Over and over, the Big Book reminds of us of our need to do service. When the book was written, Alcoholics Anonymous was literally the only successful solution for achieving continuous sobriety. Drunks flocked to its members, desperate for guidance in working through the 12 Steps. AA members went to the homes of active drinkers to share their experience, offering strength and hope for people still trapped by alcohol.
It was referred to as a 12 Step call.
Very few of them happen these days. There are a multitude of services in the professional community that offer entry into recovery. Today it’s safe to assume that most members of AA have never been on one. It was that foundation of service to suffering alcoholics that cemented AA’s growth and the commitment to our spiritual principles.
Times Have Changed
But the need for service has not. On page 76, in preparation for the 8th Step, the Big Book tells us that “Faith without works is dead.” We are people who rely on a daily reprieve that is dependent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition . Our “works” are an indication of our faith and our spiritual condition.
AA has given us so many opportunities – to rebuild our lives or to build new ones. It’s easy to rationalize stepping back from service. We really don’t have the time right now – we’re improving our finances, helping our families, being happy. Surely we deserve that.
We do, but don’t kid yourself – no matter how busy we are – service to someone other than ourselves is essential to long term sobriety. It’s doesn’t require making grandiose commitments or donations. Little kindnesses, small gifts of money, things or time contribute to the greater good. Hurricane Matthew is an opportunity for all of us to do faithful works. During the coming holidays, many of us will make contributions for children and families less fortunate.
What would the world be like if it didn’t take a disaster or a holiday to motivate people to service?
AA folks are given that opportunity everyday. To offer a ride. To lead a meeting. To venture into prisons. To give a buck or two to those who are struggling to turn their lives around. We can make the time to listen when someone needs to be heard. We can use our experience to offer compassion, empathy and hope. Who understands the need for that better than us?
Service is essential, not only to our own sobriety, but to AA’s general welfare. We like to tell people – if you want we have, do what do, which mean OUR commitment to service is what will educate the next generation of AA members.
When I was first starting in the program, my sponsor’s husband had a truck. At least three weekends a month, we moved people in the program. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t offer – she volunteered me. Because that’s what AA is – the blind (me) being lead down the path by someone who knows how to live this program
Read the Book
Too often, the message heard in meetings is the opposite of what our literature recommends. The bizarre expectation that the onus is on a newcomer to reach out to us is found nowhere in our book – the onus is on us to make ourselves available. The book does warn that we are not to push ourselves on anyone and that when people aren’t willing or don’t want to stop, we should back off.
But we have to show up before we can back off. Nowhere does it say that those of us with time and experience should sit around, expecting newcomers to do what we are not willing to do ourselves – reach out a hand.
We have to be willing to help. And that doesn’t just mean talking in meetings about how grateful we are to be sober. We need to look at how we live. We need to remember what it used to be like. We need to sit back and think about the people who made the time for service when we first came in. Because they all had busy, productive lives too.
Though God may help those who help themselves, I know God helps those who help other people.
The girls from my home group who brought some groceries while I looked for work. The guy in AA who gave me a car, trusting me to pay him over four months because I didn’t have enough money outright. The woman who helped me get some ID. The accountant who helped me file my back taxes. The people who moved me (three times!)
Helping others sometimes involves real, practical help. It’s great we show up at meetings, but we can show up in life too.