Service: Why Do I need to Do It?
The short answer is because it works! What works? Sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous. And not just any old sobriety: living COMFORTABLY without alcohol. I thought that was impossible: the very idea was both laughable and terrifying. For an alcoholic of my type, which is the type described in The Big Book, there is a whole world of difference between just not having a drink and staying sober by using the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. The former was painful and impossible to keep up. The latter means I get to enjoy life and stay sober with no temptation to drink. If I want this way of life, I need to put in certain actions, and a vital part of the process is doing service in Alcoholics Anonymous.
I need Alcoholics Anonymous more than it needs me, but that’s no excuse for doing shoddy service. If I get elected into a position, whether it’s at my home group or at Intergroup, then I need to do that service to the best of my ability. Of course, I haven’t always achieved that, but if I’m to live sober comfortably, I need to continue to stay sponsored, take instructions from the GSR (or the conscience the fellowship) and I need to put right whatever mistake I made. Yes, I need Alcoholics Anonymous more than it needs me, because without it I stay sick. But I also owe it to the fellowship to do what’s expected of me, because if I don’t, I let down the still-suffering alcoholic and the fellowship in general. This will have a negative knock-on effect on my recovery.
As well as keeping me sober, the benefits of doing service with the guidance of a disciplined sponsor have been endless. I had no confidence when I first got to Alcoholics Anonymous: I was battered and bruised, literally and emotionally. Things had gone wrong for so long, and I’d been so unreliable that it looked like I would never take my place in society again. And yet a day at a time, and by moving through various types of service, in the “outside world” I’ve achieved things that seemed impossible. These are things that everyday people take for granted.
Yes, all AA members differ in terms of the external things we had or didn’t have, when we were finally beaten by alcoholism. My story is that I was utterly useless: I had nothing, achieved nothing and dreaded the future. Doing service means being accountable at my home group, to my sponsor, to the GSR and Intergroup. It means people expect things from me, so I’ve got into the right habits, such as being where I‘m meant to be at the right time, and doing what I said I’m going to do. I did these things (and it continues to this day) because alcoholism brought me to my knees. I became willing to do whatever was required in order to stay sober. The added bonus was that I began to take some of these newly-found skills into other areas of my life. I was studying at university, so I did the work, handed essays in on time and graduated. I started writing for newspapers and magazines, which meant sticking to deadlines and taking direction from the editor. I’ve also got a job I love, and despite being an arrogant know-it-all alcoholic, I try and do the work the way my manager expects me to do it.
All these and a thousand other benefits I owe to Alcoholics Anonymous. I HAD to be willing to put in the actions: nobody can make me do that. Thank God that just for today, I remain willing.
Arash T, Road To Recovery Group, Plymouth