“Beginning with childhood, we all receive messages that getting is the purpose of living: we must have romantic love, sexual fulfillment, possessions, and prestige to be happy.
“God has a different message: Help one another. We learn from experience in our program that happiness comes from giving—whether it be time, talent, money, or other things. Experience tells us that giving what we have to help someone else makes us a lot happier than keeping it to ourselves.”
– “In God’s Care*: Daily Meditations on Spirituality in Recovery,” April 14
*As We Understand God
Growing up, my parents were caring, giving people, but not strong role models of volunteerism. I did some volunteering as I grew older, but still wasn’t all that much into being of service.
That changed dramatically when I joined a 12 Step program. Service and giving of one’s time, talent, and money is a huge part of the Program; it is the final step after working through the other ones:
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive eaters, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Step 12 is the culmination of a spiritual transformation and it entails applying what I’ve learned as I go about my daily life, encountering people and handling circumstances that arise as part of life, to the best of my ability.
I received this blessing of recovery and want to help others learn how to be “happy, joyous, and free.” Step 12 and being of service is a way to express my gratitude for getting out of the despair of my addiction and my life becoming not only manageable, but rich in so many ways. And, because the 12 Step fellowship is a volunteer organization, it needs people to keep it operating; I give of myself so that it will continue to be there for others—and me too!
A by-product of volunteering and giving of myself is that my world expanded even further. I got to know others more deeply and cultivate new friendships. Abilities and interests I didn’t know I had were revealed. For instance, I was asked to help, stepped up to the plate, and was able to produce and direct special events like the annual holiday candle lighting ceremony and weekend retreats. I stepped into the role of newsletter editor and publisher. Through being of service and leading meetings, I realized I was a natural leader; I eventually became involved at a higher organizational level and became the local area chairperson. The list goes on and on.
In giving of myself, not only did I help others, but my recovery was strengthened. I have never felt as fulfilled as when I did service for the Fellowship and helped others who were still suffering. It gave my life meaning and purpose. Surely, happiness comes from giving!
It became natural for me to say “yes!” to giving of myself in the community at large. I became a board member of CHARACTER COUNTS! IN SANTA FE, created and facilitated The Gilbert Spirituality Group, and became a coach to folks leaving the prison system and re-entering society when I lived in Sedona (AZ).
It truly is a blessing to give of myself. I get so much back in return while helping others—it’s a win-win! Of late, I’ve more frequently given of my treasure, which I’m most grateful to be able to do, but it’s not the same as giving of my time and talents. In any case, without question, I know that true happiness comes from giving, bringing me far more joy than any possession can.
Thank You, Spirit!