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dusty old directory

My first AA group met in a clubroom upstairs in an old building. The paint was peeling, the windows were dirty; the chairs and tables were Early Depression. There was an old broken-down desk in the corner, its drawers filled with ancient AA literature, scraps of paper, dirty and used paper cups, and every other imaginable relic of the past. The walls displayed the usual Steps and Traditions, Serenity Prayer and Slogans. On the top of the desk was the usual supply of Big Books, Twelve and Twelves, and pamphlets in various stages of disarray. I stayed around that club attending the meetings and reading everything I could find, and it was there that I had my first demonstration of how AA works.

Some two months after my first AA meeting, on a December afternoon during a heavy snowfall, a call for help came in. I answered the phone. It was a fellow I had met at the meetings there, and it was obvious he had been drinking. He told me he was at a city jail in a town some sixty miles away, and asked me to get The AA directory in the clubroom, call a member in the town where he now was, and ask that person to come help him.

The only other person in the room at that time was the caretaker, and neither of us knew what an AA directory was; but we began to search. I went to the old desk, started to empty the drawers, and found an outdated (one-volume) AA directory, published by AA World Services more than seven years before. It was all we could find. I turned to our state and the name of the town from which the call had come. There was one group listed, with one contact’s name and phone number.

I called the number, and when a man answered, I asked for the person listed in the old directory. This man informed me that he was that person. Immediately, I identified myself as an AA member and told him of the plight of the man at the jail. There was a very long pause, and he finally asked, “Where did you get my name?” When I told him, he said, “I did belong to the AA group in town, but I haven’t attended an AA meeting in more than five years, even though I’m still sober.”

We talked a bit longer; I told him about the AA member in trouble; he told me that it was snowing hard and he lived thirteen miles away from town. It ended with his saying he would put chains on his pickup truck, go into town, and call me after he had talked to the fellow in trouble. Some two hours later, he called back, saying he had secured the release of the alcoholic and brought him home. The man in trouble soon returned to our group, and he is now sober.

About three years later, I went to that town to talk at an AA meeting. After the meeting, a man came up to me and asked if I remembered making that call three years before. Of course I remembered it, because it was my first one. He said, “That got me back into AA, and I’ve never left again.” I see him at AA meetings of all kinds and have for many years now.

So that old, out-of-date AA directory helped three alcoholics. and maybe many more. Who Knows?

Reprint, AA Grapevine, October 1985

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.