Grapevine Online Exclusive

Published January 2014.

Into the Wide World

An old timer talks about how vital service was for her in staying sober and rebuilding her life

You won't find any exact quotes in this article. This isn't about what I can recite, what book I read, what meetings I go to, or even what Step I'm on.

It's about staying sober and what has kept me on that path. I do service work—that dirty part of our sobriety that most don't want to do. I think it's a very important part of my sobriety. It has kept me alive. I have been involved in service work of one type or another as I have trudged across four states for the past 29 years. Oh, the lessons I have learned …

When I got sober, the first thing I thought was, "Oh my god, I'm never going to have fun again. I can't drink. My life is over!"

I was 27 years old, and very active: playing sports, dancing, going places. I wasn't ready to sit around a table drinking coffee (which I hated then), smoking cigarettes, and telling war stories of how it was back then, especially not with a bunch of grey hairs (like I am now).

I thank my HP that back then there were people around to show me that life was more than just going to meetings. We had meetings after meetings, dances and skating parties, camping trips and poker runs, dinners and picnics, and just about any other thing you could think of that could be done without drinking. They taught me how to live sober with the tools of this program, one day at a time.

I have been lucky enough to serve as Intergroup Rep, GSR, Committee Chairs, Group Secretary, Coffee Maker, Door Greeter, and Ashtray Cleaner, to name a few.

I've chaired more meetings than I can count and started a few groups. I've attended meetings in three countries, watched the sun rise at a meeting on the beach and even had a home group that was outdoors year round.

I've been asked to leave a meeting because I was making too much noise, and have told someone to shut up during a meeting because I couldn't hear. (That's karma for you.) And I was taught that no matter what the position, where the meeting, or who was there, to never forgot where we came from, why we are here, and what keeps us together.

I learned what the 12, 12 and 12 are, and why they will always be so important for everyone. I made mistakes, learned from them, made more mistakes, shared about them, and continue to make mistakes, admit them, and learned to pass all of it on. And it was always about AA, with AA, for AA, because of AA. The good of AA was more important than the good of the one when it came to the group, and AA as a whole. And because of that I stay sober.

But now that road I love to trudge has so many boulders it looks impassible at times. Negativity is the buzzword, what is wrong is more important than what is right or being happy.

We're more interested in talking about the problem and we forget the solution. We're so worried about the label of who is sitting next to us, we forget about who is trying to make it in the doors or if they are going to stay. We don't want to take the time to reach out in person; it's too easy to post, blog or tweet, sign off and to heck with anonymity.

We see members having heated discussions about the Traditions and Concepts, and we walk away, calling it controversy. It's always so easy to walk away. Yes, no one wants to live in the middle of a house of discontent, but if we can't learn how to discuss our differences, how will we ever learn to grow.

Imagine how much discussion took place when the original material was written for our program! What would have happened if they had just thrown their hands up and walked away? Would we even have a program of recovery today? Learning how to have heated discussions and come out the other side with a smile, that is the growth I look for today.

I can tell you that you don't have to grow stale in this program, glued to a chair with a coffee cup in your hand. If I can't learn from what is going on in AA, trying to find out how I can be of service, making sure the hand of AA continues to be here, then I will grow old and blind to the sunlight of the spirit.

Do I want the program to cloud over in my area? Am I being responsible to those coming in today, wondering if their lives are over? Am I responsible to that newcomer, that beginner, to provide accurate information they need to start down their spiritual path of recovery.

It is not a path limited to a chair in a room for just one hour. It is a path that leads us back into the wide world, as we become members of society again, learning how to function in a world that is sometimes scary, sometimes overwhelming. We socialize, we interact, we form relationships, and we become human beings again. That's what was passed on to me, by my sponsors, by the people in the program that have touched my life, and I was told to pass it on to you.

So will you dance with me so we can invite the sunlight to shine bright again? I know there's enough room on this path for all of us. So what if the road looks a little rocky, boulders can be rolled off to the side. We just have to reach out that hand….


-- Cindy T.

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