Editor’s note: For the last month of the year, we hear from fellows their experience with Service and Step 12.
I once asked my sponsor what exactly meetings were doing “for me”.
That’s what I was like. I, being the main character, was the universe’s ultimate purpose. I, being separate from you, knew your health and happiness was competition. I, a victim of life, was owed a big payout.
Try living like this for a decade or two, drunk or sober, and see how sick and tired you become.
My sponsor’s answer: “if you’re going to AA asking what you can get rather than what you can give, you’re missing the whole point.”
One might expect in Step Twelve the ‘result of these Steps’ to be sobriety, or relief, or at very least for me to get everything I ever wanted. It’s true that I’m sober, and I have peace, and my material needs are being taken care of. But this is only instrumental to my purpose.
The spiritual awakening revealed that I had been asleep to the truth that I was one of many, an organ in a great whole, with a unique (but not special) part to play. The Ultimate Authority has delegated to me some tasks to perform – in AA, at home, at work, and in my community – as a Trusted Servant.
As a Trusted Servant I am no longer in orbit of myself, but in the warm orbit of the Higher Power. This mostly looks like answering the phone to sponsees, completing a few items from my work to-do list, and cooking dinner. The Higher Power reveals the day’s delegated tasks. They are rarely as grand as I might hope and are usually for the direct benefit of others.
Service is practical kindness, which is also known as love. We receive love by giving it. But the real good stuff, I’ve found, is in the giving.
Step 12 tells us that it is our personal responsibility to carry the message of AA to other alcoholics and to practice the principles of the program in all our affairs. Service reminds me that this does not begin and end at sponsorship but carries over into all areas of my AA life. I can carry the message of AA to other alcoholics through direct service channels, e.g. through “hospitals & institutions” and other outreach work. But ultimately all service in AA serves the aim of step 12, from the General Service Office to my home group. Service is the lifeblood of AA; without volunteers there are no meetings, no telephone lines, no intergroup, regional, or any other levels. It falls to us fellows to ensure that AA continues to be there to carry the message to others. Performing service is also a practical application of the principles taught to me in this program. In fact, it taught me those principles before I even knew that’s what they were. Washing up, greeting at meetings, coffee service, all helped me before I even began taking the steps to start thinking of others before myself, the importance of showing up when I said I would, and to learn to take responsibility for my actions. Service teaches me humility, to work with others, and to enjoy being part of something bigger than myself instead of trying to run the show. I learned that the important part was that the job be done competently – not that it was I who performed it. By applying our spiritual principles through service, we demonstrate that our way of life really works. In this way, I work step 12 when I make myself useful to others in the service of AA, carrying the message directly and indirectly.