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June 1976

We Get What We Give Back

No matter whether the job is great or small, when you help the group, you help yourself

IT'S BEEN almost four years since my last drink. No big deal to most folks, but to me, the most amazing accomplishment of my life. If I never do anything history-making, I can always say, "I came back from hell!" and be happy for it.

But what has kept me sober these four years? What has held my interest? Surely, after all those 24 hours, wouldn't I know the pitfalls to watch for? Wouldn't I know the Steps and the Traditions? Wouldn't I know how to stay away from that first drink? Maybe. But one thing about AA never fails to amaze me: The more interest an AA takes in a group, the more healthy he or she becomes. For me, the more I give, the more I get in return.

This concept may be hard for a brand-new member to swallow. I remember my first few meetings. All the people in the room seemed to know what they were doing, talked with one another, laughed, and seemed quite content. Meanwhile, I was sitting on my hands, shaking, dizzy, hung-over, disturbed, and feeling left out. I thought surely these people must all have umpteen years of sobriety, and only by a fantastic display of talent and popularity, luck and wisdom, were they fortunate enough to run a group.

Stop for a minute. At your first few meetings, did you ever get the impression that some people in a group were more important than others?

I did. And I think it's natural. Throughout our drinking, some of us became more and more wrapped up in our shells. We were withdrawn, concentrating on our miserable lot in life. When we suddenly saw happy, busy, concerned people at a meeting, we thought they must be better than we were.

Even after more meetings, I was still feeling left out. I wanted to be part of the "clique." I was jealous of these "team captains."

It took more than just some kind words to straighten out my thinking. So a few AA friends and I started our own group. My best friend was elected secretary, and I became program chairman. I was responsible for parties and anniversaries; I was responsible for making up bulletins and inviting guests. . . I was responsible. And for a while, elated.

Then I was elected secretary, and I was even more thrilled. I had finally gotten what I wanted. A place at the head table. The right to call the shots!

But it was not to be. There was a group conscience. No matter what ideas I had about the way the group should be run. there was always that higher power keeping me in check. Looking back, I realize this whole experience was one of the finest in my AA life. It taught me that responsibility did not mean power for me to use as I saw fit. I learned that my activity was for the help of the group--but mostly for my help.

If I hadn't been secretary of that group, I might have skipped a few meetings here and there. But knowing I had an obligation kept me coming every week.

Later, I was no longer secretary. Someone else was elected to fill the post, to experience what I had experienced. But I didn't feel left out any more. I felt that I had done something for AA, for my friends, and for myself.

Today, I am treasurer of another group. I still take responsibility. But now I know why. To help me. To get me to more meetings. To learn from others what this business of sobriety is all about.

If you're new, get active! You may not be elected secretary or treasurer of your group, and sometimes that means you're lucky! But you can pick up a broom (as I have) or empty ashtrays (as I have) or scrub off tables (as I have). You can help sort literature, greet people at the door, a lot of things!

This activity is not intended to keep your group functioning perfectly. Believe me, the groups I've helped get along just fine without me. The whole idea is to get yourself to more meetings and to make you feel that you're doing something for AA, that you're giving instead of taking.

We get what we give back. In my case, I've been rewarded a thousandfold. Through my experience and continued participation in group activity, I've strengthened my grip on sobriety. May it happen to you!

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