A cornerstone of the program is service; which can come in many varieties. Sponsorship, chairing or making coffee at meetings and even speaking to another alcoholic or addict on the phone all fall under the umbrella of service.
Recently a newcomer heard an old timer speak at a meeting where he told his story. A few days later the same newcomer heard the same old timer qualify at another meeting and tell essentially the same story. After the meeting was over, the newcomer approached the old timer about this. The old timer told him that in reality he had shared the same story dozens of times. Yet, whenever he was asked to speak he did so without reservation. He explained that we tell our story with the hope that another alcoholic or addict will be able to identify with it and it will help contribute to his or her sobriety. But we also tell our story to remind ourselves of what it was like before we entered the program. As addicts and alcoholics we constantly need to be reminded of what our life was like without a program and without fellowship. In that way we will never romanticize what it was like prior to entering AA, NA, or OA.
Personal Reflection: What parts of my story are important for me to remember?
Many shifts occur when people finally get it and enter the program. Obviously the first major shift was the giving up of our drug of choice. As a result, our lives began to dramatically improve. We started to pay better attention to our health and our doctors were very pleased with the results they were seeing. Our work environment became much more pleasant. Suddenly we were getting along much better with our co-workers. Our home life was on a much more even keel. Many of these changes rapidly occurred once we gave up drugs, alcohol, food or any other substance of choice.
A different series of changes took place over a longer period of time. We began to learn about emotional sobriety. This caused a major shift in both our thinking and actions. In the past the focus had always been on ourselves. We really did believe that we were the center of the universe. We constantly clashed with others who had the same belief system. With sobriety we began to move away from a life of self centeredness to a life of service. The further away we were from being in the center the better our life became.
Personal Reflection: How far away from the center am I?
There are many reasons that people delay coming into the program. One of the most common is the feeling that “our” problems are unlike anyone else’s. How could a program which is so general in nature address our specific issues?
When we finally made it into the rooms we discovered two things. First, we were not terminally unique. We found we had a lot of identification with others in the program. For a long time we had walked around thinking we were the only one who had certain thoughts and feelings. As we immersed ourselves in the fellowship we found much commonality.
Second, it turned out that in some ways we were right in our belief about our individual uniqueness. At the same time we learned that the program was broad enough and robust enough to provide us with solutions to our individual needs. We chose to attend those meetings that best suited our makeup and temperament. We selected a sponsor who we were able to connect with on a deep level.
It was even ok to admit our wackier side and be able to laugh about it; and ultimately come to love ourselves for who we were.
Personal Reflection: How am I able to express my individuality in the program?