God.’ We worked on just that step for a full week before I was ready to move on to Step Two. Mr. Jim just connects with you and prepares you for each step.”

Kathy’s “Mr. Jim” is Jim Fallaw, a volunteer at both GraceWay in Albany and The Anchorage in Lee County for the past 10 years. He wrote what officials at the two facilities call the definitive book on working the 12 steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. In that time hundreds of people like Kathy credit Fallaw and his book, “One Man’s Journey,” with saving their lives.

“I was a practicing alcoholic, on the verge of losing everything that was precious to me,” Fallaw said at a recent celebration sponsored by GraceWay and Anchorage officials to honor him. “I tried, but I just couldn’t give up alcohol on my own. A friend told me I should give Alcoholics Anonymous a try, and I walked into that building at 427 Flint Ave. on April 10, 1981. It changed my life forever.

“I didn’t know then if it was going to do me any good, but I knew if I didn’t do something I was going to lose everything that mattered. My son wouldn’t have anything to do with me, and my wife was ready to give up on me. She was a tough old broad, but she’d had about all she could take.”

Fallaw hasn’t had a drink since that fateful day, and the celebration held at The Anchorage’s Lee County facility also marked his 32nd year of sobriety.

“Insight came later, but my recovery started immediately,” Fallaw said. “They gave me a new way of living at A-A. I’m alive today because of those 12 steps. My son will speak to me today because of them. And today I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to share what’s been given to me for the last 32 years.”

GraceWay Executive/Development Director Liz Dixon said Fallaw’s impact on the women who have stayed at the facility over the last decade has been monumental.

“He is such a selfless servant,” Dixon said. “He communicates his spirit so beautifully in both written and spoken word. Week-in and week-out, he has impacted so many lives by teaching the principles of the 12-step program. He has elevated the recovery level in Albany; he truly is filled with amazing grace.”

Debbie Mazur, the founder and executive director of GraceWay, encouraged Fallaw to write “One Man’s Journey.”

“He had all these notes that he’d made over the years, and I told him he should put them in book form,” Mazur said. “That book, and his work, have impacted so many people. Over the last 10 years, every person who has been in treatment (at GraceWay and The Anchorage) has encountered him. He’s truly a living witness to the 12 steps.”

Fallaw, who regularly greets residents of the two facilities with a rumbling, “Hello, drunk,” said he’s not deserving of all the fuss or the plaque presented to him by Anchorage Clinical Director Dudley Thomas Jr.

“I’m not the one who’s had any impact on anybody,” Fallaw said. “God’s the one who’s had the impact. I simply followed the path He showed me. I don’t have the power to change anybody; I don’t get anyone sober. That’s all God’s doings. I’m just thankful that He’s allowed me to be a part of this.”