Milestones of a Vision by Karen VanDenBerg

Laid off after thirty-one years with one company, newly sober again, and not sure what I wanted to do when I “grew up,” I had a vision. I love to write, and I love recovery, so I decided to start a magazine. The idea to start a recovery magazine with zero experience in publishing or graphic design seemed preposterous. However, I couldn’t shake it. I fell in love with the idea of loving my job!

issue 1 12 step gazette californiaIn March 2013, I was trying decide whether or not to move forward with this unshakable dream. My pros and cons list was the extent of my business plan, but I knew that funding would be important. I told myself, and a few others, if I could raise the money I needed by the end of the week, it would be a “go.” In my mailbox that day was a check for exactly the amount I would need to get this magazine off the ground, and I made a commitment. That was the first milestone I achieved.

July-August 2014
July-August 2014

Initially, my vision was to have a local magazine for the Inland Empire that would publish events, advertise local businesses, and profile local people. However, by July 2014 we expanded into Orange County, San Diego County, Palm Springs and the San Gabriel Valley. We had increased our print run from 1,500 to 5,000. Printing more than 5,000 magazines was another significant milestone achieved.

July/August 2015
July/August 2015

We changed the name to Step 12 Magazine in early 2015 so we could own the website domain and social media identities. We took 1,000 copies of the magazine to the AA World Convention that year and poof, we weren’t just in California anymore. None of these milestones were in my business plan because I had no business plan. I truly flew by the seat of my pants and was caught regularly by my Higher Power. I prayed “bless it or block it” on a regular basis and tripped over unexpected milestones without seeing them coming.

Jan/Feb 2016
Jan/Feb 2016

I finally got some help in December 2015, when Roni came on board. This was a thrilling milestone to reach. She gently began to convince me to improve some of the formatting and finally convinced me that two spaces after a period is no longer the standard. Subscriptions increased and sponsors began to see the value. We were able to make a donation to New Creation Behavioral Healthcare Foundation’s treatment scholarship program—a milestone of giving back that I hope we continue to improve upon.

issue 22 coverWe now have subscribers all over the country, and we distribute to facilities nationwide. When we exceeded 10,000 copies in print, I almost fainted. That was a milestone I never expected to see. I had laughed in the ear of the printer who told me the cost of printing would be lower once I hit the 10,000 copy volume. “Ha, ha, like that’s ever going to happen,” I said, while my head was saying, “wouldn’t that be amazing?”

In 2013, I had a crazy vision and gave birth to a magazine. We have gone from 20 pages in our first issue to 68 pages today. We’ve gone from 1,500 issues in print to 15,000 and have become self-supporting! What a huge exciting milestone this is!

REcovery IllustratedStep 12 Magazine has matured and gotten “married” to Serene Scene Magazine. She’s changing her name to Recovery Illustrated and is moving forward with her purpose as a beacon of hope for the recovery community; whether someone is in a twelve step program, smart recovery, celebrate recovery, or just on the fence. The new name will “illustrate” our diversity better (pun intended), but our mission remains the same. Now, we’re actually going to set goals and milestones so we don’t trip over them when we get there.

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About the Author

Service is Good for the Soul, the Mind and the Body by Susan Logan-McCracken

I can’t think of a time when my mother wasn’t serving someone. From cooking a meal for a family in need to driving an elderly person to church, Mom was a model of service for me growing up. What’s amazing to me now is that, at eighty-two, she still serves others at her church and in soup kitchens. Not only does she motivate me to serve, numerous studies show that she herself reaps multiple benefits from serving others.

In “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,” the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) reviewed thirty-two studies that showed numerous mental and physical health benefits of serving others. Here are just a few highlights from the research.

It really IS more blessed to give than to receive

You may have been taught the biblical principle that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Stephanie L. Brown and her colleagues actually found evidence supporting the adage. Individuals who provide support to others have more health benefits than those who receive support from others. The study, “Providing Social Support May Be More Beneficial Than Receiving It: Results from a Prospective Study of Mortality,” published in Psychological Science, concluded that giving rather than receiving promotes longevity.

That doesn’t mean we should always give and never receive. Graciously receiving allows others to benefit from giving and fulfills needs in our own lives. Brown’s study cites forty-one other studies that explored giving, receiving and their profound effects on health, happiness and society.

