29 09, 2022

Why I Chose Teleservice to Up My Service Commitments

By Jillian E.

I was going through a difficult divorce and one of the principles I have learned in A.A. is to do more service when I am feeling shaky. The Big Book says, “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” I knew that one way to see more newcomers in my life was to join either H&I or Teleservice. The first commitment to cross my path was as a Teleservice Rep for my home group. The responsibility of the meeting rep is to not only make a weekly announcement about what Teleservice is, but to also attend the Teleservice business meeting in order to learn how Teleservice works and bring pertinent information back to my group.

I began attending the business meeting monthly and found an amazing group of committed people serving the still-suffering alcoholic. They were living the Responsibility Statement. (“Whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there.”)

At that first meeting, I took a couple of volunteer phone line shifts and have never looked back. In my years as a phone line volunteer, I have talked to alcoholics from all over the United States. One time, I helped a woman find a meeting near her home in Detroit (using my computer, she didn’t have one) and in another call I talked to a man from somewhere near Dallas and also helped him find a meeting near his home. I have also helped countless people find meetings in Marin and San Francisco. Sometimes potential volunteers tell me they are afraid they won’t know what to say if they take a shift. I say, “Treat them like you would if you met a newcomer at a meeting”. I have the 20 questions available because I always ask a caller, “Do you think you have a problem with alcohol?” 

Since my early inception in Teleservice, I have been a daily volunteer coordinator, the orientation coordinator, the 12-Step worker list coordinator (where I taught a workshop on how to do a 12-Step call) and the Chairperson for the Committee. During the pandemic, the Teleservice committee has continued to be a lifeline for alcoholics as we became instrumental to helping people find and navigate the Zoom meetings and that continue today. 

Teleservice has really changed the depth of my sobriety and has also been a very straightforward and simple commitment. It takes very little time and is unbelievably rewarding to know that I am helping, as The Big Book says, when no one else can. I can secure the confidence of another alcoholic when no one else can. My life has, in fact, taken on new meaning. 

Teleservice and all the other San Francisco and Marin Intergroup committees are in need of more volunteers. There are many to choose from: Sunshine Club, the Tech Committee, The Buzz, The Point, Archives, Fellowship, HelpChat and many more. Take a chance, be brave, be bold, deepen your recovery by volunteering for an Intergroup service committee that fits your life and your schedule.

29 09, 2022

The Unselfish Spirit

Accepting the World as It is

By Rick R.

Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. The degree that the individual carries out these two goals is not mandated by A.A. and the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

The A.A. Program offers suggestions on how to overcome the difficulties brought about by the disease of alcoholism and not simply the act of drinking. These difficulties come in the form of spiritual damage and material wreckage. It seems that our spiritual damage lies in the unseen part of our makeup, such as our thinking, motive, fears, conscience, ego, guilt, shame, self-esteem and the like. Our material wreckage often comes as the result of our spiritual damage and is the residue of our spiritual condition. “Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.” (pg. 62 Alcoholics Anonymous) That being said, isn’t it apparent that unselfishness would be the solution to our troubles? That seems to oversimplify the solution, but in my experience, it is so simple that it is usually overlooked.

Most alcoholics have spent their lives taking advantage of everything and everyone around them and as a result, have been plagued by the guilt and shame that only a drink could mask. The Program of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that we live by principles and I cannot find one selfish principle in the Big Book or the 12 & 12. I believe that most of the people that truly have a desire to stop drinking and embrace the A.A. Program start to change the behaviors that they recognize as counterproductive simply because they can hear these things that we all share at meetings and they change the most obvious shortcomings in their day-to-day activities. This is a good start and with time it starts to erode much of the shameful habits of the past that had become commonplace.

Talk of inventories and amends cause us to think at a different level about those material matters. That is usually the only thing that we are aware of in the beginning. When we talk about spiritual matters, it seems that we all have different perceptions of exactly what we mean by “spiritual”. If, for the sake of simplicity, we think of it as our innermost self, such as our ego, conscience, our mind, our heart or soul, if you like, and realize that this is where our spirit resides and where our emotions live and that is also where the pain of our past thrives.

