Why Service?


If there are unfilled positions at Intergroup, why should I care? What would it look like if there was no Intergroup, no Service Center, no General Service structure? What if, when I needed to get sober, there were no meetings?

Alcoholics Anonymous’ Three Legacies – Recovery, Unity and Service are like a three-legged stool. All three legs need to be in balance, or it falls over.

Recovery – When I work the 12 Steps, I start to live by a different set of values. When I can’t get away with what I used to get away with, I know I’m on the right path.

Unity – The 12 Traditions show me how to act in meetings, in sponsorship and fellowship. While we are all different, we are all exactly the same in many ways. Connecting with my brothers and sisters in Recovery relieves me of the bondage of self, from that lonely isolation of my addiction to alcohol.

Service – Being useful can look different in different situations? The 12 Concepts give guidance to people in service to A.A, but Step 12 opens the door, doesn’t it? When it says “…, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” What does that mean really?

Of course, I carry the message to alcoholics when I share my own experience, strength and hope in meetings, or take on a useful position in a meeting (secretary, literature person, greeter, clean-up,…). When I sponsor others, and even being sponsored by others, I am of service.

There’s another really important reason why I am of service to others. When I got here I was a mess. I was selfish and self-centered. Every single relationship was destroyed. My life was a train wreck and I had literally crashed and burned. Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life. After a disaster, how do people normally react to being rescued from certain death? Maybe with tears? Maybe with joy? But always with Gratitude!

Gratitude and Service are connected. I heard a small example one time. When my Mom made a great Holiday dinner, it was nice for me to say “Thanks for dinner, Mom.” But a much better way of thanking her, is to get up and help with the dishes. If A.A. actually saved my life, shouldn’t I at least get up and help somehow.

One way of showing my gratitude is by helping in my Home Group, or other meetings I regularly attend. When there were unfilled positions at Intergroup, I got involved. Eventually, my Group allowed me to serve as its General Service Representative (GSR). (By the way, if a group doesn’t have a GSR, it’s not really connected to Alcoholics Anonymous.) In time I became the District Committee Member (DCM), then the District Committee Meeting Chair (DCMC) or District Chair. Participation in General Service opened up a whole new world for me and I found work with committees of the California Northern Coastal Area (CNCA).

It’s important to note that I was completely unqualified before I took on every one of those jobs. But there is so much work to be done, and everyone has something to offer. Whatever skills we have, we can be useful to another alcoholic, a Meeting, a Group, Intergroup, District or Area. And here’s the thing, service in A.A. may actually show us have gifts we haven’t even discovered yet. How do we know if we can be useful? Before we do anything in Alcoholics Anonymous, we should ask ourselves one question. “Is this carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers?” If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t do it.

In the Big Book, our co-founder Dr. Bob says, “I spend a great deal of time passing on what I learned to others who want and need it badly. I do it for four reasons:
1. Sense of duty.
2. It is a pleasure.
3. Because in so doing I am paying back my debt to the man who took the time to pass it on to me.
4. Because every time I do it I take out a little more insurance for myself against a possible slip.”
– Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 180-181

Here’s what’s happening to me by being of service. I am learning to apply the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions, inside and outside the rooms of A.A. The Twelve Concepts (especially Concept XII – the Warranties) have deepened my understanding of our wonderful program. In short, I think for a long time I had imagined the “AA Fairy” somehow showed up and made everything in A.A. mysteriously happen. So I’ve been a tourist, enjoying the show, just not participating in it. But in service to A.A., I become a true member.

When I got busy, I got better.

– Grateful Don Z