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"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practise these principles in all our affairs"
In 1989, My then sponsor suggested that I go onto the 12th Step list and try to help the suffering alcoholic who called on the telephone line. Back in those days there was only one treatment centre in Bournemouth, where I got sober. In the next two years I had on average one Step Twelve call every week as it was very active on the telephone service. I was taught very quickly that there should always be two of us going out on a call and that 'men for men and women for women' was the rule.
My sponsor told me that it was very common to go out to somebody on a Saturday when they were feeling low and depressed and with a promise to come to a meeting on Monday I would leave them. Very often on the Monday I would get a call to say they had forgotten that they had booked a dinner party for friends and could not make it to come to a meeting. Funny how a couple of days without a drink can cure one!
In 1991, I got a new sponsor and he was a great example of service. He told me not to be disappointed if my prospect didn't get sober and that I was going on the 12th Step call to keep myself sober. One day I got a call from the telephone service about a young fellow who needed help. I rang my friend and we went out together to visit him. We found a man in desperate need of stopping drinking. He had tried to do something about it himself but had found that he just couldn't stop. My friend and I gave him the full works and true to his word this young man came to a meeting with us. That was many years ago. Today I still see him doing service at my regular AA group, as happy as Larry, and a fine example of AA in action.
These days it is quite usual for me to go three months or so without getting a Twelve Step call. This is probably because many of us go to treatment centres or contact AA via the website; this is particularly true of the younger generation. However, I feel it is vitally important that we should still use the tried and tested formula of visiting the suffering alcoholic at his home or in a public place such as a cafe. This is far better than simply telling him or her where the nearest AA meeting is.
I think that, in general, experience is the thing of supreme value in this world. The experience of my sponsor was to do 12 Step work and service for AA. Therefore, I have always been in service and always being on the 12 Step list. Today I have about ten sponsees and all of them do service in the Fellowship and are prepared to carry out 12 Step work because they have learned that service keeps them sober; not anybody else, just them.
I have a pal in the Fellowship. My friend never had a home group as such but he was a great 12 Stepper. If the telephone went and a callout was required he would always put on his coat and get on with the job. A few years ago he said to me that he hadn't had a call in some while. I asked the local TLO if he was still on the list and was told that as he had not got a home group he had been removed. What a shame that was, to lose an experienced old-timer from the helpline. Perhaps it is important not just to check home group lists but to ask responders about whether or not a person on the list who is in doubt is an active responder or not; that way we wouldn't lose good 12 Steppers .
Another story comes to mind about my friend, which I will relate. My sponsor told me he had been on a 12 Step visit to an expensive part of town. Here, the father of the young prospect whipped out a cheque book and asked how much it was going to cost to get his boy sober. My sponsor, of course, replied, "Nothing". Well, as I was still fairly new around and struggling to support a wife and three children, I daydreamed about what I would have done in that situation and how much I could have asked for. How about 100 pounds a day for squiring him about AA for 3months? It played games with my head so I went to see my old-timer pal and as I knew he was a antique wheeler dealer I reckoned he would have had a pound note or two from the situation. I put the scenario to him as he was pottering about his kitchen making us tea. Without a moment's hesitation he replied, "If you take the money you will take the drink." Old timers, eh, don't you just love them?
In conclusion, if you are new to the Fellowship and want to help the still suffering alcoholic who is in the place that you were in a short time ago, have a word with your sponsor and your group's GSR. Remember the words of Bill Wilson in his story in the Big Book: "When all else fails, work with another alcoholic saves the day."