If we want to achieve the peace of mind that is promised in Step Nine, we will have to come to terms with the process of acceptance of the world as it is and of the people in that world. If we want to be accepted and forgiven for our past mistakes, we must be willing to accept all the people that we find fault with and give them the same latitude that we are seeking. To accomplish this, we can stop being judgmental and replace that with an understanding spirit. We will have to replace gossip and character assassignation with compassion and empathy. If we can’t do that, then how can we expect the world around us to accept us and forgive us for our past mistakes?

This is no time to rest on our laurels, so to speak. It’s time to begin cleaning out the attic. This is where we begin to free up that space in our minds that has been keeping us awake at night. This is truly the path to developing the unselfish spirit, and with it come a peace of mind that’s hard to imagine while we were  still playing God ourselves. It costs me nothing to be kind. My wish for those other people is that they can someday find the same peace of mind for themselves that this process has provided for me. What more can I say?

29 09, 2022

The Ripples of Service

By John W

Many a youth has marveled, upon tossing a large rock into a pond, at the ripples created and how they disperse across the breadth of the pond. Science tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. My journey into sobriety was kick-started by the subtle operation of each of these two principles.

When I was newly sober I received the gift of a tape-recorded share given some 24 years before at the Oregon Summer-Fest A.A. Gathering in 1981. The words which had been recorded I found to be particularly moving and helpful in achieving and maintaining sobriety. The now deceased speaker, Raymond O’Keefe, observed at the time that the ripples of service started by Bill and Bob in Akron, OH, so many years before, had traveled a long way to find that Willamette Valley Summer-Fest in 1981. However, I suspect Ray did not quite imagine how far The Ripples of Service for the “rock” he dropped that day in Oregon would travel to traverse decades and miles only to later wash over me in Mill Valley, CA, in 2005.

So too it was with my experience at the Tam Valley Log Cabin 7:00 a.m. A.A. group. I did not realize as I stumbled in on that Monday morning in November of 2004, a drunken, arrogant, dishonest man, soon to lose home, wife, family and later business, that the meeting I was attending had its start years before in 1986. Although I noted a somewhat amateurish painting of the “Log Cabin” hanging on a wall, many meetings passed under my Sobriety Bridge before I learned about the artist and of his checkered past. The painter, a long deceased, convicted felon named Chuck O’Connor, had himself also found this meeting many years before I had located it. I was told this character’s drunk-a-log spoke to his adventures with the most notorious criminals in America’s underworld, including Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Godfather Vito Genovese and Whitey Bulger. He had even become friends with the “Birdman of Alcatraz” while confined on The Rock in San Francisco Bay. But when Chuck O’C. received the breath of sobriety, he inhaled it deeply until his death, that of a sober man, whose home group had become The Cabin. 

I learned through “Cabin Lore” that Chuck was an absolute marvel at dealing with the still-suffering alcoholic, often the man with booze on his breath or a belly full of beer. Chuck seemed to have the “just-right” knack for winning the confidence of the newcomer. The halfway house and rehabilitation center in Marin that Chuck founded* was a testament to the value of his service. Chuck dropped his rock into the quiet pool of sobriety and watched for the ripples of the sobriety anniversaries to disseminate from it. While some of those ripples I suspect, by a slip, did too soon hit the shore or cause death from our shared fatal disease, I am grateful, as I believe Chuck would have been also, that our Program is one of progress not perfection. 

Sometime after the The Cabin had become my Home Group in 2005, I found out more about how that group had started in 1986. Although those founders had since moved on, one who lived only a few counties away was actively sponsoring women in the program. I was then fortunate to meet Linda G. and have since had the lovely experience on a number of occasions of listening to her share stories about those early days. The ripples of Linda G.’s service also persist at The Cabin as one of the women she sponsors still frequents it and calls it her Home Group. 