It’s never too late to start serving

Serving is especially healthful for the elderly. In fact, research shows that volunteering yields physical and mental health benefits, especially for older adults. The CNCS cited the work of Nancy Morrow-Howell and colleagues, “Effects of Volunteering on the Well-Being of Older Adults,” published in The Journals of Gerontology.

Morrow-Howell reported that in 1996, forty-three percent of people over the age of sixty-five and thirty-seven percent of people over the age of seventy-five volunteered, and because of this, learning about the impact of volunteering on older individuals became an important area of research.

The researchers found that even when controlling for factors like race, gender and social integration (defined as contact with family and friends), adults over the age of sixty who volunteered experienced better health and functioning, and lower depression levels.

Volunteering alongside others has inherent benefits in itself, because when we serve, we form friendships with those with whom we serve. By controlling for social integration, the study shows that volunteering has benefits beyond increasing friendships, a fringe benefit of volunteering.

Serving helps in recovery

The twelfth step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) calls upon those in recovery to carry the message to others who need help attaining sobriety. Many people find that sponsoring helps them to maintain their own sobriety. The wisdom in this step has far-reaching effects on both the sponsee and sponsor. People who practice the twelfth step provide the sponsee (or those new to recovery) with much-needed support and solidify their own commitment to sobriety.

Helping others addicted to alcohol contributes to the sponsors staying sober, because focusing on others helps in their own success of not picking up another drink, according to Maria E. Pagano, Ph.D., in “Helping Others and Long-term Sobriety: Who Should I Help to Stay Sober?” published in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. Pagano and her colleagues also noticed these patterns in their research:

“Sober alcoholics were significantly more helpful to others at home, work, and in twelve-step programs than they had been while drinking.”

“Lower levels of general helping while drinking increased to moderate levels at one year and twenty years sober.”

In AA, the sponsees become sponsors, and the sponsors increase their level of service, creating a healthy cycle of receiving and giving back. Isn’t that what life is all about?

Susan Logan-McCracken is a writer and editor for Sovereign Health, a Joint Commission-accredited behavioral health treatment provider with locations throughout the United States. To learn more, visit us at SovHealth.com, Facebook and LinkedIn or follow us on Twitter. Image: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

Perfect Love by Dr. Phyllis and Rev. Carrol Davis

It is important to make special note of significant events in our lives: marriage, birth of a child, earning a degree, purchasing our first home, and paying off our home. Did you ever consider marking the milestones of your spiritual journey? Our walk with our higher power is the most important and critical part of our recovery process, yet, after years in the program, how many of us take our new life for granted?

The Bible talks about the milestones of our lives in terms of monuments, telling us about monuments that were erected at various points in biblical history to mark the event of victory over enemies. Do we make note of the victories in our lives, the changes in our relationship with Christ?

We have been on a specific spiritual journey for quite some time. We’ve been looking at the words of the scriptures, the promises of Christ and our beliefs. Do we truly believe in our hearts what our mouths have confessed? Have we totally trusted Christ in all things, or do we just say we do?

Our most recent test came about four years ago. Without notice the disability insurance company quit paying our insurance which amounted to half our monthly income. We were faced with the same accounts payable and half the previous income to meet expenses. We were terrified. We say the Lord will provide—but will He? Maybe He will not provide the things we want. We say all things work to our good. Do we really believe that in our hearts? If so, why were we so stressed out about our situation? We found that we believed in our heads—not in our hearts.

Over the next months and years we struggled with those thoughts that did not line up with the word of God and looked at the beliefs that were causing us stress. When we found a belief that invoked fear, we took that thought captive to the Word of the Scriptures and the promises of Christ. It was a hard several years—not because of our circumstances—but because of what we believed to be true about our circumstances. We say the Lord is our refuge in times of trouble but if we truly believed that in our hearts, we would not fear. We say perfect love casts out fear so why were we afraid? We feared we would lose our home. Where would we live? What would our lives be like given this new situation? We say the Lord has plans to prosper us and to give us hope and a future. Yet; if we really believed that, we would have been in perfect peace and we were not.

When Christ brings us through, we must celebrate and acknowledge all that He has done. Applying the Word of God during difficult times is when we learn to trust Him more. Celebrate the deliverance and give credit to your higher power.

