In any 12-Step (or any other) group, there are always people willing to step up and do the work, and others who remind me of the old joke about the construction worker who stood around, drinking water and leaning on his shovel, while telling his co-workers about how someday he was going to run the company. There are workers, then there are the day trippers and Sunday drivers – and that’s okay!
Recovery doesn’t happen like jumping into the pool with our clothes on. It’s more like sticking a toe in, then a foot, and so on. The hangers-on need to be doing that, until they are able to step up and become participants. The workers need it too, but perhaps some may do too much. It’s possible to become so enamored of service that we forget that we are just “bozos on the bus,” and begin to think we are something special. That way lies relapse – or at the very least a twisted idea of recovery.
All recovering people need to be involved in some kind of service. It takes us out of ourselves, gives us a sense of worth and accomplishment, provides an opportunity to feel accepted by the group, and allows us to make contact with others who can be our partners in sobriety. But there must be balance, and that’s why we start gently.
To begin with, we can offer to take over the coffee-making duties before the meeting, or set up chairs, or greet people at the door. Even if we don’t know them, we can step up and say “My name’s ____!” and shake their hand. We can pick up after the meeting, empty the wastebaskets, or whatever needs doing. Hey, someone has to do it; are we too good for the job? We can read during the meeting if asked, share – if we have something pertinent to say – talk to someone who looks lost, take someone out for coffee, or call someone just to say, “Hello, how’s your day?”
Later on down the line we can become involved with the nuts and bolts of our fellowship. We can chair meetings, speak and share our story if asked, agree to be responsible for opening the meeting place, and serve in group offices such as secretary, treasurer, Intergroup representative, and so forth. Finally, as we gain more experience and maturity in recovery, we can be sponsors, volunteer to make 12-Step calls, take meetings into jails and treatment centers, serve on committees, and otherwise give back to the fellowship and its other members the things that they have so freely given us.
And last, but certainly anything but least, we can go to meetings. In the last month, the writer has been to at least a half-dozen meetings with only two or three people present. Small, intimate meetings are sometimes a godsend, but what if some newcomer showed up for a meeting and there was no one there? I’ve been there, too. We went out for coffee instead and had our own meeting, but one can only wonder what that newcomer would have thought of the fellowship if no one at all had been there to “carry the flag.” Attending meetings is good for us in so many ways, but it is also good for others. It gives them something to feel a part of. It gives a variety of people with whom they can perhaps identify. It creates an atmosphere of well-rounded recovery, instead of only a few people carrying the message.
If we take, take, take and don’t give back to our fellowship and fellow recovering addicts, are we really any different from when we were acting out – thinking only about ourselves, taking what we wanted without regard to others? Isn’t growing out of that selfish way of life what recovery is all about?
Think about it.