by Tony A.

I start my day, in this general way, making conscious contact with my higher power and devote myself to be of loving service in all of my affairs. This is concluded with a period of quiet time, a spiritual reading and a meditation practice. Then I am ready to start my day. I have learned that taking this time and taking the actions necessary to centre my actions and thinking are well worth the effort.

I am reminded that the joy of living is the theme of our 12th step and action is its key word. This I have learned not to take lightly and the more that I give in this regard, the more I truly do receive. Little did I know, in those early days, that trusting in the process, cleaning house and helping others would open the door to a life beyond anything that I could have imagined for myself.

Over the years, I have had many wonderful teachers who have guided me along the way in my recovery journey. From the get-go, I have been taught the importance of giving back and being of service; essentially to let go and let God and the importance of practising ”these principles in all of my affairs.”

Having a home group, working the steps, sponsorship, service commitments (both inside and out of my home group) and prayer have nearly always been present in my life. Simple, but not easy. I knew these were the ingredients that were to make up a well rounded and balanced spiritual program of recovery. I saw that it really worked in others who practised and incorporated these basic principles. It worked really well when I was newly sober and continues to work just as well, if not better, today.

The spiritual principle of step 12 is service and for me this translates into action. Service to me incorporates many ideas at many different levels. Service to others – whether it is in relations to my AA life, work, friends and family – all need this attention. I have struggled with balance over the years regarding my commitment to these and have learned much by doing and often times by trial and error.

The chapter Working with Others in the AA Big Book states that “…nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” Carrying the message to others by sponsoring, committing to various levels of service commitments, and adhering to the principles that will facilitate a commitment to my recovery have all proven to work beautifully in my life.

Service also keeps me mindful of the grave nature of alcoholism. I am reminded of the true malady, which is excessive self-centredness, and which often streams through many forms of self-seeking and selfishness. When I am committed to the process and working with another or giving back, I seem to have a reprieve from this terrible malady. Over these past few years, I have grown to surrender to this idea more and more.

One of the biggest payoffs to this idea of practising these principles in all of my affairs is this consistency of emotional sobriety and peace of mind through pretty much whatever life brings to me today. This is the miracle of service and the steps. A complete transformation has occurred in my life, something I believed incapable of happening to someone like myself – this is why I must re-emphasize over and over the importance of trusting this process and keeping it simple.

Another payoff that I would like to share with you is I feel very much whole, lovable and right with the world. All of my life I had this impending fear and doom that was my constant companion and that continually dictated that something just wasn’t right. My companion of fear does come to visit briefly from time to time but today I have a solution – service and action. And it always seems to change the perspective and often in ways that often astound me.

Being a member of both Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon has given a firmer grasp on the care-taking component and co-dependent characteristics that can sometimes crop up in the areas of service and sponsorship, which for me are very much the essence of the 12th step. Keeping myself mindful that it is what I bring to the spirit of recovery that will ultimately influence how I can be the example that I wish to see in others.