Three short years ago, we were afraid we would loose our home, had times when we did not know what we would eat, much less pay bills. Today we reflect on the trip of a lifetime as the Lord not only delivered us from our dire financial situation but has given us many additional blessings: a published book of our journey that has received five star reviews, a published workbook that was recommended by a noted Christian Author, receipt of the Christian Author’s Award in counseling and recovery, and a full practice. A milestone has been this walk through terrifying experiences and trusting His provision when we could not see.

Thank you Daddy for our amazing trip that marks this milestone in our lives: You brought us through the valley of a belief in financial ruin to the promise land of abundance (a trip to seven countries, a cruise, six nights in Paris, airfare and entertainment for the cost of a vacation in the USA).

Who would have thought? Who would believe? We asked and He provided. “You don’t have because you don’t ask” became an experienced verse in the scriptures, not just words on a page. Will this always work? Of course not! It is not always in our best interest; but when the desires of our heart line up with the plans He has for us, it is amazing what He can and will do. Thank you Lord for an amazing vacation; the one that serves as a milestone to us: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.”

About the Authors

War Cries by Shelly Marshall

Traditionally, armies used rallying cries and military mottos to mobilize troops and overcome the often paralyzing fear of the enemy. These war whoops usually had religious overtones and were designed to capture their troop’s commitment, not unlike encouraging a newcomer’s commitment to recovery. Today, those battle cries survive in what we call slogans, which originate from the Gaelic word sluagh-ghairm, translated as war cry.

Getting clean and sober can feel like war. War against a disease. Although we eventually learn to cease fighting anyone or anything, in the beginning we battle a ferocious enemy: the compulsion, obsession, and jonesing to pick up just one more time. To confront this fierce enemy, the old-timers gave us a very powerful tool in slogans, which often goes unrecognized. Most members, if we are honest, have grumbled at one time or another about the constant repetition of “mindless” sayings. Yet slogans, even if irksome, are a powerful way to reach the suffering alcoholic.

Slogans and Service Go Hand in Hand

Even if the twelve-step war cries don’t get the respect they deserve, slogans and service go hand in hand. We hear slogans are “simplistic” and “bumper sticker recovery.” All the same, old-timers and newcomers alike walk into meetings and Alano clubs everyday, walls bedecked in the classics: First Things First; Live and Let Live; Easy Does It.

Our slogan’s convey messages. They are brief, memorable and usually seize the attention of the person they are meant to influence. Whether begrudgingly or gleefully, we repeat a handful of these sayings meeting after meeting hoping to penetrate the resistant skull of the newcomer.

Practice for our Brains

Brain research tells us repetition is the most basic technique for learning. You know, the “practice makes perfect” kind of thing. So while it may be frustrating to hear, Keep coming back; it works if you work it after every meeting, that simple phrase is burning its way into the consciousness of the newcomer, slipper, depressed and forgetful. That war cry means that some alkie will get up in the morning and hear the enemy’s cry of “Just one won’t hurt,” and they’ll use their counter cry, “Keep coming back.”

Because you chanted the war whoop with them at the meeting yesterday, you are more likely to see them back in the room today, despite the presence of the enemy.

As I approach half a century drug and alcohol free, my brain circuits have healed, where once they were fried. When people shared around the tables, my mind dawdled between fleeting thoughts. How would the rent get paid; could I take those pain meds after getting my wisdom teeth pulled; should I tell the group I dreamed about taking speed last night? Hmm, what did that guy say? Focus. Focus. Finally, something actually made it into my head, Learn to listen and listen to learn. Wow. I knew I wasn’t listening and also knew I wanted to. I could learn to listen and would listen to learn. That war cry gave me the strength to try harder.

In early recovery, my mother and I attended a meeting in San Pedro down by the docks. (Mom brought me to my first meeting and at this time we only had a few weeks each.) A huge display rack showcased hundreds of little cards with various slogans on them—free for the taking. Selecting which one we wanted to represent our innermost self was serious business back then. I chose several that had meaning for me while Mom deliberated a bit longer. Finally, she picked her perfect message: Be Humble and You Will Not Stumble. In later sobriety, we often remembered that slogan and laughed heartily, finding it all the funnier because at the time it seemed so profound.

