by Nancy P.
There is an easier, softer way, which means committing to myself to doing what is suggested. The first suggestions I ever heard in meetings were to keep coming back and to get a sponsor. This other big suggestion I learned after month three of sobriety was to be of service.
What did service look like my first year in 2010 ? It looked like writing my number down when a women’s number card was passed around for a newcomer. It looked like me sharing at every meeting I went to because I needed to remind myself why I was there but also to share my sober thoughts entailing the ups and downs of this new life to others in the rooms who were either going through the same thing or who at one time had been through some treacherous life territory and lived to not drink or drug over it. It also looked like saying “yes” to complete strangers in the rooms who asked me to join other sober people for post-meeting coffee/tea or food (what San Francisco members call fellowship). It also looked like showing up to a meeting early.
I would show up early so I could also get baked goods before the meeting
I have a bad problem of being late to basically everything and anything. So, one of my new sober promises to myself was that I would show up to meetings on time and to do so I would show up early so I could also get baked goods before the meeting at this vegan restaurant right by the meeting. The great thing about showing up early to meetings is I get to read random stuff, meditate, or shoot the breeze with another random alcoholic about how they were doing (getting outside myself). To be honest though, my first act of service was in true self-centered fashion. I walked the coffee pot around at meetings because I am a restless alcoholic and hated sitting down for an entire hour.
Finally, after asking a woman with solid time to be my first sponsor and then working the steps, my service looked like offering my number to newcomers, to picking up the phone and calling other women I met in the rooms, to getting my first sponsee. Then it looked like leading my first meeting for three months. And that is when my life started really changing. While I could say working the steps totally changed my life because it did, what really started changing was that I was no longer stuck in my problems when I was of service. You see, I am exceptionally good at biting off more than I can chew, because I love the challenge and it is a sad sick thing that I like to prove to myself I can do the impossible. The only problem is: I have problems I get stuck in to remind myself I have problems. Crazy, right? So, committing to being of service at a meeting keeps me out of my problems. Seriously.
I walked the coffee pot around at meetings because I was restless
Fast forward to the first part of 2020, attending a meeting close to my place in SF for the first time right before lockdown (March 17th) and staying after to ask the trusted servants of Raising The Bottom for a service commitment. Shockingly the only major one available at the time was Intergroup Rep. I knew nothing about Intergroup. Seriously. NADA. Call it a blessing or a curse, but my ignorance or rather lack of knowledge or awareness on something sometimes saves me time and time again. This was another such time. This saving came in the form of me having to inform the group, “Hey you guyssss – you can count on me to show up week after week and report to the group what goes on at Intergroup to also share what the targeted message might be.” So then comes the pandemic and having to find a new way to do meetings, and luckily what was amazing was how quickly meetings went online. What was also crazy, was how this service commitment (I was offered by the Grace of my HP and agreed to) helped me get comfortable with Zoom meetings, and consequently with searching for and attending other meetings.
Since online sober meetings were changing rapidly in the early part of lockdown, I quickly realized I needed to attend and participate in more meetings than I was anticipating. Mainly because I personally needed the meetings even if I did not fully realize it and more importantly, I do not like being unprepared. Thanks to this service commitment – there was no way at nine or ten years sober that I was going to be responsible for a service commitment and only go to a meeting a week.
This service commitment and (my initial ignorance to Intergroup) saves me three different ways:
1) It forces me to actually commit to something other than myself – shocker.
2) It keeps me showing up week after week because I have a legitimate excuse and reason – I am there to tell you about Intergroup or whatever my commitment is. Even though, if I am being totally honest, there are sooo many times I have thought about asking someone else to sub for me. However, this program has taught me to not excuse my way out of things and my good ole character defects also told me I cannot be the person having someone sub for me.
3) It keeps me plugged in to being of service to others.
Can you imagine if every person who has worked the steps said I am so busy with this newfound sober life and cannot regularly make a meeting? That would mean there would be no AA. Better yet, can you imagine being the sober fellow who has 20 years and does not think a service commitment makes sense for them anymore? If there is something I know, it is that I do not carry this epic, amazing, sober life of mine without the fellowship and program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and if I ever think I am too busy or have too much time for a service commitment, please sit me down and remind me who helped get my life back. Other Alcoholics who were of service.
Since my AA fellows are great at calling me out when warranted, I will kindly call out anyone who has more than a year and uses the “I have so much going on with my work, family, and sponsees that I can’t take a service commitment.” Can you imagine that? That would mean every meeting would lack volunteers. Seriously. Let‘s be real. If you have worked the steps with a sponsor, cheers. You are more fortunate than most who come into the rooms via Zoom. Now pay it forward and carry the message by taking a commitment to keep yourself and others sober. And for those who have not worked the steps with a sponsor, please keep coming back, because I need to remember what it felt like my first few days, weeks, and months of sobriety to remind me that I only have a life because other people kept showing up to save their ass even when they did not want to.