Find a meeting

Telephone Service

How it works
West Sussex and Brighton Intergroups – covering an area from Horley in the North, Pulborough in the West, Worthing in the South and Brighton in the East – work together to operate a single telephone service providing help and information to the still-suffering alcoholic, their families, professional workers in alcoholism and existing AA members.

Whenever anyone in this area rings the national helpline – 0800 917 7650 – the call is automatically diverted to our area helpline number – 01273 203343 – and then on to one of our 28 TELEPHONE RESPONDERS who receives the call on his or her home telephone.

Each Telephone Responder works between a 3 and 8 hour shift, and there are four shifts per day, ensuring the phone is answered twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year.

What Telephone Responders do

  • Serve as the first contact most people have with AA
  • Arrange for 12th Step visits
  • Give a sympathetic response to the suffering alcoholic or to their relativesPass the message on to those in need
  • Provide information about AA and local meetings

Calls from “professionals” (doctors, police, health workers, probation workers, social workers, press, employers, teachers etc.) are passed on to the relevant Intergroup Liaison Officer; family members are generally referred to the Al-Anon helpline, and existing AA members can usually be given the information they need – typically the time and place of a relevant meeting.

The most important calls are those from the still-suffering alcoholic asking for help. Occasionally these come from outside our area and they are given the number of their own Intergroup. Calls originating from within our two Intergroups are passed on to a 12TH STEPPER – an existing AA member from within the two Intergroups in the same locality as the caller and always man for man, woman for woman.

Contact details of 12th steppers are on a list maintained by the Telephone Liaison Officer, and a copy is held by each telephone responder. Individuals’ names and telephone numbers are not given out; the responder takes the first name and telephone number of the caller and then rings a 12th Stepper with the details. Telephone Responders do not take on the 12th Step call themselves while they are on duty.

What 12th Steppers do

The 12th Stepper rings the still-suffering alcoholic and apart from talking sympathetically with them by sharing their own experience, strength and hope, should always try to visit them in their own home, accompanied by another AA member.

There are many advantages to doing telephone service – here are a few:

  • Work from home – the only service you can do from the comfort of your armchair
  • All expenses paid – the costs of all telephone calls you make are reimbursed
    Only 3-8 hours per week
  • Day, evening or weekend shifts to suit individual needs
  • Be the first person a newcomer talks to (there’s a guaranteed glow when you meet your first caller who makes it to a meeting)
  • Make contacts with the Fellowship throughout the world; in our area we have many visiting AAs who need information about meetings
  • Pay back a little of what was freely given to you. Remember – Service makes for Improved Sobriety
  • Two important notes:

(i) Every group should have at least one member’s telephone number in the National Where to Find (for existing visiting AA members to check that the meeting is still open and how to find it). The number (or, preferably two numbers) should be filled in on the Pink Form each time this is revised, and sent to York. If there is no number, AA members tend to ring the helpline, which costs the Intergroups money.
(ii) If an AA member does need to ring the local helpline, they should always use the 01273 number and not the 0845 number; again, this saves the Intergroups money.

How you can help

The telephone service is more than a helpline: it is a lifeline. It is the point of entry into AA for many suffering alcoholics, who may be desperate and have nowhere else to turn.

The telephone service is the main opportunity for the recovering alcoholic to practice the 12th Step of their own recovery and the main means by which each group can fulfil its primary purpose – to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

We always need new Telephone Responders both to provide cover when existing responders are unavailable, and also to take over shifts when current responders move away or become unable to continue for some other reason.

The TWELFTH STEP LIST is the life-blood of the service – but is only as good as the work put in by individual groups and GSRs in compiling and maintaining it. The more names that are on the list, the more the work is shared out and the less time each telephone responder has to spend finding someone suitable in a particular area.

Sobriety requirements

Normally at least two years continuous sobriety for Telephone Responders and one year for 12th Steppers. Both will be active AA members, regularly attending meetings.

How do I get my name on to the 12th step list or become a Telephone Responder?

The 12th Step list is compiled from names sent by the GSR of each group to the Telephone Liaison Officer and is regularly updated. Names for Telephone Responders should also be submitted to the Telephone Liaison Officer (TLO) via the group GSRs; the TLO will arrange for new Responders to be trained and sponsored into service.

Further information
Your GSR should be able to answer most of the queries you might have. There is also a Conference Approved Guideline (No 6 AA Telephone Services) in your Group handbook.