Service is the rent we pay to be on this earth. ~ Anon
My first experience with the notion of service happened on my first day in another 12 step program. I had been sober (dry drunk) for 3 + years, angry, and completely defeated. My disease had taken another direction. So, in desperation, I called the number listed. The lady who answered the phone had convinced me that if I came to the meeting at 9 AM the next day, “we can talk more.” I thought, “cool, free therapy!” So, I showed up. That in and of itself was a miracle. I never got out of bed before 1-2 PM on Saturdays! But, something awoke me and there I was, my three year old in tow. The lady was nice enough. She said, “let’s put out these chairs and this literature.” So, I helped with that. Pretty soon others came into the room, so she said, “we can talk after the meeting.” My thought was at least I could still be listened to for free (after all, she had promised). Well, the meeting ended, and everyone greeted each other and me (no hugs, please. They hurt!) As people filed out, I positioned myself next to her, so she could hear my “story”. She turned to me and said, “let’s put these chairs and that literature away.” That was it. She said to call her the next day, and thanked me for helping out.
I learned from that, that service is a major part of this deal. If I wanted to feel worthwhile and be a part of something that would bring me joy; service would be a part of that belonging. It is a give and a take. This month we will be working on Step #12 and Tradition #12. Both of these have to do with working with others and being of service. Service will keep your hands and mouth busy. Addicts like us need to keep our mouths and hands busy and out of trouble. Most days, I am too busy helping others and doing service, that I have no time to dwell on my own “issues”. I no longer have to have others listen to my “story”. May you find more sobriety in service.
We now needed a more reliable way of relating to HP. At this point, we can “act as if.” ~ 12 Step Literature
I must tell you, I only came into AA, so that I could prove to the therapist that it would not work. I spent my first 3 years of sobriety being miserable, angry, and more and more isolated. I would not give out my number. I would not take numbers, and when I did go to meetings, I would hide out in the back to the room. I would drive to towns an hour away, so as not to be recognized. I would come late and leave early to avoid you guys. The last thing I wanted to be was an alcoholic like you! I thought it was a personal failure and weakness to ask for help. I hated the hugs and warmth you showed. They hurt too much. I listened, but I did not apply what I heard. All I could heard was that I was just like you, I was not as unique as I thought I was, and that I was doing it all wrong. Man alive, I hated that.
Then, someone suggested that if I did not believe in an HP, that all I had to do is act as if. I do believe it takes what it takes. I do believe we all have our own journeys and time frames. Some of us have greater pain tolerances. There is no one right way to work the 12 steps & traditions of AA. The only wrong way to recover is to not do it at all. My worse days in AA have certainly been better than my best days before I got here. The fact that I am an alcoholic may have been the worst possible thing to have happened in my life; but it certainly has also been the best thing in my life. I do not know that what I found here is what I wanted, but I am sure what I found here is what I needed: unconditional love, support, a sense of belonging, peace, purpose and acceptance. I sure hope you find these things too.
Intuition is supposed to be God’s line into our minds and hearts, but our problems and our self-will have interfered with this connection.
~ 12 Step Literature
I often tell new people I work with that the good news is we were given free will, and the bad new was we were given free will. People have choices. Whether or not they always make the right choices is a whole other matter. This week, in our small community of AA 3 young people died as a direct result of this disease. One was a son of my friend. There are simply no word of condolence that one can use when someone’s kid od’s, and medical science cannot revive them. I was surprised and delighted to see my friend choose to come to meetings and get support. It is likely that he won’t go back to the booze. Perhaps his son did not die in vain.
So, the topic last night was about choice and perception. Every day, we are given that day only. We start making decisions from the get go: Do I wake up or stay in bed? Do I have coffee, or do I have juice? All day and night, we choose. The choice of whether or not to drink is among the myriad of choices we get to make each day. It is a choice. We may be addicts, but we alone pull the trigger to activate the disease. A wise woman once said, “I may die with this disease, but I do not have to die of it”. Follow your own intuition, stop and listen to what seems to be right, and then do the next best thing. Let the deaths of those among us not be in vain. Choose sobriety.
By trying tho control others through manipulation and direct force, we have hurt loved ones. When we tried to control ourselves, we wound up demoralized. Even when we succeeded, it wasn’t enough to make us happy. ~ 12 Step Literature
If we have accepted in Step #1, that we are powerless over our own lives and behaviors; then this Step #10 stuff should be a no-brainer. Step #10 encourages us to keep our own side of the street clean. I don’t know about you, but I have no time for other people’s responsibilities, lives, actions and attitudes. I have a full time job just dealing with my own. It is none of my business what others think of me, and conversely, it is none of their business what I think of them.
