By: Marilyn L. Davis

Service Work: The Unpaid Calling

“Start where you are-do anything you can do and do everything you can do until you find something you must do! That something is probably your spiritual gift.” ― Jim George, A Man After God’s Own Heart: Devoting Your Life to What Really Matters

 Jobs are what pay our bills, and we should make every effort to earn our salaries with our best efforts and use our abilities wisely. Answering the call doesn’t usually pay, but we can do some of the most rewarding jobs when serving others through service work in the fellowship and in our daily lives. 

Be Available to Answer the Call 

Service to others is the intent of the 12th Step.  Bill W. states it quite succinctly: “Our Twelfth Step – carrying the message – is the basic service that the A.A. Fellowship gives; this is our principal aim and the main reason for our existence.” 

These established relationships are between two people who chose each other, and the blessings on both sides are many. But just as necessary are the different ways that we answer the call.

Sponsors and accountability partners work with new people because they remember just how bad addiction is. Service work supports everyone. Click To Tweet

  It’s Scary Being New in Recovery

Early recovery is such a roller coaster time for a new person. We’re up one minute and plummet the next. In early recovery, people continue to make poor choices. We often do not listen to the advice and experiences shared by their sponsors and accountability partners. 

We often label every situation a crisis in our early recovery and want an immediate solution. Sometimes that’s because we didn’t listen to the previous suggestions and made an impulsive decision. And sometimes, the role of a sponsor or accountability partner can sometimes feel like a job with a demanding, inconsiderate, and needy boss.

I realized that I would have to learn from others in my early recovery. That concept wasn’t foreign; I’d been a student and learned from teachers; as a child, I learned from my parents, and as a junkie, I learned the most effective ways to get high. That ability to learn was inherent in me.

I also realized that those who took the time to offer suggestions and directions did so because they answered the call.

So Many Ways to Anwer the Call  

Many people in early recovery don’t have a car, or even if they do, many don’t have a license or insurance, so they can’t drive themselves to a meeting. My daughter faced that issue when she got her third DUI. 

Thankfully, the court allowed her to go to a residential facility in Virginia where getting support and meetings wasn’t a problem. Then we got her sentence postponed, and the judge let her move to Georgia, where her sister and I were in recovery. 

After she moved down here, I decided I’d have to move. I rented a cabin on 250 acres in the mountains of Georgia, peaceful, serene, and about eight uphill miles from the nearest meeting. I knew it would be difficult to work 30 miles away and help my daughter get to meetings in Dahlonega. Walking was out of the question, and even when she suggested that she bring a bicycle, I knew better. She was in okay shape but no Tour-de-France candidate

Sponsors and Accountability Partners Answer the Call

I decided to move back to Gainesville, found a house about three blocks from our clubhouse and a mile from the mall where she worked. But those rainy nights in Georgia are real. I was appreciative of people who not only took her to meetings but invited her out for coffee. She started blossoming and recently celebrated nineteen years. I know it was because of others, not just me or her sister. 

Not because we weren’t available, but sometimes families in recovery struggle the most to help a loved one. Sometimes, indirect help is better than directions or suggestions from family members; just let them see your changes, not offer advice.    

What Does Someone Need? What Can You Offer? 

“I believe there’s a calling for all of us. I know that every human being has value and purpose. The real work of our lives is to become aware – and awakened. To answer the call.”Oprah Winfrey

Also, people don’t just need rides to meetings and coffee. Many of us neglected our health and dental issues in our addiction and needed a check-up. 

Volunteer to take someone to the doctor or dentist. They may have fears about test results or concerns about getting medications that would trigger a relapse — going with them as support is just another way to provide service to another.

Carrying the Message is Answering the Call 

If we are carrying the message, that’s great. But what of those who can’t hear the message because they can’t make a meeting even if we give them a ride? 

Single parents struggle with this all the time. They have an infant or more than one child who isn’t old enough to sit in a meeting, and there’s no childcare.

