Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Being of service

Last night at a meeting, I got to reflect on something that has been passed down from my sponsor to me and that I pass on to my sponsees.  It is one of the fundamental principles of AA and Al-Anon: "In order to keep it, you have to give it away."

I've found that service work is a great thing. There are so many ways to be of service in the fellowship.  My sponsor shared that he took a position as GR about 2 weeks into Al-Anon.  He asked what being a GR entailed and was told that it was like being President of the group.  He admitted to having a big ego and said, "Okay, I can do that!". 

I didn't come into Al-Anon with much self-esteem when it came to relationships, but I did know how to step up to the plate and be responsible. So probably some of my first service with the group was ego based.  I've always been a sucker to volunteer to do something, especially when no one else wants to. But a lot of why I have done service work is to give back to the program what has been so freely given to me. And I appreciate that there were people at the meetings when I was new that took the time to share their experience, strength, and hope which was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.  So I have done a lot of different service work in all sorts of ways since being in the fellowship.  It has helped me to get out of myself, out of my own head, and made my recovery stronger.

I have gotten a lot from working with the newcomers who keep coming back.  Like so many newcomers, when I first came to Al-Anon, I was in deep despair. I didn't want to fix anyone but myself because I was past the point of trying to fix the alcoholic. I didn't believe that the relationship could be saved. In fact, I didn't believe in much when I came in. I definitely was at an emotional bottom and in need of guidance.

At first, I didn't feel much like I belonged. Everyone was further along than I. It was as if there was a different language. But it just felt like I had found a place where I could finally talk about what was wrong in my life and in my marriage.

Even though I felt shame and guilt at first, I kept going to meetings.  I wanted what was offered. After working the steps and with the help of my sponsor, I've created a new life for myself. I have hobbies that I enjoy and fill my life with things that I like to do and can do with or without my spouse. I don't have expectations that she will participate but if she wants to, that's great. I've learned from the program that keeping the focus on myself isn't selfish.

So when I see a newcomer at a meeting, it inspires me. I feel sad for them.  But I know that the path through the door leaves a trail of tears but eventually laughter follows us out.  I am now able to laugh at meetings and can see how far I've come. I can see the raw emotion of the newcomer and pray that each will hear something that will make them want to keep returning. And with God working through me, I get to reach out my hand and give away some of what I have learned. And that's a great feeling.  I think that I’ve given away something but kept something far more valuable by helping others.

Last night, the newcomers heard that they are the most important person in the room. When I heard those words, it made me feel special and that was something that I hadn't felt for a long time.

So I want to say thanks to the newcomers who have the courage to come into a meeting. Hopefully, you'll hear something that will make you keep coming back and will lead you to recovery.  And if you are not new, reach out your hand to be of service. Give it away and you'll get far more in return.

25 comments:

  1. When I walked in to my first meeting, I was one of 5 newcomers in a 7-person meeting. I thought, "Oh my gosh! There are people in the same boat as I am at the same time." I was scared and at one of the lowest points in my life, but I was not alone anymore.

    Now that I am no longer a newcomer, I can see how much helping others helps me. It is truly inspiring to see someone's life changing, just as yours is. It is healing and very, very satisfying.

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  2. I went al-anon for a while a few years back...I was never really sure if it was for me or not. The majority of folks there were married to or had been married to an alcoholic and I was there because I was the mother of an adolescent addict. Through reading your posts I've started to think about al-anon, again....maybe I'll give it another shot! Thanks....I always enjoy reading what you have to say....you have a special way with words!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Kristi

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  3. I heard those words at my first meeting too. It does make you feel special, and it gives you hope. At times during meetings I feel like I don't have enough recovery time in order to comment, but God has seen other ways in which I can help. The other words that I love to hear are "keep coming back" because those words are so important and it does matter if you have 24 hours in or 24 years, keep coming back, working the program and sharing with others. Great testimony today!

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  4. Welcoming the newcomer to any recovery fellowship is an important way to establish a bond both with and for each other. I've been in recovery for over 10 years and I still remember the person who first welcomed me.

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  5. Syd... You speak my mind when you say you do service work to give back what has so freely been given to you. In the beginning I couldn't figure out why people were so eager to share their experience with me. Now I know that's the way we stay well...

