SERVICE, Strength and Hope

When I was asked to write up my experience with service, I experienced the same two reactions that sprang up when I was asked to do the service itself: the second reaction—surely there must be somebody far more qualified—was basically just a nicer formulation of the first—I’d rather not.  Given the choice between service and my recovery story, a write up on my alcoholic past, however sordid, sounded far more glamorous.

Service.  Anathema to every alcoholic.  The very notion preposterous.

I knew, of course, that service was key to a happy recovered alcoholic.  I had heard it preached enough from those quirky fellows fascinated by AA’s service structure and the finer points of its service manuals.  What I didn’t know, however, was that even service reluctantly entered and—yes—slightly resented, could yield just as many benefits as service rendered by the gung-ho.

After all, without a little sacrifice, wouldn’t service be more like a hobby?

Besides, my service reluctance is what makes me the perfect candidate to write about it.  Or so I was told.

First of all, I should clarify.  There are some service positions I find less repulsive than others, by which I mean those positions that require little time.  I don’t mean to diminish their importance or benefit to the newcomer, but coffee service and even the group’s treasurer makes far less of a dent in one’s personal time when compared with, say, being a GSR. As one general service area website describes it, “Spending most of your Saturday at an Area Assembly can feel like a waste of time if you don’t know what’s going on.”  Or, sometimes, even if you do.

The truth is, there are unmistakable benefits to doing such service—as the same website states, the GSR, connecting the local group with the larger, is essential—and I will get to those soon.  However, much like recovery doesn’t come only with lollipops and rainbows, I would simply be lying if I told you that I woke up early on Saturday morning overjoyed to be driving 3 hours (sometimes) to spend my day in a meeting.  Believe me when I say I was the reluctant servant.

That said, the benefits of doing such service continue to manifest themselves in my life.  Firstly: the people I met through the position.  Suffice it to say I have never laughed or filled three hours with more conversation than I did in those long car (and sometimes train) rides to meetings.  Secondly, I got a feeling of how the larger structure of AA, as well as the wisdom behind the autonomy it gives to the local groups, how, the larger seeks to serve the smaller.  I was introduced to a side of AA I would have never seen otherwise, and to all the people who inhabited that side.

As is often the case, my service as GSR led to more (reluctant ) service.  I became treasurer of the North Sea Convention—I attended a convention for my first time, where I felt a palpable connection with my Higher Power that made life seem oh-so-wonderful.

Did getting plugged into this larger service structure of AA save my sobriety?  I’d like to think not.  But without question it has deepened my recovery and strengthened my connection to AA.  However reluctant that connection might be to an alcoholic who instinctively rejects belonging to any group.

Mike D.


Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash