Growing through service
AA, sponsorship and service has given me a life that I never thought was possible. Life is far from pointless today, anything is possible. And this is from someone that wanted to end it all, before it even started.
The 2 years before I arrived in Alcoholics Anonymous were the worst I have ever known. Every time I drank, I would drink to complete oblivion. I had totally run out of ideas on how to do life – with or without drink. I couldn't look people in the eyes or even have a conversation without stuttering and having a panic attack. The only release I had left was being asleep or blackout from my drinking. I was that low and that beaten that even suicide crept into my thoughts. I remember being drunk, rocking backwards and forwards, crying and praying to God to let me be happy again.
One night, after getting kicked out of my partner’s house again, I went back to my parents’ house. This time my mum phoned the helpline and was put in touch with a chap that invited me to go to an AA meeting. After a few weeks of attending meetings and also finding out what I was suffering from all my life (alcoholism) I got myself a sponsor and started the 12 Step programme of recovery, of which service is a massive part!
My home group is where I started AA service. First I was asked to sweep up outside the venue. This was easy and my sort of job. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay in that position forever and found myself moved to tea and coffee. I found this uncomfortable at first because I was afraid of messing up and looking stupid, but the more I listened to others and followed the way they did it, the easier it became.
Then the chance came to do the literature position. When I started it, I remember people would put their drinks on the table where the books were kept and I would have to tell them to remove them (as it said in the guidelines) and this was extremely uncomfortable. In the past I would let people get away with things just for an easy life, but then beat myself up because I was too spineless to say anything. I used to hate myself for being like that. But now, in recovery, my life was on the line, I had to start taking responsibility for my recovery and service was a big part of it.
From dealing with these situations I was becoming more responsible and growing more into an adult. I've also had the privilege of being the secretary at my home group, where I've had to stand up in front of 60 plus people and take the meeting. Sometimes I’ve been told that I’ve done things wrong and this has hurt my pride a lot, but instead of having a tantrum I’ve kept my mouth shut and used my programme the best I could. That’s a massive change. Before, if anyone criticized me, I'd keep it in and hate them for it, resulting in me hurting and not learning anything that would help me in the future. Now, I'm truly able to learn from it and not have these situations push me backwards. I’ve also been our group's newcomers’ officer, where I've had to contact homeless hostels offering lifts to meetings, and make sure that the newcomer in the meeting is made welcome.
I’ve been a responder on the AA helpline now for over 7 years. Over those years I’ve heard a lot of desperate people on the phone in tears and it reminds me of how it used to be for me. Hopefully I’ve been able to help some of these people find what I have found to recreate their lives again. I continue to move forward in my service and have just finished three years as the Public Information officer for Plymouth Intergroup. In that role I’ve organized awareness meetings for professionals, arranged talks at various organizations: police, city council and schools. To be honest it’s been a bit uncomfortable at times, but I’ve got through it with the help of others.
A big thing that I have learned has been asking for help and not trying to do things all by myself, asking more experienced people how they've dealt with certain situations and using their experience to move forward in my life.
Service and the 12 Steps have changed me so much, It has put me on a path which really makes me feel that I'm going somewhere.
I am able to be a decent father today and help my children with their problems and fears. Me and the Missus rarely argue and we have so much fun in are home now, whereas before it truly was a battle ground. Regarding work, I tried to become a plasterer before coming into AA but had no confidence in myself, so I just gave up as usual. But after going through the 12 Steps I’ve been able to take it up again and worked for myself as a self-employed plasterer for 5 years. I’ve also gone back to college and passed a counselling course. I know this is a bit different from plastering but I feel at my best when I'm working with others and that’s a miracle for someone who couldn’t look you in the eye.
I truly feel part of this world today, I have friends and I know how to be a friend. I’ve learned so much in Alcoholics Anonymous because I started to take responsibility. I do not think or feel the same way as I used to, because I'm no longer trapped in resentment and self. Today I feel I have so much potential and drive in life, I really have come alive. For over 11 years now I can look back and see that service has changed me so much and helped me carve out the life I have today. Before, I used to be such a people-pleaser and unable to speak up for myself. People used to walk all over me, which made me angry and resentful, and this resulted in me drinking more to deal with it. With service I feel that I’ve grown up and can deal with life at last.
Chris D, Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth