Tuesday, October 14, 2008

service work

Last night I gave a lead at a meeting I'd not been to before. Lots of fresh ones, right off the rehab center bus! I just love the new people - you know the ones... when you hug them, they're still kinda wet and squishy and the booze just oozes out of their pores!

Yeah, yeah, I know - gross. But it's the reality. At least for me it was. At my first meeting, I am sure that I was stinky, barfy, boozy and possibly a little bloody, self-mutilation, aka "cutting" having become an off-and-on avenue towards my suicidal destination. Oh, and I was cranky. Okay, not cranky - I was in rage! Enraged!

Or was I... ? I always say that, but now that I've got more information -by way of the steps- maybe it was really just my intense FEAR masquerading as rage. Know what I mean? That molten volcano of mixed-up emotions somehow rumbled out of me as rage. What I really was, I think, was a person who had been literally minutes and inches from stepping off a 7-story apartment building because the sensations of hopelessness, helplessness, isolation, self-loathing and confusion were overwhelming. Overwhelming, to put it quite lightly.

So these newcomers - I love 'em. I also fear for them. As I was sharing last night, I saw a bunch of the treatment center folks nodding their heads. They were especially noddy when I talked about being in early sobriety and having the feeling that your skin had been peeled off and that sensation of bareness was SO PAINFUL that even a breeze hurt. And when people are in that place, I fear for them a lot - those are the moments when a drink seems like the solution.

So I talked about that, sharing what had been shared with me: Get yourself in the middle of the program! Stay there! Surround yourself with people who have more time than you but always reach out to grab another newcomer to take along with you. If you're in the center, you can't fall off; if you stay out on the edges, you're likely to drift away, very possibly to your death.

It's always so sweet when the newcomers come up after the meeting, thanking me for saying such amazing stuff - and I always thank them for coming to the meeting and make sure they know I'm only sharing what was shared with me... and that one day I hope they'll do the same.

In fact, I've spent a nice chunk of change taking sponsees to coffee, lunch and dinner. When they thank me for treating them, I make a point of telling them that one day THEY will be in a position to do the same for someone else. At one time, I was where they are and women helped me out so that I could be with the group for that "meeting after the meeting."

What does any of this have to do with my post title, "service work"? Everything! I was told early on that I was to say "yes" to AA whenever I was able, the only exceptions being when I truly couldn't fulfill a request.

Not everyone can stand at the podium, not everyone can read aloud at a meeting, not everyone can lift tables or chairs to set up or break down, but just about everyone can reach out to the still suffering alcoholic. And we do that in so many ways: Sometimes that's done by helping out in the ways I just listed. But too, by being there at the meeting, walking around and introducing yourself before the meeting, hugging folks afterwards... Sometimes our very presence is exactly what someone needs to see to help them stay sober that day.

So service work: Do it, do it in whatever way you can. I challenge you to even take a leap of faith and do something out of your comfort level once in a while - carry a meeting to a jail or prison, sign up to answer the late-night calls, or stand up and read "How It Works" when asked. If you do some kind of service work, you are guaranteed to keep at least one person sober: You!