Recovering from addiction takes more than just stopping the use of drugs and alcohol. As an addict recovers, he or she has to change nearly every aspect of their life. The biggest way I have changed is learning to give back to the fellowship that has given so much to me. As I achieve more time in AA and sobriety, I do more for the people around me.
It takes more than just quitting drug and alcohol use for an addict to recover. As the Big Book says, drinking and using was but a symptom of our problems. Our real problems are our character defects that have plagued us our whole life. The biggest character defect we all have to overcome is selfishness. How do we combat selfishness? We have to do the exact opposite of selfishness and just give. Giving is how we grow as individuals and how we can recover from our addiction. When I was using all I did was take from people. Asking my parents for money so I could use it to buy drugs. Having them pay for rent on my apartment and stealing from them and my friends. Now I do all that I can to give back. When someone needs a ride to work because they don’t have a car, I take them. If someone is feeling overwhelmed at work and I am free, I help them out. I need to do this in order to maintain sobriety. I have to take contrary action every waking moment. I give back to make a living amends to all of the people I hurt when I was drinking.
How does an addict avoid becoming just a dry drunk? The key is by working a program – a big part of which is giving to others. New Life House did a perfect job of teaching us to give back. Even when you have a little bit of time sober in the house you learn to give back to others. Helping someone else clean their bedroom, helping them with a task so they can handle their other responsibilities or just simply volunteering to cook meals for the house. When I first came to the house I hated having to do any kind of work. When groceries would be brought to the house, everyone would drop what they were doing to go help bring them in, except for me. I would pretend that I had to go to the bathroom so that I wouldn’t have to help out or avoid grabbing the heavier bags. When I saw how others were so willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good of the people around them, I became inspired. I wanted what they had, and by giving back to the house they attracted me to AA. Something as small as bringing in some groceries had a great impact on me and my recovery. It taught me the importance of giving back.
When I was using, all I did was take from people, asking my parents for money, having them pay for the rent on my apartment, the insurance on my car, stealing from my friends and always backing out of plans at the last minute. I now make sacrifices for the needs and wants of others. Sharing my own understanding of the 12 steps at meetings or with a sponsee on how I give back is a big part of my program. I help others when they cannot help themselves. I try to show them the benefits of working the 12 steps and living an open and honest life. This is how AA grew – people were willing to make sacrifices in order to stay sober and they built up a fellowship by giving back. Giving back also helps an addict recover by building up a fellowship for themselves. When you give back to others, people will be willing to help you out when you need it. When I am having a tough time at work or I am struggling financially there are people who are willing to listen to me. My fellowship is able to hear about my problems and offer solution about it and I am willing to humble myself and take the actions they suggest. That is how we stay sober, by sticking together like a herd. We can prevent someone from a relapse if they get too far or help bring them back in if they do go back out. That is the beauty of giving back, being able to get out of your own head and build new relationships in the process.
Growing in recovery is a roller coaster of emotions but in the end you end up feeling happy, joyous and free. Giving back is how addicts grow. It helps us grow because taking contrary action to our selfishness matures us, and we are able to build a fellowship and a large community around us. Giving back opens up the doors to new relationships, new experiences and a better life.