Civic Duty

We are all just in spiritual kindergarten. ~ Anon

Just about the time you start to feel as if things will lighten up and the work load will lessen, along comes some civic duty. This is the 3rd time that I have been called to serve on a jury in the last 5 years. At first, I bemoaned the appearance that the system is not as random as one might believe. If it were as random as the lottery, or vice versa, I would be a rich lady. Ha ha. But, the 12 Step Program of AA teaches us that we do our part, and we work this program in all of our affairs. So, I did as I do in giving service within the AA program: I suited up and showed up. I must say that I am not one bit patient with the hurry up and wait effect that the court process seems to be bogged down in. But, I waited. And, I waited. Some 1.5 hours into the wait, they finally assembled us into 3 groups. Of course mine was the last to be called. Then we set through a 1/2 hour video orientation on how to act and not act as a juror.

All, this accumulated into the final pronouncement from the judge that the witness skipped town, and we were dismissed. Great! That was two hours I cannot get back, but I considered that that is what I would want from my fellow citizens: suit up, show up, and do their utmost to make sure I get a fair trial. We give back freely what we were freely given. Step #1 teaches us that we are powerless over people, places, and things….most everything. The difference between us and the poor chumps that never see a Big Book, is that we have options on how to respond and act upon life. We get to choose to accept life on life’s terms. Whatever comes our way, we can choose grace and dignity. We can be of service and smile while doing it. We can see the the good of the group or society as a whole is paramount over our own selfish, self-centered ways. Thank goodness for sobriety.

It is Not About Me

When we point the finger of blame at another, we are pointing 4 fingers back at ourselves. ~ Anon

Just try it, the index finger points like a gun at another, but the three other fingers and the thumb point back at us. Old adages lasted this long because they are true. Today, I found myself on the blaming end of that one. Wow, I sure can get romping, stomping mad…still today. I guess I am human after all. Hmm. Anyhoooo, I have been practicing letting go of this service position all week, prepping the stuff to make the new person’s job go easier, and I even getting to my destination early to meet with her for an in-service. All for naught. She gets there and dumps on me that she has changed her mind, is too busy, and blah blah blah. Old Jo would have exploded in rage and called her a name of two that were not hers. But, instead, I walked down the hallway, called my sponsor and got some directions on how to proceed. It took a whole meeting and a conversation with someone interested in listening to finally get me in touch with what was really torquing my chain.

I heard this today about Tradition 12: The Abilene Theory (apparently a Texas or New York reference) means that just because Jo Schmo wants to go to Abilene, doesn’t mean the whole group has to go to Abilene. The group makes the decision for what is best for the group. Wow, did that ever hit me between the eyes! It is not about any one person and their wants. Group consensus (group vote) is what takes the day. As individuals, we are just one of many. We are small cogs in a big old machine called AA. We have no more power or control over how things turn out for the group than we do in our own lives. We have the right to one vote each and to speak our minds. How it turns out is based on the majority vote. Whether or not they have someone to take my place come next month, is not on me. It will all work out. Whew. There is a loving a merciful HP, and it isn’t me. Such a deal we have here.

Step #12 Questions

Service is the rent we pay to be on this earth. ~ Anon

Let’s look at how we are doing when it comes to Step#12. A personal review now and then is healthy for even the most seasoned AA member. Here are a few questions to help you:

  • Have you been able to reach out to another recovering addict? If
    so, describe the situation and how it feels to you.
  • What kind of approach would you like to have had when you first started the  program? How can you implement that type of approach in your life to others now?
  • What would you say if someone asked how the 12 Step program has worked for you.


My experience in reaching out to another alcoholic has been inspirational to my recovery. I would say that the more I give, the more I get back 10 fold.  And, the words I say to someone come back to me at the very time I need them the most. We give freely what we were freely given.

When I first started in AA, the people I met were very loving and accepting of me. Of course, the hugs hurt, and I was suspicious of their motives. Their humor was much needed. I felt a part of; where I had never felt that way before.  These days, I usually give new people my number, a meeting list, and a copy of the Big Book. I ask them to call anytime. Beyond that, I do not push or pull them in any one direction. I firmly believe HP has got this!

When asked how AA has worked for me, I can testify to:

31 + years of sobriety.

A whole cadre of loving friends that I call family.

Service/serenity/recovery on all three levels: spiritual, physical, and emotional.

A life of useful purposefulness.

For these and many other things I have found in AA, I will be forever grateful.


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.