Supporting others in recovery—the Twelfth Step—is one of the fundamental tenants of Alcoholics Anonymous. Running an AA meeting, taking commitments, being a sponsor are all opportunities to help the AA community thrive. According to AA’s General Service Office there are 140,000 groups in 170 countries. Those amazing numbers are made possible only because hundreds of thousands of individuals commit their time and energy. As a result, those in need can find help and support for their recovery all over the globe.
Beyond AA, how can you be of service to others? That was the question I asked as part of my own recovery. I am writer by trade, which is a rewarding career that combines intellectual curiosity with creativity. But writing is a lonely business and often stressful, which contributed to a downward spiral in my life. Once in recovery I found I was unwilling to let negatives define my craft, so I turned to creative and journal writing, and eventually teaching. As I help others, often young people new to therapeutic writing, I find myself inspired and supported in my journey. I am I not alone in turning a professional skill into a service avocation. I know a veterinarian who turned her love of animals into a job training service dogs for veterans with PTSD. Another friend, a retired psychologist, advises workers who provide counseling services in immigration camps.
Once you start looking for ways to be of service, there is almost no limit to the volunteer opportunities available, usually hidden in plain sight, at your local school, hospital or homeless shelter, with informal groups of neighbors or with established non-profits. There are whole websites devoted volunteering. Whatever the outlet, the most rewarding work will the one that makes the best use of you. Find a service outlet that calls uniquely on your skills and attributes. That can range from computer to cooking skills, being handy with a hammer or tackling hefty moving jobs. Simply having an outgoing personality and willingness to work can be all the qualifications you need to make service a part of your recovery. Finding a skill and putting it to work for others is one of the great life experiences for anyone. For those of us in recovery, it is vital. Serve others and I guarantee you will serve yourself.