In the AA Big Book and other 12 step literature, it is made clear that service work with other people suffering from substance use disorder is a sure way to feel better and stay sober long term. It is also an excellent way to gauge where you are at spiritually or mentally. If you are having an off day and feeling irritable, helping someone else might make you feel better.
Service work is one of the sides of the triangle in the 12 step program. It is a cornerstone that we must live by. Those of us that suffer from substance use disorder are incredibly selfish by nature. Self-obsession or manipulation and control are symptoms of selfishness. When we engage in that behavior, we stay sick and feel worse in general. We think we are being quite virtuous or that this will help us feel better since we have a feeling that tells us we’re lacking something. The first mistake there is thinking we lack anything at all. Of course, it is easier said than done.
For most of our lives, we have felt something is missing, so we seek alcohol and drugs to fill that void. We later found that we needed to fill that void with a higher power relationship—something we could trust and believe in. We needed faith because we felt so lonely. For us, it was crucial to develop some sort of relationship with a higher power.
The next course of action that we took was being of service. We were given that instruction almost immediately. We were unsure of how we could help other people when we were so early in our recovery. What was shown to us was that we could make coffee at a meeting or pick up cigarette butts. We were told that we could be greeters at meetings and just say hello. Our mentors explained that if someone was new and had one day less than we did, we could still give them advice about how we made it through the next day. Service work is the most crucial piece of our program; we had to do this, or else it was sure that we would relapse.
Service Work at Meetings
It is suggested that when you are in early recovery, you have commitments at the meetings you attend. These commitments are essential for several reasons. First, it teaches you accountability. If you are accountable, then you can call yourself out and avoid defensive responses when other people call you out on your dishonesty or lack of participation. This also trains your feet. When you run into an issue, you will find that you gravitate towards going to a meeting or calling your sponsor instead of drinking or using drugs to solve it. Another positive side effect of meeting commitments is getting out of your head for that period of time.
Our racing thoughts will torture us with ideas, and we can’t seem to get away from it. The best remedy for this is to get out of your head and help someone else. This also grounds you, so that you are here in the present moment. By doing so, you feel better in the long run.
There are a ton of different commitments you can take at meetings. You might choose something as simple as being the person who makes the coffee before each meeting. You could be in charge of literature or announcements. You can do more complex positions as well, but those typically have a sobriety time requirement. After a few months or years of sobriety, however, these commitments are great ways to continue being of service. Consider becoming a secretary or treasurer of the meeting, which entails counting the money, paying the rent, and making donations on behalf of the meeting.
Service Work at Home
We must apply this in all of our affairs, including our family life. This is a place that we spend most of our time. We must be mindful of what we are doing with our own family. It can be easy to just practice the principles of service at the meeting hall, but we know that our family suffered the most due to our substance use disorder, so we must be selfless. Examples of selflessness at home include doing household chores around the house and taking the initiative to do so without anyone asking. Do something nice for whoever lives in your household, even if you are angry or resent them.
If we are of service to the people we care about, we will find that our relationships will improve. We will be seen as reliable and hard-working. We must do these things without expecting anything in return, though. Those who suffer from drug and alcohol problems love to get praise or attention for what we do. In this case, we must avoid seeking the spotlight.
Being of service doesn’t typically come naturally to recovering addicts. Throughout our addiction, we have been forced to focus only on our survival. Each of our actions was focused only on making sure we could maintain our addiction and stay drunk or high. We focus so much on ourselves and our addiction that we lose sight of other people. In sobriety we learn being of service helps us to get outside of ourselves, and is an integral part of recovery. You can only keep what you have by giving it away. At Choice House, you can learn an entirely new way to live a life focused on helping those around you. Call us today at (720) 577-4422 to learn more.