Slogans Save Lives

Slogans are our method of capturing clean and sober insights in a compressed form. They are our weapons against the inner addict/alcoholic, the little itty bitty shitty committee upstairs, and the ever present disease doing push-ups in the parking lot while we attend a meeting. For alcoholics and addicts who have a rough time focusing in early recovery, slogans save lives, literally. They are the Swiss army knives of the Twelve Steps. Give slogans their due respect when working with others for they remain the War Cries in the battle for recovery.

Keep Stepping by Lori Nelson

It starts the day we are born. That’s our birthday. Milestone one. Then our first step, first word, first day of school. Followed by many other markers of firsts. First love, first kiss, graduation (maybe another graduation) first job, first marriage (our last, if we’re lucky!), first child, first this and first that—and on and on ….

Lori Nelson 3We keep track. Our biggest. Our best. Our first. Our last. If we live a long life, the milestones are simply stepping stones to get to the next milestone. Which is most important? Are any of them enough? Sometimes, yes. Other times, no. Milestones are markers of comparison. In and of themselves, rather meaningless. Except to us, individually.

How proud we are to announce our degrees and titles. How Lori Nelson 1gregarious we become, surrounded by generations of family who know our achievements and look for the next accomplishment to paste into the scrapbook of Big Brag—or accept applause inside the indifferent corporations we work in that hoist us up higher than our egos dare dream. Whatever for? Why do we count the markers? Why do we display the trophies of triumph?

It’s a very human thing, these calculated steps and milestones. Without appreciation, and the representative awards, we don’t think we matter. We proudly announce how many days, weeks, years, of sobriety we have accomplished. We gleefully beat diseases and tick off the obstacles overcome. We blow out more and more candles to prove we’re still here. Is that what it’s all about? We beat the odds and we shout it out so others will aspire to our heightened level of achievement.

What about the kid who ditches diapers? “Look Ma, ‘big boy pants’!” a toddler squeals, delightedly. Yes. For that child, a milestone, albeit one that will be forgotten. The twenty-something year old woman who sails across an ocean alone will probably never forget that journey.

Every breath we take is a milestone for our overworked lungs. Every heartbeat is a milestone for another minute of life. Every blade of grass that survives the trampling of yet another indifferent individual can sway one more day in the warm winds of spring.

Lori Nelson 5Milestones are subjective. What is important to you will not necessarily be important to me. But I’ll cheer for you, because that’s what we do. We clap. We smile. We wear the right colors on the right holidays and for the right parade to pass by your personal accomplishment made public display. We care for each other so that each other will care for us when it is our turn.

It’s a notch. It’s a way to keep track and transcend ordinary. If we don’t take a step we stay stuck. We have no where to go other than forward into the unknown and when we’re brave enough to do that we celebrate another stone stepped as a milestone. In truth, it is a mini-stone. A teeny tiny microscopic step to the next moment of miracle. It matters.

Keep stepping. You’re only a stone’s throw away from your next giant leap.

About the Author

Okay, Okay with Dan Sanfellipo

When I first got sober, I was not interested in anyone’s opinions or suggestions about anything I should be doing. I felt nobody knew anything about me, where I’d been, or what I’d been through. I felt like I was unique and had gotten a bad wrap in life.

Every time someone asked me to do something, I would react with spite and rebellion. First of all, how dare they attempt to penetrate the wall of anger I created to make myself as unapproachable as possible. Secondly, I had zero intention of listening to anyone’s suggestions, let alone following anyone’s direction.

My brain was ready and willing to fix my own brain. I really believed I could. I was told, “you can’t fix a brain like that with a brain like that.” My brain had gotten me to prison, seedy hotel rooms with strange people, dangerous situations, then back in jail—and the pattern kept repeating. I needed outside help.

Dan QuoteThen, one day someone suggested maybe I could start saying the word “okay” instead of “no,” “I’m too busy,” or “I just can’t do that right now.” The help being offered to me in recovery had no strings—no debt. So I said, “Okay, I’ll try something different.”

Nobody was asking me to trust unconditionally; I was being offered a way to test the waters. Okay seemed much less threatening to my façade of superiority and once I decided to try that remedy, my life started to change.

“Come a little bit early and greet people before the meeting and get to know some people.” –  “Okay.”

“Stay after to put chairs up after the meeting and help clean up.” – “Okay.”

“There’s a lady who needs some help moving a bed in her house today.” – “Okay.”

