Step 12, the final step in the suggested recovery program, basically asks us to pay it forward, to carry the torch to the next struggling alcoholic or addict so they can benefit from the same light that overcame our own problems. While sponsoring or mentoring/befriending a new person in recovery is an obvious way to practice Step 12, the step itself is broader than that:
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry the message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Obviously, carrying the message in the rooms of recovery is one thing, but practicing the principles of the steps in all our affairs is another. Here are some ways to carry the message and to be of service, both in the 12 step fellowship and out in the world.
Ways to be of service in AA or other 12-step rooms
Whether you struggled with a mind-altering substance like alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription medications, or with a behaviour like gambling, sex, spending, eating disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, there is a fellowship for that. That means there is always someone coming through the doors who’s in need of the solution that you have already found. Here’s what helping can look like:
- Attending meetings regularly. If old-timers didn’t, who would be there to welcome the new folks?
- Offering your phone number. Just listening to someone’s issues can help them in the moment and reassure them that someone cares.
- Driving someone to a meeting. Sure, they may have access to public transit, but providing a ride on a rainy or snowy day can be kind, and provide opportunities for a great talk.
- Take on a service position at your group. That coffee doesn’t make itself!
- Take on a service position at your local area or district organization. By taking on a responsible role in such activities as fundraising, Conference, carrying the 12 step recovery message at institutions like detoxes or jails, answering the fellowship’s phone line, stocking literature, etc., you will learn valuable skills and meet great people, as well as providing the labour that the organization needs to be able to reach out and help the still-suffering person.
- Stay sober. Do your own step work (not just working with others) and maintain an attitude of gratitude so you can maintain your sobriety. Without that, you probably won’t be able to be of service to anyone.
Ways to be of service outside the program – in the world at large
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says that ‘a far more convincing demonstration of these principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations and affairs.’ In plain English, that means it’s easy to be spiritual at a meeting of like-minded individuals, but for many of us, it’s out in the world where the true challenge lies. Here’s how to put the 12th step into practice there.
- Whether it’s serving Christmas dinner at a shelter or boarding a dog for a friend, when the opportunity arises to give of yourself in a healthy way, put your hand up and say yes instead of no.
- Spend quality time with family. It doesn’t have to be blood family; it can be the family you chose, either in recovery or through other friendships. The key is to participate in life again with your full attention.
- Take care of your own self. Like putting on your oxygen mask first before assisting others on the airplane, taking care of yourself – your physical, mental and spiritual health – is key before you can be of maximum service to those around you.
- Step up. There are literally infinite ways to be helpful to those around you, from cooking dinner for your tired spouse to writing a cheque to a charity, to starting a community garden or becoming a class parent at your kid’s school. In order to find your ways to contribute, you have to keep your eyes open.
Other great ways to be of service, have a spiritual awakening and find peace:
Come to out to an Alumni meeting at Renascent over the holidays, join the alumni committee, become a contact or volunteer. Our Alumni are part of the Renascent Family! We love to see you and you are always welcome to come spend the day in group.
Service is a way of life, not something you do once a year; like any good diet, it’s a series of healthy choices, made daily. What is your favourite way to be of service? Let us know!