History: Gene’s Story

We opened our doors in 1967 and it all started with, Gene Duffy.

Finding the Bottle

Born into a middle class home in New York, Gene was the only Irish kid in a tough Italian neighborhood. He grew up to become a successful businessman in the construction industry. But little by little, he began to drink. Not everyone knew it, but he was an alcoholic. Before long he found himself on Chicago’s skid row.

One day as he sat waiting to give blood—so he could get a few dollars to buy another drink—someone from A.A. came up to him, and his life was changed forever. He started attending meetings, and a miracle happened—he was sober. He would go on to help many others who attended his A.A. meetings and always told them,

“This program will work if you don’t drink, you read that book, and you go to them meetings. If I had a crystal ball, and told each of you in this room, what is going to take place in your life in the next few years, if all you do is this: don’t drink, read that book, and go to them meetings. You would not believe what I say, you would think I am talking crazy.”

Finding a New Calling

While waiting in the San Francisco airport, Gene began thinking a lot about what he wanted to do with his life. Should he really spend the rest of life working in the construction industry? Gene then picked up his A.A. Thought for the Day book and opened it to a random page, but the page happened to be the page for his birthday, October 27.

The text on the page leapt out at him:

I can help other alcoholics. I am of some use in the world. I have a purpose in life. I am worth something at last. . . . God has given me a new lease on life so that I can help other alcoholics. He has let me live through all the hazards of my alcoholic life to bring me at last to a place of real usefulness in the world. This is my opportunity and my destiny. . . Will I give as much of my life as I can to A.A.?

From then on he tried as much as possible to help others who suffered from the disease of alcoholism.

Founding Duffy’s in Northern California

One thing led to another, and Gene, passionate about his new calling, started a treatment center in partnership with some others; unfortunately, the center failed, and he was left with only a car and a few dollars to his name.

Before he left San Francisco, Gene decided to attend one last A.A. meeting—and it was at this meeting that a man told him about the old hot springs resort in Calistoga. “You should go look at it,” he told Duffy.

Duf and his wife took the trip to Calistoga. They saw that the place needed a lot of work, but they also knew it had promise.

The other problem was they had no money.

Still Gene decided to go ahead and meet with the owners of the resort, an area church. When the church’s deacons heard what Gene’s plans were for the place, they decided to let him move in and just pay them rent as he got the money.

The Duffy family started working furiously to clean the place up. And a month later, they welcomed their first guest. Now, more than 50 years later, over 38,000 people have been helped through the work of Gene, his family and the great staff of Myrtledale.

Leaving an Amazing Legacy

Gene Duffy was passionate about helping people. Those who knew him in the old days knew that he would do everything to convince you that the disease of alcohol and drug addiction absolutely kills people. Today, this passion still lingers in the form of a loving, warm, compassionate environment, committed to doing everything to help those struggling with an alcohol or a drug addiction.

Gene often told people,

“I sorta consider myself, perhaps the luckiest man in A.A. I am not only doing on a daily basis what I have to do to maintain my sobriety, I am also doing what I want to do. I don’t know how much luckier you can get. Every bit of this is a direct result of practicing the principles of A.A in all my affairs. That is how this place came about. Its essential that I maintain my sobriety, not only for the good of myself, but for the opportunity to shed a little goodness in the lives of other people.”

One of the Twelve Promises say you will find a new freedom. Gene Duffy found his freedom through helping others. We hope you or your loved one can find a new freedom at Duffy’s as well.

Why I Work With Alcoholics

by: Gene Duffy

I was conceived somewhere in that unknown land that lies between fate and destiny, and there, someone much higher and stronger than I, deemed it necessary to cast me upon the reefs of life and backwash me into an eternity of love, hate, joy and sorrow.

He chose me to wander in the Islands beneath the Southern Cross and span the greatest of continents numerous times. Many times he chose me to lie in drunken stupor upon skid-rows and to rave deliriously while bound to a hospital bed. Once he placed me in the company of the giants of the construction world only to return me to the trowel and level. He saw fit at times to decorate me with military honors but yet he also confined me within his jails.

Then one day, as I lay fallen, Jekyled by my own selfish lust and greed, he reached down and helped me to stand erect again.

He taught me once more of love for the young and respect for the aged, and he tutored me at the open gates of hell the meaning of right and wrong. He caused my eyes to witness hideous death and reflect upon blessed birth. The screams of death and the hymns of peace he re-echoed within my ears.

Most of all he taught me to be humble. Humble enough to learn his teachings and to carry his wisdoms and truths, to the open minds of the many who were less fortunate that I and had never risen from the depths of moral and physical decay, to cast aside a carcass of self-pity and behold the wonders and fantasies of the world about me.

Because of all this, I wish to reach into my heart and take from my memory shelf, the bitter and the sweet and blend them with the cold loneliness of a foggy night; the triumphs of the victors; the scorn of the defeated. I want to pass on to those who have yet to come, my trials and errors and the wisdoms I have gained in order that I may now walk with my head erect and not bowed in shame.


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Trusted by 38,000 families since 1967.

My drug addiction was controlling my life, and I was in a free fall heading towards rock bottom. The only path I could see was to keep using and hope for the best. That’s when I learned of another path, getting help and starting treatment. I’m now 3 years sober and have never been happier. The light is at the end of the tunnel, reach for it.

– A former guest