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When many hundreds of people are able to say that the consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why one should have faith.
– Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 51
Understanding is the key to right principles and attitudes, and right action is the key to good living.
— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 125
There came a time in my program of recovery when the third stanza of the Serenity Prayer — “The wisdom to know the difference” — became indelibly imprinted in my mind. From that time on, I had to face the ever-present knowledge that my every action, word and thought was within, or outside, the principles of the program. I could no longer hide behind self-rationalization, nor behind the insanity of my disease. The only course open to me, if I was to attain a joyous life for myself (and subsequently for those I love), was one in which I imposed on myself an effort of commitment, discipline, and responsibility.
My name is Tina. My sobriety date is October 28, 2011. My service work for the first 6 years was essentially meeting attendance, cleaning & making coffee, chairing & giving rides to meetings, sponsorship, sharing my story, and putting money in the basket when it came around. I would like to tell you that I got involved in business meetings and as a trusted servant willingly. But, I didn’t. I was somewhat backed into a corner & guilted into becoming my homegroup’s General Service Rep (GSR). And, even then, I was only interested in doing the minimum required for the least amount of time possible. I was doing THEM (whoever them is!) a favor so they could take what I was willing to give … or leave it. Honestly, I was hoping they would fire me and give me an easy OUT! But the bigger TRUTH I found was that I had been missing out on both a whole area of A.A. and of personal growth. Alcoholics Anonymous began to shift and change for me; first at the group level, then district, next was area, and now I am becoming more aware how that connects beyond … but perhaps more importantly, how it connects within, to ME as a member of AA and as a woman on the journey of becoming.
When I look back at the latter part of those 6 years of not getting involved in formal service, I believe much of it was spent in a routine RUT! I will venture to say that we have ALL heard in meetings that the only thing we have to change is everything. But I had not changed anything at all about how I was serving and giving back to the program that saved my life … the program that gave me a life. I was very comfortable hanging out on the back row and allowing other folks to be responsible for keeping the doors of my homegroup open & available to the still suffering alcoholic. My ego had me convinced that what I shared at meetings and put in the basket was more than enough. Little did I know that beyond our discussion & speaker meetings, more action was needed, and the workers were few! As I became right-sized (aka: ego deflation), I began to understand how I had failed to keep the responsibility declaration I had set out to uphold. I now believe with all my heart that my true responsibility is one that leads others not only into a life without alcohol but also into a life of deeper service … at the group level and hopefully even past that!
Another thing I wish I could tell you is that I knew what my true role was as GSR once I became “it”. I didn’t have a clue! So, in the beginning, I took all my cues from fellow group members who immediately began to contact me to push their agendas and/or complain. It didn’t take me long to start digging in to figure out how to maneuver these and other difficult things. For instance, my very first business meeting as GSR, a motion was made to ban smoking in all our meetings. Talk about diving into the deep end! It was horrible for the next few months via phone calls, meetings both regular & business, and any other time I ran into someone from my group … on either side of the topic. But in that ‘mean-time’, I found my footing and dug in to discover what my true purpose was as the GSR for my group. Once I knew the intended purpose, I settled in and strung together some time and experience that I believe keep A.A. relevant for me so that I can hopefully keep trudging and potentially attract others into service.
First, let me begin by defining relevance. It is importance … significance; something that has weight & substance that are applicable and that matter. A.A’s Legacy of Service was originally shared by Bill W. in 1955. He asserted that basic service is ” … anything whatever that helps us to reach a fellow sufferer – ranging all the way from the Twelfth Step itself to a ten-cent phone call and a cup of coffee, and to A.A’s General Service Office for national and international action. The sum total of all these services is our Third Legacy of Service.” Concerning any given service, he posed one question: “Is this service really needed? to which he answered, “If it is, then maintain it we must, or fail in our mission to those who need and seek AA.” Bill W. was emphatically clear that the services performed, whether by individuals, groups, areas, or beyond enable us to function as a whole; and that without them, we would cease to grow & eventually not even exist.
Lately, I have done much self-reflection and determined that becoming more intricately involved in service has helped me become a lesser part of the problem and therefore, a small part of the great whole. Here are my thoughts on how greater service in AA has helped create significance in my own life.
(1) Group Service helped me to both evolve existing and create new connections with people in my homegroup that went beyond staying sober. I began to view things from more of a WE & a ‘tomorrow’ aspect. I was looking at things like unity and continuum … what is best for my group and for AA as a whole.
(2) In order to serve more effectively, I needed to know more about the inner workings of AA or ‘read the book’ which in this case meant the literature related to our traditions and the AA General Service Manual. Learning more has helped me to grow and mature in areas that the steps and other things I had been doing had not yet tapped.
(3) I know now that being a trusted servant is not for sissies! Today, I consider myself a professional overcomer: fear of many things like failure or what other people think, pride, judgment, and negativity. But perhaps most of all, service is helping me continue to overcome SELF: self-doubt, self-criticism, and a big one: self-reliance! A vital lesson I have learned is timing: when to stand boldly and when to stand still.
(4) Maybe the greatest reward of my service at the group level has been a development of PATIENCE! Knowing how AA operates at the local, district, and area levels can at times be frustrating when my homegroup is still not ready to change … or behave like I desire. In fact, there are still times when my initial thought is to call it quits. That would teach ’em! Ha But, A.A. sponsors who helped me build a foundation for myself based on the 12-Steps instilled a program and principles in my life that taught me to follow through on commitments. So far, I have withstood many short-term difficulties that have allowed me to reap many amazing rewards.
To wrap this up, becoming involved in group service has made me very aware of the Alcoholics Anonymous program design, whether it was intentional or inadvertent. The lay-out has helped me grow at a pace that I could handle … kind of like being in school: the early days were my elementary; once I got to Step 12, 1 was in junior high; now at the group level, 1 am in high school but taking some college courses because I am becoming active at district and area levels too. Ultimately, regardless of what level or grade I am in, service work has already equipped me to be a small but needed part of the great whole. I have matured because I have acquired a better grasp of unity and how to work toward it more effectively rather than demand or expect it which only creates separation. Less than nine years ago, I was homeless, hopeless, and separated from anything worthwhile. Today, I am stable, hopeful, and part of. To never be alone again or separated from … those are the things I was assured would happen if I hung around for the miracle. Becoming a trusted servant at the group level has been a beneficial way for me to connect with others, know more about how AA operates, improve my overcomer skills, and develop more patience in my life. What could be more relevant than personal growth that allows me to be a contributing part of the solution rather than a detrimental part the problem?
The Beacon is published to foster unity, facilitate communication among AA members and groups within the North Alabama area, and present the experience and opinions of individual members of Alcoholics Anonymous on the disease of Alcoholism and recovery from it. Opinions in The Beacon are not those of Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole, nor does publication of any article imply endorsement by Alcoholics Anonymous or the Huntsville Area Intergroup Association. We aim to be an instrument of carrying the A.A. message, and to publish AA related material, including personal stories of experience strength, and hope—as well as what we feel to be important information about what is happening in this area. All material is reviewed by the Beacon editor and the Huntsville Area Intergroup Association.