My home group started at night-care about fifteen years ago. We have our meetings at a church, so there’s a room with crayons, coloring books, and toys. And most children like to color and play with new toys. We ask volunteers, including the parents, to watch the children for fifteen minutes so that single parents can get a recovery support meeting.

Not many groups can offer this, but I know how much this means. 

My family is fortunate; my grandchildren were born after their mothers were in recovery. And all of these grandchildren played in this room while their parents got the message.

Old Fashioned Service Work

My homegroup still practices an old fellowship practice. We have an “eating meeting” once a month, celebrating years of recovery.

It might be a southern thing, but it brings people together over food, conversation, shows a newcomer that we are a fun-loving group, and gives them examples of fellowship in recovery.

The group buys the meats, and we all bring whatever we want. And believe me, there’s some old-fashioned Georgia cookin’ at these meetings. 

Be a Phone Call Away – Or at Least Call Back

I can’t think of too many people who don’t have a phone. But it’s not just for conversations anymore. There are apps for recovery and meetings online, even if someone doesn’t have a computer. 

Service work might mean that you share your number with a newcomer and give them some information about apps and online meetings.

I think the most important thing today is to call them back if you can't talk when they call. Early recovery is frightening enough without all the negative head-talk if no one calls us back. Click To Tweet 

Starbucks Baristas Aren’t the Only Coffee Makers 

Many people don’t have a permanent home for their meetings. They meet in a room where they have to set it up. The men’s recovery home where I worked met in a church and went thirty minutes early to set it up. They have done this for over ten years.

As one graduate of the program said at his nine-year celebration, “Setting up was the least I could do considering all the valuable information I was going to get.” Service work is about valuing your meeting enough to help set it up.”

Volunteer to make the coffee or set out the literature, chair a meeting, or if you’re comfortable, lead the discussion.

Become a greeter. I remember walking into my first meeting after I left treatment- scared, lonely, and sure that all of those people were different, wouldn’t like me, or couldn’t help me. 

A kind woman got up when I opened the door, asked me if this was my first meeting, and then introduced me to five other women. One of them asked if I’d like coffee, pointed to the restroom, and then turned me over to another while she got my coffee. I was just thankful to be sitting down and trying to blend in. 

Each woman gave me her phone number. Although I didn’t use them for over a week, each woman asked me if I still had her number and please call each time I saw them at a meeting. 

My Answered Call – My New Lifeline 

When I finally got the courage to call, my greeter asked me to come early to the meeting so we could get to know one another. She also turned the greeting over to me for the following month. That gave me something to do, helped me feel a part of, and I know that it helped someone else just as it helped me.

She also gave me a twenty-year medallion, which belonged to one of the people who started the first meetings in Gainesville. The chip encouraged us to get that many years ourselves and have something to hold if we were nervous when we were greeting. Like all the others before me, I probably rubbed some of the embossed letters down, but I kept it for my month then handed it to the next greeter.

We felt included when we were the greeter, even if we just had a few days or months in recovery, and that was a true gift from others. Did we know they were carrying the message that we all matter? No, we just finally felt a part of something good. 

What Are You Doing Today to Be of Service? 

“If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name, wouldn’t you do it?”Stephen King

There are so many ways that we provide service to others. So, I’d challenge you today to do anything and everything you can to help another in their recovery. I guarantee it will be rewarding and come back to you ten-fold.

I’d love to hear how others do service work. Please leave me a note in the comment section.



From Addict 2 Advocate: Writing and recovery heals the heart


 Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.  

For editing services, contact her at 

How we say something is just as important as what we say. How you write about addiction and recovery will differ from mine. That’s okay because the more voices say, “Recovery works,” the more people we reach. Consider a guest post today and help someone struggling with addiction or recovery. 

What advice can you give someone who is still struggling with their recovery? Are you a family member who would like to share your recovery story? Do you have solutions that work? Then consider sending a guest post to help someone.




Was this post helpful?