Service Helps to Keep Us Sober
Here I am at my desk, clean and tidy in a freshly tidied flat. These days it takes a couple of weeks to degenerate into a chaotic mess, instead of the 48 hours like it took before AA.
I was brought to my AA home group by a stranger in the fellowship who could tell I needed to hear a clear unified message. I was doing the rounds of various meetings back then and I couldn't tell what AA was supposed to be about, people talked about all sorts of unrelated stuff – mainly their problems, how hard life was and how they were going to just not drink.
It was a warm sunny August and I had just got sober again, shakey and very nervous I was extremely glad to get a lift there with this considerate stranger. A group reunion was in full swing, but I didn't know this and I thought I had stumbled into some kind of underground revolutionary movement by mistake because it seemed like such a huge meeting. Over 100 People from all over England and Ireland wandered about with cups of tea, saying "hi" and chatting.
The sharers spoke about "doing service" with a knowing glint in their eyes. I imagined they must mean some kind of military induction, the way the meeting was so well organised these guys had obviously undergone rigorous training!
As the alcoholic fog lifted with a couple more meetings and with getting a sponsor, I realised that service was those great jobs of leadership like Secretary and GSR that I had learned so much about when I was eating out of dustbins, and was so well suited for. Lucky for these guys that I had come along to help!
Soon enough I was able to exercise my great leadership skills as the cleaner for my group, because thankfully, in AA no one was going to put any responsibilities onto my shoulders that I wasn't able to handle. I have seen quite a few other groups put newcomers up as GSR and inevitably the newcomers end up getting overwhelmed, they often get the idea that they are bad at service, and drop out of AA in discouragement.
Fortunately I started out as a cleaner, and became GSR when I was ready, once I had gone through some of the other service positions, like tea maker, "scroll man" and secretary; once I had a better idea what AA and service was all about.
In fact my sponsor introduced me to service from day one, because he told me to get there early, help set up and to help put the chairs away afterwards. Like it says in AA Comes of Age "An AA Service is anything whatever that legitimately helps us to reach fellow sufferers." (P.140)
Embarrassed, sweaty and nervous I did it all. Within 2 weeks people newer than me appeared and immediately I was doing my bit to welcome them to my home group and this amazing new life I had been shown – a life that was bearable without alcohol. I met them for coffee and phoned them daily and I still do all this stuff today as well. I didn't realise it back then but this is all service, thinking of others and carrying the message to the still-suffering alcoholic, takes me out of my self-obsession and frees me from the "bondage of self".
Whenever I take the time to do some service, whether it ís meeting a newcomer or writing this article, I always feel calmer, happier and more content and stable afterwards.
Service has given me a great opportunity to practice being an adult. Being adult often means doing things you don't want to do because you know you need to, or should do, or you have to. Oddly enough I have found that doing service I didn't want to do in AA has finally made me happy, when a lifetime of doing what I wanted to made me miserable.
So when it felt like a pain to get to the meeting on time with the scrolls, or in the winter when I had to walk and I was tired and missing the T.V., it didn't stop me from doing it, it just made me pray harder; and through concentrating on delivering my service and not my feelings I finally started to grow up and feel like an adult. Maybe I feel just like that considerate stranger who saved my life with a simple act of service over ten years ago. He extended the hand of friendship, and made a personal effort to ensure that I got a strong message of recovery. He went that little bit further to carry the message and I always try to do the same.
One last thing I would like to mention about service is that it exemplifies the fact that we get well by taking actions. I haven't been able to think myself better and I didn't talk myself better either. I do talk with my sponsor, but the important thing is that I do what he suggests. Like the Service Manual says, (P.6)
"A.A. is more than a set of principles; it is a society of alcoholics in action."