Most people upon joining AA and other 12-Step programs are quickly told that they should perform service work in the meetings. This usually means picking up and setting up before the meeting, cleaning up afterwards, making coffee, greeting people. This is usually intended to get the new member other-directed, that is, focusing on other people rather than themselves.
It is the start in assisting them in realizing that they are a part of a community of individuals, that in this journey of recovery there is strength in numbers and one needn’t go it alone. In fact, isolation or a solitary program is almost a guarantee of relapsing. In some way, forever, you have to connect with other people and maintain that community.
Service work, or volunteering as I now prefer to call it, is an excellent way to “get outside yourself”. Once you learn the skills of giving of yourself without expecting anything in return, the benefits to yourself are measureless.
One neat saying I’ve learned in AA is that “your mind is a bad neighborhood to be caught alone in”. Without connecting to other people, without learning of their problems and troubles and maybe trying to help them (and much is appreciated in the trying) your only alternative is isolating yourself in your mind and being subject to all the self-defeating and dark thoughts that resurface. Volunteering lets other people into your life, and there are no strings attached (No pay. There is little or no economic gain or risk). This lets light into your life and you realize that others like you simply for being.
Being other-directed distracts you from your own troubles. Witnessing other people’s problems contrasts with your own and yours don’t seem so bad.
Volunteering may also help you in performing whatever for-pay job you have. Working as a volunteer detaches you from the economic strings associated with a job. Liberated from the fear of economic need, you can focus on the tasks at hand and improve your professional behavior. (In other words, you are freed from the fear of getting fired, after all, you’re not getting paid, so if you’re dismissed…)
Volunteer somewhere. Serve.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)"The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"