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March 2016 | Into Action

You Never Know

In my early days in AA, 30 to 35 years ago, I had gone on a number of Twelfth Step calls, usually without success. My first attempt came when Joe from my home group called and asked if I could join him to go talk to a neighbor. The neighbor's wife knew that Joe had recently gotten sober in AA and asked him if he could help her husband. Even though I'd only been sober a few months more than Joe and had never been on a Twelfth Step call, we both had read "Working With Others" in the Big Book and had shared our stories at meetings. So I agreed to go.

The husband agreed to talk with us, so we went over to his house early one evening. We met his wife and two young children, who disappeared into the kitchen while we stayed in the living room with the man. Joe and I each shared our stories with him, stressing how sobriety was improving our lives and the lives of our families. The man admitted alcohol was causing him problems similar to those we had each described. He said he thought he should do something about it, but declined to let us take him to a meeting. When we left, his wife, with tears in her eyes, thanked us for coming. Joe told her we were sorry we weren't of more help and that he would stay in touch.

Joe did keep tabs on the family and the prospect never stopped drinking. He died of alcoholism several years later. Joe sometimes spoke of our unsuccessful Twelfth Step call at our home group, always concluding with "… but we stayed sober."

One day, roughly 22 years after that Twelfth Step call, I arrived at our weekly meeting and Joe grabbed my arm and said, "Come over here, I want you to meet someone." He introduced me to a young woman in her early 30s—the daughter of the man we had tried to help years ago. The young woman related how she had listened through the open kitchen door that night and had always remembered what Joe and I had said to her father. So when she realized that she too was having a problem with alcohol, she knew where to come for help. There she was, in AA, working the program and getting sober. Today, 12 years later, she's still sober, as are Joe and I.

Working with others can certainly have disappointments, but like other AA service, it usually will help keep us sober. And sometimes it leads to unanticipated, wonderful outcomes.

—Bill H., Seattle, Wash.

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