Lee Tillman founded Dallas 24 Hour Club. He recently celebrated 66 years sober with a visit to Dallas 24 Hour Club, where he shared his experience, strength, and hope with the Residents.
When Lee Tillman first arrived in Dallas, he never intended to create Dallas 24 Hour Club. He moved to Dallas from Houston at 13 years sober to accept a job as a car salesman and be closer to his father, who had had a stroke in Tulsa. As maintenance of his 12-Step Program, Lee joined a local group with a common desire to stay sober. He attended meetings regularly and dedicated his time to the service of others.
One night the local group received a call that asked for Lee Tillman by name. It was a man for help. Lee answered the call and immediately picked the man up to share his experience, program, and a helping hand. As Lee and this man engaged in conversation, the manager of the facility walked up to inform Lee that they would need to leave because he was closing in five minutes. Lee pleaded with the manager to stay open because he was desperately trying to save a man’s life, but to no avail, they were forced to leave.
Lee knew his work with the man was not finished, so he took the man home and let him stay for the next three days. After this incident, Lee decided there needed to be a place for alcoholics to get help 24 hours a day, not just until midnight. He began his search for a facility.
This was important to Lee because of his own experience. Thirteen years earlier, a call was made to a similar group, but that call was Lee’s wife asking for help for Lee. It was about 1:00 am when Lee’s wife made a desperate call for help. The operator connected her with a man who would help change Lee‘s life. The man drove across town in the middle of the night to help Lee. Lee passed out drunk and was unable to talk to the man, so a note was left, “Dear friend, I am leaving for Houston tomorrow, but there’s a meeting on Friday night.” It listed a phone number to call for a ride to attend the meeting.
Those two words…Dear friend…spoke volumes to Lee. He was broken and miserable and hadn’t been called “friend” for as long as he could remember. He carried that note in his wallet for over 20 years. The man's actions that night inspired Lee always to show up and try to help another alcoholic.
Lee and a few friends found a doctor’s office and convinced the doctor to lower the rent for the cause with the plan to open the doors in two months. Lee went back to his group and told them about his plan for a 24 Hour Club. They almost laughed as they gave him all the reasons it wouldn’t work; however, that didn’t deter Lee. In fact, he decided to open Dallas 24 Hour Club the very next day.
With no electricity and candles for light, ten people sat on the floor of the empty space and held a meeting daily for ten days. A phone line was installed even before electricity, and slowly the meeting began to stabilize and grow. Lee originally paid all of the expenses until the group was fully self-supporting.
Lee and his team experienced hardships along the way but never gave up the hope that it would grow and flourish to help thousands of people. The 24 has continued to grow and develop into what it is today. Lee celebrated his 66 years of sobriety by speaking at a meeting at The 24 on October 22, 2022. He left The 24’s Residents and community members with a key piece of advice:
You are important. Your story is important. Someday someone is going to need that story to be able to relate and get the help they need. Answer the call. We cannot imagine the ripple effect of it all.
If that man had not answered the call for Lee, and Lee had not answered the call of the man the night he was of service, then he may have never seen the need for a 24 Hour Club in our community. The ripple effect is in full force as it always has been within the 12-Step Program, and many of us are grateful and continue to answer the call.
The 24 honored Lee with the opening of Tillman House in early 2021. Over 98 Residents have gone through Tillman House this year and have strengthened the foundation of their recovery. Lee’s hope and wish for Dallas 24 Hour Club are being realized today. He says it best when he says, “You guys are doing what we dreamed of.”