“Maybe you should get a sponsor.” – “Okay.”

“Maybe you should do the steps.” – “Okay.”

“Give it everything you’ve got for six months. After that, if you don’t like the results we will gladly refund you your misery.” – “Okay.”

“Okay” is a powerful powerful response. It’s far more open than always responding with “no.” The word okay opened me up to trying new things and hearing new opinions. I was able to show up, work the steps, and call my sponsor every day. “Okay” was the beginning of my willingness. My willingness was the beginning of my recovery.

I’m glad I said “okay” to saying “okay” because today I have over four years of continuous sobriety. I have a sponsor who has a sponsor, and I’ve worked the Twelve Steps. I have the honor of taking other people through the steps and being able to help. I can be present, I can show up and I can help another person.

Eventually I found the word yes; “yes” to showing up and loving life. I said “yes” to allowing the good things into my life and being genuinely okay with that. Today, recovery includes serenity and peace. I have opportunities that help rather than hurt. I have a loving beautiful girlfriend that I love with all my heart. I have a close meaningful relationship with my family.

Saying “okay” to staying for the meeting turned out to be saying “okay” to to freedom and happiness. I suggest everyone try it. Everything’s going to be okay.

Written by Karen VanDenBerg based on interviews with Dan Sanfellipo

More about Dan

Sign and Significance by Jim Anders

The art of cartography measures elevation and position across the face of the earth. All kinds of people from construction foremen to army commanders to families on holiday find this information useful because of the implications it carries. For instance, the more northern latitudes have shorter daylight periods, less direct sunlight and colder temperatures in January than southern locations. Lower elevations have warmer temperatures due to the sheer weight of the atmosphere pressing down and condensing the air especially in very low places such as Death Valley. Add to those conditions the long days and direct sunlight of, say, August, and Death Valley can become a veritable oven of hot, heavy, still air. This information is important not because such extreme places can always be avoided. When they cannot be avoided, they must be prepared for—they must be faced realistically. Where you are and where you are headed is of great importance.

So, if we prepare for physical journeys based upon data about physical conditions how much more diligently should we prepare for spiritual journeys? All journeys require planning and preparations. In the spiritual journey required of those of us who suffer with addiction the planning is hugely important. We, therefore, need solid preparations. We need to know where we are going … we need a map.

Medically safe detoxification and a healthy diet along with the acquisition of some basic tools to deal with anger and despair mark only the outset of the journey. These things give us a running start. However, always remember that abstinence is the path upon which we tread and not the goal itself.

If one wanders off that path the journey will be interrupted for it is not possible to navigate while intoxicated. One may even be obliged to return to some previous point and start again. However, assuming we stay on the path How can we discern what to expect next? That is where the Twelve Steps are most helpful and begin to serve as spiritual signposts on this most amazing odyssey.

Although each of the Twelve Steps constitute a discreet signpost and are worthy of examination, I want to concentrate on just two steps that proved especially important in my journey. Those were Steps Four and Five.

Step Four requires that we produce something of great value, and as with most things of true value it is not easy to produce. We are told to make “… a searching and fearless moral inventory” (Big Book, page 59). A friend of mine refers to this type of activity as “spiritual archeology.” I love that image of sun beaten, stooped over scientists digging out shards of evidence with dental picks and paint brushes, and then examining their findings. All this unhurried and deep effort is spent to understand a dead civilization. You are of so such more value that I ask you to spend that kind of effort to form a deeper understanding of your souls. That such effort is required is the reason we must be “fearless.” After all, who has ever looked deeply within themselves and not found something distasteful or even worse?

Step Five follows the sometimes painful but always enlightening Step Four. In this step, we try to get honest about our lives with ourselves, God and (at least) one other person. A secularized form of sacramental confession this is emotional catharsis in action.

I will never forget my own experience with this step. I was scared to be perfectly honest with anyone. Moreover, I was exhausted by the necessary preparation. I sat in my sponsor’s car wide eyed and quietly shaking as I read to him my Fourth Step. When I was done he took my list and burned it. The rising smoke seemed to ease the pressure … slowly at first, but building. With the list burned to ash, I felt the weight of guilt and shame dissipate. I had never felt so free before. With the weight gone, I seemed to float about rather than walk. If you are new to recovery, do yourself the favor of navigating through these steps and you may find yourself walking on air as well.