One of my old time drinking buddies told me recently of some complete stranger totally flipping her off and upsetting her over some minor traffic snafu. I had to chuckle. I did not respond, as she really does not want the solution. She prefers a life as a drunk and a grump. Life is all full trouble and not pleasant under the best of situations. Being a victim is her choice. I know all this because I used to feel the same way. Everyone I ran into and everywhere I went, life caused me pain. Life was unfair. And, I was the victim of a myriad of circumstances. I thank goodness, AA hauled me out of that black hole of depression. For today, I have a solution to most of what life has to offer. Here is to another day just like to today: sane and sober. I hope the same for you.
LEST WE BECOME COMPLACENT. It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe.
~ AA BigBook
The key word for Step #10 is Perserverance which is the steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. Step #10 is a daily 4th step. Daily being the key word in that phrase. I like to do mine first thing in the morning. That is when I have more energy, I have had a chance to sleep on it, and I have given things a few hours to allow for a better perspective. I call this my G.O.D. time. Others do theirs at night. Still others do this mentally and throughout the day. I have to write it down. It is more tangible and real for me when it is in black and white. I don’t care when it is done, but I do encourage that it be done daily. I know when I have not done this, plus the steps 11 and 12 first thing in the morning, I get to about 10 AM, and I cannot think straight, and I lash out at others for no reason.
Step #10 offers us the Freedom from complacency. I believe that it is imperative to remain active, alert and on top of this dis-ease to maintain sobriety. Sobriety is a whole lot more than just putting the plug in the jug. It is about spiritual, mental and physical health and balance. The minute we start thinking that we have this thing licked, that we are just F.I.N.E., or we know how to do this without all that reading, writing, etc.; we are flirting with the dis-ease. I have seen my share of old timers who abuse food, gambling, spending, coffee, cigarettes, pills, relationships, etc. This dis-ease is dead serious. It will take many forms. It will wait for a weak moment and then attack. There is so much more to learn. There is so much out there to experience. Stay active. Heads up. Embrace action.
We are not cocky, not are we afraid. That is our experience.
~ pg. 85, Big Book
We cannot afford to be cocky. Most new folks in AA are a bit put off by our humor. We do seem to be silly and frivolous at first look. However, our humor is measured. We are not a glum lot, but we take this dis-ease quite seriously. We know that no matter how long we have been sober, we are just one drink away from exactly where we left off when we put the plug in the jug. Alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful. I add: and very patient! While we are busy going to meetings, giving service, and working with others; the dis-ease is out in the hallway doing one armed push ups. It is just waiting for that one weak moment, that first wrong thought to catch us at our most vulnerable state. We are dead serious about that fact!
Step #10 offers us a way to keep the small stuff from becoming the big stuff that will trip us up, and make us feel overwhelmed. It keeps our side of the street clean, and when practiced with steps #11 and #12, it is a sure fire way to keep our spiritual fitness honed and ready for tough times. What a gift we have in AA. All we have to do is work it each day in every affair, stay sober, and stay alive. That is not too much to ask of us, is it? The rewards we will reap will certainly outweigh any work required. I like to do Steps 10-12 daily. I will walk you through that in the days to come. Meantime, read pages 84-88 in the Big Book daily until the fear abates. You can do this thing. Be well, my friend.
We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. ~ pg. 85, Big Book
Our new attitude will become one of neutrality toward liquor and drinking. The booze will no longer shout our name, yell at us in the stores, or jump in our grocery carts. It will stop telling us stupid things like: “I will be nice thins time”, “you need me”, etc. It won’t be necessary to brace ourselves before parties, dates, or job interviews anymore. In fact, we will be able to reason that to do so, would mean to sabotage ourselves worse. I do believe this. When I first got sober, I chewed through a lot of straws and ice. I had a lot of “nerves”. It seemed that alcohol was everywhere, that everyone else was using, and that alcohol knew me so well, that it knew my mom’s maiden name! We, after all had this intimate relationship!
It took a long while to relax and become more neutral toward alcohol, but eventually that became the norm. I would say what most old timers would say: don’t go into bars, don’t buy it, don’t bring it home, and don’t serve it to others. If you want a life of sobriety, you need to change your playmates, your playgrounds, and your playthings. If you change the game; the game changes. You may balk at this, but the wisdom of those of us who have gone before you; might best be heeded. I have found it useful to create a few life long hobbies, get involved in social issues, and find others to work with. This has changed the game for me. Step #10 offers this chance at a whole new attitude. Embrace the change.