Helping hands in service

Bookmarks – March – The Paradox of Service

Mar 5, 2022

  What a wise little book!

That’s what I first thought when I began reading When I Got Busy, I Got Better (P-78).

Sentences and paragraphs began to jump out at me. Here’s this, from “Facing Our Fears” on page 1: “Practicing the Twelfth Step offers us an opportunity to share our program in a new way. We benefit when we practice gratitude, and Al-Anon service is gratitude in action. [I love that part, “Al-Anon service is gratitude in action”!] We acknowledge that we have made progress in recovery not on our own, but with the help of many others—and through the guidance of a Higher Power.”

Before reading that, I had never truly considered that service is an aspect of the Twelfth Step: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” But of course it is.

I heard  two expressions when I first said “yes” to Al-Anon service, which is so different from other service. The first was “You never do anything alone in Al-Anon” and the other was something like “Service exposes your character defects.” I found the first saying to be both comforting and true, and the second a bit disarming. Oh great! I thought. My tendency to procrastinate and all my other less-than qualities will be on display. How lovely! (Can you hear the sarcasm?)

However, now I feel differently about that second expression. I’ve learned that my character defects aren’t so much black marks to be ashamed of, but obstacles to my growth that can be removed with the help of my Higher Power. And I learned that—and keep relearning it—through service.

Here’s my latest example: I recently had to create a Zoom account for the PA Al-Anon Convention Committee. Learning new technology gives me anxiety, which in turn can make me angry. Anger is my knee-jerk reaction to fear—in this case, fear of failure.

Now, I’ve been on Zoom meetings before, but it’s a bit more involved when you’re setting up an account and scheduling a meeting for a lot of people. I decided to take in a free Zoom tutorial before fully losing my mind (note the lack of confidence). The tutorial helped.

But it wasn’t until the afternoon before the 7 p.m. meeting that I started to get worried. Only a few committee members had responded “yes” to their emailed Zoom invitations. Two weeks earlier, some folks hadn’t gotten the email. Now, I wondered, did I set up the meeting right? Were their email addresses correct? That afternoon, I texted a member to see if she had received the invitation. No, she said. Now I was tense and panicking.

But instead of becoming angry with anyone who might look my way (read: innocent husband), I opted to take a moment and ask my Higher Power for help. I calmed down. I was able to think. I rechecked the Zoom setup. It seemed to be right.

Then I sent out a text to the committee, confessing that new technology makes me anxious. I don’t know how to invite a new person into the meeting without sending another invitation to everyone. You can imagine the confusion. But God bless them, they are patient with me!

So I’ve had to eat humble pie, sometimes quite a few slices. It’s not a bad thing. I am human after all and my committee accepts me as I am. I am so grateful for that, and for my Higher Power’s calming direction.

The last pages of When I Got Busy, I Got Better talk about “Reaching Out to Others”:

“In reaching out to others through Al-Anon service, we have the opportunity to share our unique experience and our personal recovery for a common good. We have the chance to encourage detachment, acceptance, and serenity in a supportive environment and to get to know ourselves better—both strengths and weaknesses—in the process.

“We have the opportunity to contribute what we can do but, more important, who we can be. By sharing our recovery, we strengthen its workings in our own lives. By seeking to allow a Higher Power to work in and through us, we can come to feel, more fully, the presence of that Power.

“In giving, we receive.”

That is the paradoxical beauty of Al-Anon service.

Thanks for letting me share!

In grateful service,

Ellen C.

Literature/Forum Coordinator

Panel 61