About the Author

Life on Main Street by Morgan Thorpe

The bright blue sky has been replaced by its distant cousin, grey, and the palm tree silhouettes wave gently in the rain.  It’s a cold day in Huntington Beach, and it will be dark in an hour or so. As I sit in my office on Main Street, I peer out the window to see the nameless passersby.

There is a family getting into their SUV, dad is buckling in his Mini-me version of mom, a tan homeless man is walking on the wet cement with his bare feet, and a group of tourists are window shopping in front of the gift shops.

It’s a simple life here, a good life, and I am happy with where I am and who I have become. I have AA to thank for that.  When I first came into the rooms nearly two and a half years ago, I was broken, I was desperate and I was hopeless. Now, I realize each day is a gift we should not take for granted.

For what tomorrow will bring, I do not know, but I do know I wouldn’t be where I am if it hadn’t been for all of those people who helped me along the way. You may not know it now, but I thank you. Perhaps you were the one who held the door open for me that day when I was too weak to open it myself. Maybe it was you that smiled at me the day I had no more smiles left. I don’t remember, but it may have been you who told me, on a dark and desolate day, to never, ever, ever give up. Someone held a flashlight for me in my deepest, darkest hours. The faces I do not remember, but the hope and kindness lit a lantern deep within me that I now proudly carry to others.

I see that, today, God made our hands that so perfectly fit together for a reason. I see that today there is someone and something to live for. You may not know it yet, but perhaps one day as you are walking down Main Street in the rain, I will pause before I open the door for you, or I will smile at you, just as you are about to look away, or maybe you will overhear me telling someone to never give up, keep looking up, do not quit five minutes before the miracle happens.  That’s what we do today because we cannot keep what we have unless we give it away.

I have a lot to be grateful for today. I may not have all of the material possessions I used to but that is okay because what matters is that I am able to turn around, and share the hope that was so freely given to me.

The bright blue sky fades into darkness as I leave my office.  I smile as I look up at the stars. My times have changed, I think to myself, my it is a beautiful world I say softly aloud.  I am filled with gratitude for the kindness of others over the years. As I walked to my car a stranger passes by, we smile at each other just as we are about to look away. And after a brief moment I finally understand; God has been here on Main Street all along.

It’s A We Program by Randy Boyd

Before I entered into the world of recovery, the only person I was of service to was myself. In most cases I would only help someone if there were something in it for me. I was a self-serving, selfish, egomaniac with a huge inferiority complex. However, within a month of entering recovery all of that began to change.

My wife and I were really close to Tom and Mary (fictitious names), and their two children. Together, Tom and I coached our boys in soccer and baseball and, as families, we would spend a lot of time together at Lake Mead. The funny thing about Tom and Mary is that neither of them drank; yet Tom was crazier than I was after I’d had several beers. What was even more baffling to me was that neither Tom nor Mary said anything to me about my drinking. Then again I was never really out of control around the two of them or the kids.

When I decided to check myself into the Betty Ford Center (BFC) for treatment my wife called Mary to let her know what was going on, that is when Mary told Cathy that her and Tom were alumnus from the BFC. Mary assured my wife that she would be there for her as my journey was going to be hard for not only myself, but for my wife as well. For the fifteen years that we had known Tom and Mary prior to my entering treatment, they were being of service in ways I would never have thought of.

They never revealed to my wife or myself they were not only sober but also BFC alumnus. Never did they say anything about our drinking or judge us. As I look back on it now eleven years later, they were demonstrating how it was possible to have fun in life without alcohol.

Tom knew me fairly well, which meant he knew what it was going to take to help me stay sober. I wasn’t a month into treatment when Tom was put in charge of reigniting the BFC alumni picnic. It was May in the Coachella Valley and the temperature was already in the triple digits. Tom called me up and told me, not asked, that I was going to be on the grill for that picnic. I thought no way, it’s going to be 110 degrees and I’m not going to be slaving over a hot barbecue all day. Well, that wasn’t the case. I showed up and did as I was asked, and in doing so I was introduced to the power of service work.