On Unity Day, many can be grateful for The Ripples of Service caused by the rock dropped in Tam Valley in 1986 by Linda G. and her fellow alcoholics when they started the Log Cabin Group. Those ripples continue to disperse because, while The Cabin was closed by COVID-19 in March of 2020, the “Back to Basics” meeting has recently opened at this intimate location. Now the six days a week 7:00 a.m. meeting is again available and providing service to the alcoholic who wants to get or stay sober. Unfortunately, a lingering side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency it caused is that it has demonstrated the fruits of service are not always fully known and are promised to no one. Ray O’Keefe, and Chuck O’Connor never knew how far the ripples of their service would disperse. Linda G. and her fellow drunks could not foresee how far or for how long the ripples of service would travel or that they would provide a home group for Chuck and later for me. Chuck’s picture of The Cabin still adorns the wall where he hung it so many years ago, but whether the legacy started in 1986 will persist, at the moment is anyone’s guess. What is certain is that the service which started the sobriety snowball rolling at The Cabin should neither be forgotten nor overlooked.

On this day of Unity, the Back to Basic group continues to rely upon the will of that one Ultimate Authority which guides the Fellowship, always mindful of the fact that one cannot predict or guarantee that any one meeting of today will be here tomorrow. However, our Program is one of hope. My personal experience from this wonderful meeting serves as a vivid harbinger that service works and that The Ripples of Service do persist and nurture, whether or not the ultimate impact of that service is ever known to the alcoholic who provides it.

* Chuck O’Conner link: 

29 09, 2022

Second Spiritual Awakening

By Anonymous

We often talk in the rooms of A.A. about spiritual awakenings. It’s the great promise of our 12 Steps. I’d like to talk about my second spiritual awakening, which happened when I least expected it.

I was still relatively early in my recovery when I was strongly encouraged into becoming my home group’s General Service Representative (GSR). What I’d heard about General Service wasn’t encouraging (or so I thought), but I was in the habit of doing what my sponsor suggested and she said I should take this commitment. 

I confess that General Service and I did not mesh at first. My impression of the meetings was that there was a whole lot of talking and not a lot of action. “If they only followed my plan,” I thought, “we’d get something done!” I wasn’t aware of the 12 Traditions yet, let alone the 12 Concepts. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I was ready to quit General Service, but my sponsor cautioned me against contempt prior to investigation. At her urging, I agreed to give it six months … but I was already secretly planning my escape.

And then the miracle happened. I attended my first Pre-Conference Assembly. General Service has several assemblies each year. The Pre-Conference Assembly is where all the GSRs from a certain area come together to deliver their groups’ conscience about the business of A.A. As an example, many of you are aware that the language in our Preamble was recently changed. It went from “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women …” to “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of people …”. That was discussed by GSRs at a Pre-Conference Assembly, who delivered their groups’ conscience about that change. Dozens of such changes about A.A.’s business are considered each year.

At my first Pre-Conference Assembly, I was overtaken by the spiritual nature of this process. GSR after GSR came up to the microphone to deliver their group’s opinion about the business of A.A., which the area’s representative—our Delegate—was then going to share in New York at our annual national conference. 

I was humbled by a process in which nobody “governs” A.A. When we participate in our group conscience each of us exercises our voice and vote. We each have a right and responsibility to participate to ensure A.A. continues tomorrow for the alcoholic who still suffers. This is what Bill and Bob intended when the General Service Conference was created.

As you can probably tell, I decided not to bolt after six months. Instead, I stayed for many years and served in a number of General Service commitments at the District and Area level. I came to appreciate the miracle of General Service with the help of a service sponsor who taught me how to apply the Traditions and Concepts in General Service proceedings, A.A. meetings and my personal life. 

I encourage you to be open and willing if a GSR commitment comes up at your meeting. You might just receive the gift of your second spiritual awakening!

29 09, 2022

Service Keeps You Sober

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. 

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