Joy in Service

We have found that service works best when we have no expectations on the outcomes.  ~ 12 Step Literature

I find that when there is joy in service, the service provided will be optimal. It serves no one to do things out of pity, people pleasing, or in resentment. The product of such attitudes will surely suffer. I think there is a nut for every bolt. It is up to each person to find what fits for him/herself. One of my first experiences was trying to be a group treasurer. I figured that I am an educated and intelligent person, so surely I should be able to manage a group’s checkbook. Apparently, it takes a bit of math skills! I paid out the contributions and rent costs. And, a few days later, I got notice that all of the checks had bounced. What the….! It turns out that the prior treasurer had written but not recorded some checks still outstanding. I paid the group back for the bank fees, and stepped down promptly. One lesson learned. I no longer offer to do financial work for anyone. In fact, I no longer have my own checking account. The other lesson learned was to have the group’s books audited periodically.

So, I would encourage everyone to figure out what your skills are. What brings you joy? How can you be of service?  We give back freely what we were freely given. Most folks will say that just being a sponsor and showing up for meetings is enough. Do you remember that saying “half measures availed us nothing”? We need to get beyond ourselves and our own daily ruts. Jobs to do the group level may include: secretary, treasurer, literature, Grapevine display, greeter/hugger, making coffee, supplies, contact person, newcomer greeter, and leading a meeting, etc. I was told to show up early and stay late. So, for me, it is a two hour commitment and fellowship time, not to just come and go at my leisure. This is a WE program. Not only do we need each other, the group needs you. Be of service.

Service = Rent to Live

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.

Public Relations

Our public relations policy is based on attraction not promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, film, television, and other public media communication. ~ AA 12 X 12

The key word for this tradition #11 is anonymity. Anonymity must be important, as it is in our very name. Think of AA as using public information, not hype. If we acted as does many pay to recover treatment centers, clinics, and hospitals; our name and advertising would be everywhere. We would use TV ads and promos all the time. We don’t. The bottom line is that if someone wants what we have, they will do what we do….suit up, show up, and sit down and shut up and listen. If AA was possessed of all the alcoholics that needed us, we would not have enough churches and halls to accommodate them all. AA is for those who want it, not for those who need it.

We have members who write for AA blogs, AA newsletters, and AA offices. There are members who go into treatment centers, recovery units/centers, and jails to share their experience, strength, and hope. And there are also those who work in our offices and serve on local, regional, and world service levels. They do sometimes use their names, but seldom do we publish their images, and we never ever reveal their personal histories, family ties, where they live, etc. That is to protect their anonymity. It is also to protect AA in the case that they slip and fall. AA is not dependent upon any one of our personal sobriety. We give service, but we do not put our personal ego before the group’s needs. We are collectively sober and collectively united to keep AA strong for those who have yet to find us. Honor anonymity in all service to AA.

Swallowing Pride

Swallowing your pride is better than eating your words. ~ Anon

I tell you that one hit me right in the face today. This year and all of next year, I am involved in the running of two 12 step conventions. I have off and on over my years done just about every position on convention planning boards and committees. Each year, I try to do something of value for each of the two programs I am a member of. That keeps me busy. When my hands and mouth are busy doing productive things in service to others, I find that I have no energy left to get in trouble with those around me. Yes, even after all these years, I need to have G.O.D. = Good Orderly Direction. I get in trouble with unscheduled idle time. I enjoy resting and relaxing, but then after a few hours, I get antsy.

I appreciate that there is plenty of work to be done in the 12 step program. I feel needed and I feel productive. But, I do have to watch that I do not get too prideful in my work. I also have to guard against feeling as if that service position is my career or my job. My personality can get way too enmeshed in the title, the responsibility and the outcomes of my service work. So, working with others on a committee or a board stretches me. I get to learn how to take criticisms, let others take the lead, and most importantly teach others how to do the work I am doing.  The concept that we share responsibility in the work of AA is so important. It does my heart good to see those who are new in the program get up, go greet the newcomers, give out their contact number, and and offer to be of help. Let’s keep AA alive and well for the still suffering alcoholic. If you are not sure what to do, ask.

Group Conscious

Once we have spoken our minds, however, the 9th tradition tells us to relax and let our Higher Power take charge of the meeting. We find that we cannot force our will on the AA group, no matter how right it may seem to us. ~ AA wisdom

Some person wiser than me once counseled me to let go of my expectations of the program as a whole, meetings, and the AA structure as a whole. She told me that it is not responsibility to make AA last or survive the many changes and people that come through those doors. Bend with the breeze, or be broken by it. From time to time, I have to be reminded of this. If you have been around as long or longer than me, you will have noticed that new people bring in new ideas. Not all ideas are right.

I remember one gal came in and immediately campaigned and won her right to change the wording of the How It Works! Guess what: she went back to drinking and the group recovered and prospered via the experience. Over the next few days, I will submit some tradition #9 questions for consideration that you may want to use in your meetings:

  1. Does our meeting support our leaders and service providers?
  2. Are we critical of those who are giving service and suspicious of their motives?
  3. Are we mature enough to take responsibility for the well-being of AA and our own recovery programs. Take some time to survey your groups and help others embrace the traditions as that glue that binds us to each other and to AA.

Missed Yesterday

Service is the key to getting to the heart of AA. It is what keeps us coming back. ~ Anon

Ooops, I over booked; then my computer mouse died. I am up and running again. I spent the weekend at a 12 step convention. There were some powerful messages of recovery. The most meaningful was that one must be completely sober in order to work the steps. I am so glad that such events exist locally and at a very reasonable cost. There is a great deal of work to be done to achieve such an event. There are boards positions such as chair, vice chair, etc. And, there are committee jobs such as registration, decorations, fund raising, etc. This year, I put the flyer together. I am not all that good at key boarding, but I got through it and it looked presentable.

I had the opportunity to speak as well. That was an honor. I spoke on the topic of acceptance as needed to work the 12 steps and how they apply to my life. Then, I gave them some questions on how these acceptance issues would apply in their lives. They seemed to appreciate that. Most importantly, was that we got to know each other a little bit more. Sometimes, just sitting and listening instead of applying the learning can get tiresome. I am one of those who is easily distracted and bored when required to sit and listen. It is probably the ADD in me. Ha ha. At any rate, we applied tradition #9 well, and it paid off. Be a part of, not apart from.

A Motley Crew

AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve. ~ AA 12 X 12

We are a motley crew of drunks who manage to have special events, service boards and committees, conventions, etc. that go off seemingly well. I know it baffles newcomers who want to know who is in charge. Who should they go to for the rules and directions? I used to wonder that too. My objective was that I wanted someone to blame if I failed. I also wanted to know what the rules were, so I could systematically run afoul of them; in the hopes of being kicked out. That didn’t work either!

This weekend, I will be attending a 12 step state convention. Somehow, several parts of the state come together each year and throw themselves a fun, weekend long party. Everyone is welcome to participate. No one is turned away if they cannot afford it. We each pitch in. This year, I put the flyer together, will do a shift or two at the registration table, and speak. I am speaking on the topic of acceptance. Had I never accepted the concept that I was an alcoholic, and that my life was unmanageable by me, I would not be 31 years sober. I would not be up at 6 AM typing this, and I surely would not be spending a whole weekend at a 12 step convention. Join the party and get involved. Your soul will thank you.