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.
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.