“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
In my early recovery, I realized that I would have to learn from others. That concept wasn’t foreign; I’d been a student and learned from teachers, a child, and learned from my parents and a junkie who 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 were doing so because they answered the call.
Service Work: The Unpaid Calling
Jobs are what pays our bills, and we should make every effort to earn our salaries with our best efforts and use our abilities wisely.
Callings don’t usually pay but are some of the most rewarding jobs we can do. The role of a sponsor or accountability partner can sometimes feel like a job with a demanding, inconsiderate, and needy boss.
Early recovery is such a roller coaster time for a new person.They’re up one minute and plummet the next.In early recovery, people still continue to make poor choices and 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 earlier suggestions and made an impulsive decision.
Be Available to Answer the Call
Service to others is the intent of a 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 important are the different ways that we answer the call.
Many people in early recovery don’t have either 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 was in that predicament when she was arrested for her third DUI. Thankfully, the court allowed her to go to a residential facility in Virginia where getting support and going to meetings wasn’t a problem. Then we were able to get her sentence postponed, and the judge let her move to Georgia, where her sister and I were in recovery.
What Does Someone Need? What Can You Offer?
After she moved down here, I had to decide 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.
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 in trying to help a loved one. Indirect help is better than directions or suggestions from family members sometimes, just let them see your changes, not try to offer advice.
What it Means to Answer the Call in Recovery
Also, people don’t just need rides to meetings and coffee. Many of us neglected our health and dental issues in our addiction and need 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.
“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
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 are one of the few to offer this, but I know how much this means.
My family is fortunate; all of 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.
The Calling Transferred to a New Generation
When my granddaughter was in college in Virginia, she called and asked if offering child care would help in her Al-anon meeting.
She doesn’t have a substance abuse problem, but she finds value in supportive changes, so she found hers in another fellowship. I encouraged her to offer this. She is now making the calls, setting up a room, and excited that single parents can participate.
My home-group still practices an old fellowship practice. We have an “eating-meeting” once a month, where we celebrate years of recovery.
It might be a southern thing, but it brings people together over food, conversation and 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
Service work might mean that you share your number with a newcomer and then give them some information about apps and online meetings.
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 work meets in a church and go 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.
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 tried 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 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 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 was to encourage us to get that many years ourselves and to have something to hold if we were nervous when we were greeting. I’m 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 off 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.
“If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name, wouldn’t you do it?” ―Stephen King
What Are You Doing Today to Be of Service?
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. Leave me a note in the comment section.
From Addict 2 Advocate: Writing and recovery heals the heart
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.
Someone needs your support and then you’re answering the call.