One of the most famous sayings in 12-Step groups worldwide is, “you can only keep what you have by giving it away.” This saying refers to the idea that service in recovery can help the giver as much as the receiver. Service in recovery refers to work carried out for no financial reward or compensation. This may involve directly helping somebody else or indirectly helping them by providing services. The individual in recovery gets involved in service because they know that it helps keep them sober.


The Importance of Service in 12-Step Groups

Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) could not function without the voluntary services provided by members. All these meetings around the world are organized and maintained by volunteers. There is usually a collection at the end of each meeting, but this money is used to pay for rent, literature, or coffee.

Almost every person at these meetings will provide some type of service, even if it is just sharing a bit of their story or preparing the coffee. Other opportunities to be of service in meetings include chairing the meeting, serving as treasurer, acting as Group Service Representative (GSR), or helping with things that get the meeting running on time and smoothly. You might even decide to show up early for a meeting and prepare the meeting room.


Other Types of Service

There is no need for the individual to be a member of a 12-Step group for them to become involved in service. There are plenty of official and unofficial ways that those in recovery can help others. Such work is highly rewarding, and it can strengthen the commitment of the individual to their own recovery.

Anything that directly or indirectly helps others in recovery could be considered a service. Examples of this type of work include:

  • Sponsorship
  • Volunteering to work with homeless people struggling with drugs or alcohol
  • Taking calls from people seeking help for addiction
  • Creating a non-profit recovery blog or website
  • Supporting those who are struggling in recovery
  • Visiting schools to warn against the dangers of addiction
  • Making time to speak with people struggling with addiction

The Benefits of Service

Service in recovery benefits both the giver and receiver. Benefits of being of service include:

  • People who devote time to service may be less likely to suffer from depression.
  • Those in recovery may have a better understanding of the needs of someone new to the process. Often, this means the help they have to offer may be more appropriate than help from others.
  • Helping others struggling with addiction reminds the individual of where they came from, which can help keep the pain of addiction fresh in their minds. This reminder can keep them motivated to stay on the path to recovery,
  • Those being of service are likely to experience a boost in their self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Helping others take the focus off the individual and what they are struggling with at the moment.
  • Providing service in groups such as AA ensures the program continues to run. If nobody volunteered their time, these groups would disappear.

What to Be Careful of When Being of Service

Helping others is always a good thing, but there can be dangers involved. This is particularly likely to happen when the individual is doing it for the wrong reasons. Some individuals become so obsessed with focusing on the needs of others that they neglect their own. This is dangerous because it may mean that they are stuck in recovery, and their giving is part of the relapse process. It is likely to come when they realize that fixing everyone else is not making their lives better. They can start to feel bitter, which may lead to thoughts of returning to drink or drugs.

Others may find it hard to say “no” and end up taking on too much. When this happens, it can further play into neglecting the individual’s own needs for the needs of others. Taking on too much can also lead to an increase in stress levels, potentially leading to relapse if not dealt with.

Sometimes, people aren’t ready to take on significant service opportunities, and that’s okay. Some types of service require a lot of trust, and if this trust is broken, it can cause problems. For example, there have been cases where treasurers of AA meetings steal money from the group’s funds. Behavior changes don’t happen overnight in recovery, and if someone feels they aren’t ready to take on a significant amount of responsibility, there are other types of service available. People shouldn’t be afraid to start small; just setting up the chairs for a meeting is an excellent way to be of service!

Being of service in recovery means helping those in need for no reward or profit. Service can be done in both 12-Step settings and outside of these programs. Anything that helps another person can be considered service! Not only will being of service benefit your recovery, but it will help someone else, too. However, if you feel you aren’t ready for significant responsibility yet, that’s okay. There are many variations of service and just helping to set up a meeting is an amazing way to be of service. If you are struggling in your recovery, Hired Power is here to help. Hired Power goes above and beyond to help individuals achieve lasting sobriety with our industry-leading Personal Recovery Assistant (PRA) program. This program supports clients and their families as they forge a new path into recovery and transition into a sober, independent lifestyle. For more information on our services, call us today at (800) 910-9299.