By Jessica M.
The importance of service was instilled in me by my first sponsor. Her ability to show up for her meeting commitments and for sponsorship of me and four other women she sponsored modeled the type of service work I continue to strive for in my own program.
When I was six months sober, she encouraged me to join the Hospitals & Institutions Committee (H&I). I signed up to bring meetings once a month to a family residential recovery house. Single parents or homeless families were able to seek treatment while staying with their children. Parents often attended the H&I meetings with babies or children would play together in the playroom just off to the side of the meeting space. Throughout the meeting parents would take turns checking on the children or occasionally there was an older kid who would watch over younger kids during the meeting.
I started as a single childless person with under a year of sobriety. I was so afraid my inexperience with life and that the Program would prevent me from being useful to anyone let alone families and parents seeking stability through sobriety. Despite my worry, I showed up each month with friends I brought as speakers. I ran the meeting, handed out readings and stayed for an hour whether one or a dozen people showed up.
There was one meeting where no one showed up until 5 minutes before the meeting ended. My friend and I ended up talking with the person who came in. We were all so grateful we stayed, it meant so much to just share about what our days had been like and how we felt instantly better by knowing other recovering alcoholics were available even if only for the last five minutes to share with each other.
Throughout the three years I was bringing in meetings I got to witness parents regain custody of their children, find jobs, eventually move out to sober living and be part of the world again. Watching the changes that happened in the fellowship within the recovery house showed me how important service was, not for what I could specifically and personally contribute to the lives of others but how important consistency is in providing a foundation for stability. It didn’t matter that I could not relate because I did not have a child, it only mattered that I was there to listen and that the meeting was there for anyone interested in attending.
That feeling of uselessness and self-pity disappeared as I continued to show up, no longer overly concerned of how I would be received but about what I could do by just making myself available. I didn’t have to and I absolutely did not do it perfectly, but I showed up more than I did not and was there to extend the hand of A.A. as so many had done for me.
Service has kept me sober for sure but it has also completely changed my attitude and outlook upon life. I have brought the spirit of service commitments and volunteering to my life outside of recovery, as much as service keeps me sober, service outside of A.A. keeps me human and sane. It helps me remember we are all interdependent, each of us needs the other. When I needed help someone was there. I want to make sure I am there if the day comes when someone else is looking for that same help.