Service: The Key To Sobriety

Like most of the 12-step principles, the link between service and sobriety is not an intuitive one. How are these two things connected? What does service to other alcoholics really have to do with staying away from our addictive substances and behaviors? Why is sharing our own story of addiction and recovery so lifesaving—not just for others, but for us as well?

Reaching Out And Helping Others

It goes back to the very founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. What the first recovering alcoholics discovered was that the best insurance against a slip was to reach out and help other addicts. Thus service was galvanized as a major tenet of the program and it forms the focus of step 12:

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Reaching Out-Service the Key to Sobriety - Christian Drug RehabAs addicts, we are inherently selfish and hyper-focused on our own lives, our circumstances and all of the things that rub us the wrong way. It’s not you personally, it’s all of us—this is simply a classic addict characteristic.

The founders knew that all of these irritations, frustrated expectations and disappointments—the ups and downs of daily life, really—were enough to push addicts straight back into the addiction. Many of us also felt our lives lacked meaning and purpose, which only increased our despair and our focus on all the things we believed weren’t going our way.

Things turned around when they began working with other alcoholics—not just because they knew they had the solution that so many people needed, but because they so badly needed to share it.

Something happened as they reached out and helped another sufferer. They found that whether the other person achieved sobriety or not, their own sobriety was strengthened simply through the act. As they told their stories of addiction, their own sobriety was strengthened and enlivened. Service was the antidote against the temptation to return to the addiction.

The Power In Sharing Your Story With Other Alcoholics

The other powerful thing about this 12-step service was that it was something that any of us could do. We didn’t have to be big-hearted or particularly skilled in any area; we simply had to have our own story and the willingness to share it. As we worked through the steps and saw our lives cleaning up, as we experienced God’s amazing grace and as we received a new chance at life, we saw that indeed we had quite a story to tell.

Naturally we want others to experience the freedom and sobriety that we have enjoyed. As we tell our stories and share the principles of recovery, we are praying that others take up the gift. However, this is in the hands of God; it is something we cannot control. Our charge, as given to us by step 12, is to carry the message and to seek to practice the AA principles in all of our affairs. We are to represent the program as well as we can and we are to be willing to show how we got where we now are. This is the service and the attitude that paves the way for lasting sobriety.

Our Sobriety Is Our Own, Others’ Actions Don’t Need To Affect It

What others choose to do with the information and the opportunity doesn’t have to affect our own sobriety. If we do our service with an open heart and a sacrificial attitude, then we have done all we can. An addict may hear our story and learn about the program but still not be interested. He or she has not hit bottom yet and there is little interest in a solution. Or the individual begins the program but soon relapses. These are circumstances that we cannot control. The timing of recovery is in the hands of God, so we release the outcome knowing we did all we could.

Letting Service Be Simple

Service is simple if we are living the AA principles in our lives. All around us we will encounter people struggling with the bondage of addiction. We will be amazed at how many opportunities we have to be helpful and useful as we simply live our lives as sober people. As the Big Book comments, we are uniquely qualified to serve other addicts. They will listen to us because we can show through our own experiences that we’ve been there.

They will see that if there was hope for us, there may be hope for them as well. This is the power and the importance of our simple acts of service.

Do you have a Christian friend who is abusing drugs or alcohol, or is addicted? See The 7 Ways You Can Help A Christian Struggling With Addictions