Club 449 members want to stay dry, fit in

It’s been almost 23 years since Coyle Jefferson II started on his path of sobriety. He still remembers the place that helped keep him there.

“I’ve been a recovering alcoholic since 1988,” the Lake Stevens man said. “When I first came to AA, they had a 449 Club in Seattle on 85th and Greenwood. It was very integral to me. It was a place to go and have fun, meet and greet, and dance to some really good music.”

The Seattle club where Jefferson once met others involved in Alcoholics Anonymous is no longer open. His aim is to create a new 449 Club in Everett.

The significance of the 449 name won’t be lost on people schooled in AA tenets. Jefferson explained that the 449 Club — and there are many around the country — takes its title from page 449 of “Alcoholics Anonymous,” a volume that in the AA program is commonly called “The Big Book.” The notion of acceptance is explored on page 449 in some editions of the book.

While Jefferson knows the name will resonate with those in AA, he hopes an alcohol-free venue will also attract people who simply want a place “to have fun without going crazy — a place where you can come hear good music in a safe, friendly surrounding.”

Now in his 50s, Jefferson lost his job eight months ago. While searching for work, he is devoting time and energy to starting the Everett club. In January, he registered the club with the state as a nonprofit corporation. An application for federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit status is pending.

Volunteers have helped him create a 449 Club Web site, and Jefferson has distributed fliers seeking donations and services. The club has a long list of needs, including sound technicians, baristas, Web designers and greeters, as well as furniture and sound equipment.

Eventually, the goal is to find a permanent home for the club. In the meantime, the plan is to rent space for dances at downtown Everett’s Normanna Hall. A kickoff dance is tentatively scheduled for mid-October.

Similar clubs around the country operate with paid memberships and volunteer staff, Jefferson said. In Everett, although he is following the model of other 449 organizations, Jefferson said the 449 Club isn’t formally affiliated with AA.

“The main thing we want to emphasize, this is going to be a place for really good music,” he said. Jefferson said that to him, that means “old-school” rhythm and blues, “to make people want to get up and dance — positive energy music.”

The club may sometimes use deejay music, but Jefferson wants to feature live bands. For the first event, he is lining up his friend Wayne Porter’s group, Soul’d Out, which showcases dance hits from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Jefferson also has enlisted help from members of 12-step groups who see the need for a sober music club.

“A lot of us spent our entire adult lives using,” said 38-year-old Lisa Strand, who’s now committed to sobriety. “We don’t know how to have fun. In the past, everything we did was associated with alcohol or drugs.”

The Everett woman has been helping Jefferson as a volunteer coordinator, typing, filing and doing other jobs to get the 449 Club started.

“There is no such place,” said Anthony Freeman, 49. The Everett man is also helping get the club off the ground. “Some people go to other places, like church. For those who don’t, who are seeking sobriety, it means sitting in the house with a lot of idle time,” Freeman said.

Three years ago, Freeman moved here from Cleveland, Ohio, where he said there were several no-alcohol dance clubs.

“It was pretty fun, with people learning how to be sober,” Freeman said. “People say they don’t need people, but that’s not true. We still want to talk, and to meet a nice person. It gets people back into feeling normal and fitting in.”

When a person first embraces sobriety, Freeman said, “you change people, places and things.” Avoiding being around alcohol is avoiding temptation, he said.

Helping others stay sober is also part of recovery, said Jefferson, who works with 12-step meetings for Snohomish County Jail inmates.

From the first day of his sobriety, May 16, 1988, Jefferson said he found refuge at the now-closed Seattle club. “I’ve always been around music, all my life,” he said. “People want to have a good time.”

Strand, who calls Jefferson “a stand-up guy,” said a 12-step program has shown her a better way to live. “We can have fun doing all the same things, but we can’t add drugs or alcohol,” she said.

“If you meet people who are in recovery and having a great time loving life, that shows there’s hope out there for us,” Strand said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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