Thursday, September 15, 2011

Giving back

I went to the noon meeting today.  It was about the joy of service.  I looked around the table and saw a lot of blank looks.  A lot of people in my meetings come because they want to share their pain.  They want to be rid of the problems in their lives.  "Service?  What's that?"

The more I go to meetings, the more I realize that there are few people who actually get a sponsor and work the steps.  There is no real "guide" for so many who are suffering from the affects of alcoholism in a relative or friend.  What is amazing is that people are helped by coming and listening to the experience, strength and hope of others.  They are getting a message.  It may not be the entire message but some part of the program is helping them.  And today, I think that some got a good message about giving back.

Probably one of the best kept secrets for many people who come to meetings is that helping others can actually help your recovery.  My sponsor stressed service and doing for others.  It was not the co-dependent type of doing that I had done in the past.  Rather, it was about becoming involved with Al-Anon through talking to newcomers,  chairing a meeting,  participating in meetings, and simply doing for the good of the group.  I got to know other members, made friends,  and found that my recovery was helped when I gave something back.

I have moments when I get really weary of taking on more activities/jobs.  I have to find a balance between taking care of myself and doing for others.  I do reserve the right to say, "No thanks" if I am asked to do something when I am feeling overwhelmed with existing projects.  Lately, I have felt overwhelmed with class and family.  So I met with the District Representative yesterday to discuss how best to hand over something that I have done for the district for several years.  I know that it's time to let another person take this work over.

I also get tired when people, who ask me to sponsor them, balk at working the steps.  But I've learned that I can't make anyone do anything.  All I can be is an example of willingness.  I can share what helped me.  And then I have to let the outcome go.  In Al-Anon, I've learned that it is healthy for me to detach with love.

So, if you find that your recovery may be feeling a bit stale, think about getting out of yourself and doing something for others in the fellowship.  It can be an amazing lift to the spirit.

Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.  ~William James

This is the true joy in life - being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.  ~George Bernard Shaw


  1. I agree, giving back helps the giver. Being rather shy and quiet I didn't share much when I first started going to meetings so I was missing out on the connection that is so important. Volunteering as the group treasurer was a way I could give back for all that I was learning from them and pretty soon I felt connected and braver!

  2. I have a hard time with this one and I know it. I feel like so much of my entire life has been lived in the service of others- mostly my family, but others too. And I still do. And I love this life. It has been a wonderful life. But I feel guilty that I don't do more for "the community."
    And yet, when I get time to myself, I selfishly want to use it for myself to do whatever it is I want to do with it.
    Oh Syd! Is this wrong?

  3. nice...putting our faith into is always a blessing and teaches so much...

  4. There is nothing like service to help in early sobriety. I washed coffee cups, set out chairs and brought milk and biscuits to meetings. Then I graduated to visiting active alcoholics in hospitals and meeting with those who wanted to get sober. I did online service and still have daily phone calls with newly sober women who are trying to not have vodka for breakfast.

    But the balance is crucial, that I make time for myself, that I play and have fun and enjoy my sober life and get enough sleep and exercise, make time for love and dogs and parties.

    Such a good post Syd, that ideal of balance in a demanding life.

  5. I always said that the best part of a meeting was that to my knowledge, nobody was getting loaded during one; the worst part was seeing so many people using meetings in place of the steps. But it's none of my business. I worked the steps because I could no longer live like I had been, and the program told me the Promises came to those who did the work.

  6. I was told I had to "Give it away to keep it-" Passing it on, Thanks.

  7. I'd much rather be too busy with service than miserable without.

  8. I love the Shaw quote.

    I love you more.

    Have a great weekend.

  9. Syd, this is so TRUE! As codependents we have to find a balance between giving and giving over (all of our time, all of ourselves, everything).

    I have started doing a little service now and again. Getting ready to chair my 2nd meeting ever, and I've started a new blog for bereaved parents, many of whom may have lost their child to addiction.

    As you probably know from reading my Poetic License blog previously, it's so hard not to blame ourselves when the addict/alcoholic doesn't do what we want them to do. We get into recovery and they won't?? Shocking. But then my daughter did.

    Right now I'm struggling with my little sister who is 9 years sober but has hooked up with a loser who is drinking, snorting pills and shooting up. It's only a matter of time before she is either dead or back on drugs. It's really, really hard for me to detach with love. I finally had to say, "I love you. I have a room you're welcome to. But don't call me about any of this again unless you're on your way to my house with all your clothes."

    In my latest post, I compare the first three steps of Al-Anon with the first three steps of getting on with our lives without our children. You might enjoy it.

    Peace - D

  10. I offer to work the Steps with those who ask me to sponsor them, but if they decide they don't have the time, or the inclination, I have to let that go.

  11. I feel the same way about service; it has helped my recovery in every aspect. It's a daily effort to find that balance of not having my codependency kick in, but to do my part and allow others to have their dignity to do their part. I’m finding it hard lately to find a balance to give my time to service while struggling with the pull of the disease at home. As Izzy said, “Give it away to keep it”, so I keep working my program and I know that balance will come. One day at a time.

  12. I have not gone to a meeting yet but I have given it serious thought lately. I've called the local number and received the meetings schedule. I am just trying to get up the courage to walk in. I found Syd's blog and now can't wait to read it everyday. Please keep blogging, you are helping those of us who are having a hard time taking that first step. Blessings to all.

  13. I have found ways to give back outside of Alanon. I tried the service route by being a GR and a board position. I just could not take going to all those meetings. They just went on and on some days. I know someone has to do it, but it did not fit my temperament.

  14. how many time i do not do what i want to do but do what i dont want to do

  15. I'm grateful that I heard the saying in AA that "I'm not much but I'm all I think about." It woke me up to the fact that if I changed my attitude of self-centeredness, got out of my head and thought about someone else for a change, I would find peace.

  16. Boy, you're singing my song, Syd. I rarely get sponsees to work the steps. Some begin, but quit, eventually dropping out all together. Statistics are quite low for long term recovery. But if you think about it, we have a *choice* to decided which stat we want to be.

    I guess they really dont feel the desperation quite like we did. Sigh.....


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