    The principle of service has woven itself throughout my life, into my mothering, my partnership, my work. It's why I write my blog. If I can connect with one person, the world has been changed. We're all connected.

    much respect, --G

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  6. Always love reading what you have to say. My brother in law is just beginning recovery. I'm going to tell him and my sis about your site here. Thank you for your gracious comment. Means a lot to me. I'm afraid I changed my format after I approved your comment and somehow it no longer shows. Bummer. Anyway, glad you liked it:) Peace, Jeanne

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  7. Std, as a new comer in the room, in some meetings my expierence was wonderful as this relates, being the most important in the room. In some of the first meetings I encountered it was not like that, but still I was able to grasp bits and pieces of the program.

    After a few years I like that I am able to figure out easily to take what I need and leave the rest.

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  8. Wow, wow, wow. Well said Mr Syd. Really, I mean it. That post brought me to tears. You have come so far. I have not known you since the start of your journey but I am sure shooting proud to know you now! Keep it up and keep coming back.

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  9. Hi Syd,

    Yep - The legacy continues forward! What a blessing that you and members like you choose the time to 'give away' and have learned that the benefits reaped back are so manifold.

    The entire content of this wonderful blog today has me grinning from ear to ear!

    Hugs and Love,
    Anonymous #1

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  10. great piece syd..i too try to give back through service...it is because of what i have been given...there are times though when the focus does have to be on you and in those times it does make you feel part of the greater whole...

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  11. After 8 months in my men's meeting, I chaired last for the first time. (I had to be gently nudged) My humility is in check on my ability to read aloud and I was pretty nervous and pretty bad. I was procrastinating for the last month or so when a few opportunities to chair had come up. I did it and now I'm glad.(and relieved) A little bit of service went a long way, for me. --thanks

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  12. Great post, thank you Syd. I am in my third month in al-anon and still struggle a lot in meetings--feel like a misfit, don't have anything to say, wonder if I'll ever feel ok in the rooms. So thanx for sharing your experience. It give me hope....

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  13. This a great message. Thank you. I know I've gotten more from service than I ever imagined. But GR after two weeks? Geez. I've done a lot of different types of service work, but that one still scares me.

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  14. It is really tough to decide to go to a first meeting. Glad the newcomers are welcomed with so much love at your meetings.

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  15. your strength...your fight...really inspires. I've found too...I have to keep giving...keep sharing...keep helping. thanks for this.

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  16. I wish all humans would learn the value of service work.It never has to be in the name of anything more
    than basic humanity.Truly.

    When I tried Coda years ago I was nervous as hell.I hated the feeling of stepping through the doors of our local fellowship center feeling like a complete stranger.But as soon as the meeting began-I noticed a flow of community among the group.Even if there were all walks of life-everyone felt welcomed.Including me.

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  17. It would be wonderful if every Al-Anon group had someone like you.

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  18. Gratitude and service go together -- this is an insightful post Syd, thanks again.

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  19. my favorite aspect of service is welcoming the newcomer, sharing what it was like for me, and helping them understand.

    I did the AA service structure pretty hard core for a couple years long ago. I learned alot about myself and about the AA program and I recommend that people get involved in the service structure with their sponsor.

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  20. I understand what you are saying and I agree with what you wrote, but I will add that if I was told at group level that I was the most important person in the room, and that was followed with cross-talk aimed at me I would not come back. I see this all the time. Comments directed at the first timer. That was not the kind of attention I could handle. I came in through rehab, which was what I needed, but any straight forward attention would have me running. Too much focus on me would have scared the shit out of me. I was scared enough as it was.

    It works for some, but not for all. There is a reason we do not cross talk in meetings.

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  21. When I see a newcomer crying in a meeting I remember what it was like for me. I get it. I know what that feels like. Thankfully, today, I hear the laughter in Al-Anon that my tears drowned out.

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  22. Thanks for your post, Syd. Just the other nite, I was in a total funk on my way to a meeting. I sat in the circle, staring at the floor, just dwelling on issues I had been battling all day. Then a newcomer peeked through the door, shortly after the meeting had started. I looked up, waved to her and pointed to the only free chair in the room. She came back the next week and shared that she had been scared to come to the meeting and that if someone hadn't caught her in the hallway and welcomed her in, she would have left. It reminded me that even when we think we really need it, we don't always go to meetings for ourselves. Sometimes we're there for someone else. Service is how we give back the recovery we have come to depend on for ourselves.

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