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Service and Your Recovery: Working the 12th Step

Morgan Werner

Authored by Morgan Werner

In active addiction, we often get stuck in this cycle where everything we do, and the interactions we have with others, revolve around feeding the addiction that lives within us. However, to achieve long-lasting recovery, it is necessary to remove ourselves from that self-serving, egocentric mentality and focus our efforts on others. Whether you have 10 days or 10 years sober, helping others is critical, not just for those that need you, but for you as well. After all, the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous clearly states, “We can only keep what we have by giving it away.” Service work allows us to put our gratitude for our recovery and those that support us throughout our journey into action by showing others the same level of support as they begin to discover a better way of life without drugs and alcohol.

Continue reading to discover the answers to the most common questions that come up when we talk about the service piece as it relates to the Twelve Steps.  

What is service?

In essence, the service portion of your recovery simply means giving back and carrying the message of hope and the Twelve Steps to others. Getting in service is different for everyone, and it does not have to be a monumental commitment, especially if you are newly sober. For those entering recovery for the very first time, a good starting point could be to join a local home group, volunteer to greet others or prepare coffee before each meeting. After getting more sober time under your belt, service work such as chairing meetings, sponsoring others in the program, and accepting speaking commitments, are great next steps. The most important thing to remember is that every 12 Step Fellowship is ‘we’ program, meaning we cannot do this alone. We need the love, support, and service from others to find freedom from our addictions. So, any act of service is a valiant effort – no commitment is too small.

Why should I get in service?

The benefit of being of service to others is two-fold. Not only does your commitment benefit others, but it will also be an asset to your personal recovery. The more that we help others, the better we tend to feel about ourselves, and when we feel good internally, we do recover. So, when you find yourself caught in a cycle of negative thinking – whether it be guilt, shame, or remorse, as it relates to your addiction, stepping out of self to help another addict is an undeniably healing experience.

Beyond the personal gratification we receive when we extend a helping hand to a peer in recovery, there is also an accountability piece to service as well. The word ‘commitment’ is one that you will hear often when discussing service both in and out of the rooms. A commitment can be defined as a pledge, a promise, or an obligation. Making commitments in your recovery are not only promises that you make to yourself, but promises you make to others. Knowing that someone is relying on your act of service is one of the most beneficial ways to maintain accountability in your recovery.

How can I get in service?

The good news is service in recovery is plentiful! If you are considering making a commitment to your home group, you will want to be present at their next Business Meeting to volunteer your time.

The Alumni Association at Recovery Centers of America can help! There are plenty of opportunities in which you can give back to your fellow alumni as well as patients in treatment. If you were ever in an inpatient facility, try to think back to how difficult that time was. Now imagine how helpful it would have been if you were able to talk to, question, or just listen to someone who was once in your shoes, but is now in recovery. These patients need to hear from you. They need to hear your successes, your obstacles, and how you were able to find hope. From Alumni H&I commitments and opportunities to join patients virtually to chairing meetings, there is something for everyone no matter what level of commitment you are looking for. After checking out our service opportunities, get connected with your local Alumni Coordinator, who will happily work with you to find a volunteer opportunity that works for you and the goals you have set forth in your recovery.

Authored by

Morgan Werner

Morgan Werner

Morgan holds a degree in Interpersonal Psychology, is completing a degree with a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Public Policy. Her passion for helping individuals overcome their circumstances, and affecting positive change has been a driving force in her efforts to support RCA’s alumni community.


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