Service – with a smile!

One of my favourite parts of AA literature is the story in the Tradition Four chapter of the “Twelve & Twelve” which results in the production of a little card reading “Rule #62” for Middleton Group #1. What is this single rule that Middleton Group felt compelled to keep after throwing out many others?

“Don’t take yourself too damn seriously…”

As an egocentric alcoholic I love that rule, although I apply it in practice much less often than I would like. Laughter is a joy I rediscovered in sobriety and laughing at myself and with others in a loving way is a great freedom. I am drawn to those people who have a lightness of spirit and I want what they have. Cheerfulness is contagious.

In my sober journey, nowhere has Rule #62 applied more than in the service positions I have taken on.

If I’m honest (and isn’t this an honest programme?) AA service has given me some of my most challenging moments in sobriety. Whether it is at a home group business meeting or during a discussion at Conference I can get overly involved in deciding what the outcome needs to be. Things feel heavy and burdensome and everything becomes unbalanced. I start questioning why I ever signed up for this, promising myself I’m just going straight home and never need speak to these people again (a pattern of behaviour very familiar from my drinking days).

But so far, I have stayed, thank goodness, and I would not trade those painful experiences during service meetings, because they have all taught me something. Each one allows me to hold a mirror up to myself and see what adjustments are needed to restore my balance. I learn that, strangely, my view of situations is often warped and that becoming so invested in the outcome I think is acceptable is damaging to me and those around me. I am taking myself seriously in the worst way.

Of course this learning is only possible for me because I am trying on a daily basis to practice AA’s principles in all my affairs. I need to put myself in a position to be teachable, otherwise I learn nothing. And if I don’t learn anything, I don’t grow and I take everything so seriously it terrifies me.

Laughter is a great antidote to fear. I am so glad that I did not let my myriad fears prevent me standing for the service positions with which I have been honoured. In case anyone reading this thinks that doing any AA service is clearly too scary to contemplate I should also add that some of my most joyful moments and biggest emotional growth spurts have also happened doing service for AA. Great big wonderful gifts of sobriety.  I met my lovely husband at an Intergroup meeting (though nowhere in the literature does it say that service leads to matrimony…) how amazing is that!

And the other people I meet trudging the general service road have also brought incredible richness into my life. A service sponsee recently reminded me that by criticising certain behaviours, I can become the thing I am criticising as well as adding self-righteousness to the mix. Laughter is a great remedy against that.

At school we learn the lesson, then we get the test. In the world we get the test and then (if we’re lucky and are mindful of the principles of our programme), we learn the lesson. AA is the school equipping me for the real world. In participating as fully as I can in the wider service structure, nothing has been as I expected – sometimes in a good way, sometimes not, but it has always been worthwhile.

Or, in short – another f-ing learning experience!

Dena, Luxembourg