By helping others that day, my self-confidence issues began to fade away. All day people were coming up and talking with me, not to me, and thanking me for being of service. The next year I was asked to take over the picnic and over the next five years that picnic grew from sixty people to over two-hundred people. In doing so, I was able to introduce several other men and women to the power and benefit of service work. Our friends Tom and Mary had been the pebble that started the ripple effect of service that would help hundreds if not thousand of people in the last ten plus years.

As for myself, since those early years of recovery, I am still doing a lot of service work. I started by cleaning the ashtrays on the patio of our AA hall, then serving coffee and finally being the secretary of my home group meeting. I would pickup Yvonne, a lady dying of cancer, every morning and take her to and from our AA meeting. Becoming a sponsor was and is one of the greatest gifts I have received. Watching broken men turn their lives around is amazing and gives me such joy.

My greatest sorrow has turned into my greatest joy as a result of service work. For the past nine years I have been a part of a group called “It Happens To Boys.” We speak at conferences, high schools, colleges, and treatment facilities about the sexual abuse of boys and how it affects boys who become men. We bring awareness and educate both survivors and therapist on the prevalence of abuse, who the perpetrators are, and correlation between chemical dependency and sexual abuse.

Currently I am the Celebrate Recovery ministry leader at Destiny Church in Indio, CA among many other things. I could write pages, if not a book on how service work has helped me stay not just sober, but helped me recover and change my life. Service work is second only to God the reason I remain sober today. For me, being of service is not work—it’s an honor and a privilege. Remember that recovery is a “WE” program, not an “I” program. We need each other—I need you, too.

A New Freedom and A New Happiness by Kyczy Hawk

There are few things more inspirational than the look in a newcomer’s eyes when they “get it”; that moment when he/she understands the incomprehensible demoralization can come to an end. I see it in the rooms when someone shares a story that a newcomer relates to, after the meeting when a sincere conversation changes fear to hope. I have witnessed it in treatment centers and in jails when the listener’s head bobs in a “me too, me too” connection with the speaker. I have seen it sitting in a meeting when a terrified face glances around and softens as the result of a comforting smile. These are all forms of service: the witness, the sharing, adding to the community of the meeting rooms, and going to rehabs and jails. You cannot underestimate the power of each; none more important than another. Each one can be so fulfilling to the person offering this kindness; not the purpose, but it lifts the spirits in a way nothing else can.

kyczy hawk step 12 magazineIn addition to the meeting by meeting, person to person service that can inspire and enlighten recovery is the service we can provide the meeting structure itself, the region and the good of all your recovery groups. For me this is the Alcoholics Anonymous twelve-step groups: for you it could be another. Serving at the group level from anything from greeter to coffee-maker, from secretary to representative at a regional or national level in any of the organizations that make this miracle work. I have recently been reading the traditions with a sponsee (service to me and to her) and have remembered a lot that I have learned about the “most disorganized organization” that has ever been able to survive.

We have specific instructions about how to use the money from the baskets: first being “self supporting through our own contributions”: rent, coffee, and literature are the basics. Excess gets divided in a specific way according to your region. Our service here is monetary but not required; “there are no dues or fees”. A person will volunteer as treasurer and give regular reports about how the money was distributed. Hospital and Institution contributions are specific and given to that arm of our recovery group. We can serve in that group. We can also serve in the regional representation of all groups (intergroup). These positions allow us to see the greater good, organization, and personalities of recovery.

Now, in 2017, the opportunities to serve now have taken on a broader stage: there are online meetings which need speakers and chairpersons (think not only of pajama days when you don’t want to go out, being on travel or vacation—but those who are bedridden or cannot leave their homes for one reason or another) they, too, now can access meetings online. This is a service. It can be an international communion of people who want to get clean/sober/abstinent and those who have long term recovery and want to share their experience strength and hope in another forum. (www.intherooms.com is one of these sites.) There are closed and open Facebook groups that support recovery and the challenges of relapse prevention. Posting solutions and positive encouragement is another way to be of service (share the message, not the mess.) Coming from a positive, solution based place begins to retrain your brain to move to the healing and away from remembering and repeating the negative to yourself.

One to one for the benefit of each, person to group for the benefit of your community, person to group for the benefit of all communities, and in a virtual way supporting your recovery by supporting others in theirs is all useful service. Remember we do this letting go of results, not to force change but to offer “a new freedom and a new happiness”. And the secret of service is that you benefit your own recovery in an inspirational way—giving and expressing gratitude. Namaste.

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