Shortly after I started working the steps with my sponsor he asked me to start looking for two service positions. Up until that time I’d been attending meetings regularly, sitting down, listening and taking in what I could. I saw each meeting had a ‘committee’ of sorts, people who regularly attended and did certain things to help things run smoothly, but didn’t realise just how important service would be to my recovery journey…
Service is exactly what it sounds like. Taking on a service position means you take on a certain role or responsibility at a meeting. Each meeting is independent, and each has a group of fellows who volunteer their time to make sure everything runs smoothly. Positions in many cases (from what I can see at least) tend to last a year. They include things like ‘newcomer reps’ who act as a regular port of call for newcomers who need support and guidance, people ‘setting up and setting down’ who help prepare the room for physical meetings. People who help serve tea, coffee and biscuits, people who organise literature, a treasurer to help organise group finances and a secretary to host and run the meeting.
It’s worth noting some positions such as newcomer reps and treasurer may require certain lengths of continuous sobriety due to responsibilities involved, but these requirements will vary from group to group. We’ve also seen a host of newly created service positions during Lockdown as online-meetings have different needs to their physical counterparts, these include things security positions to help keep meetings safe from trolls, as well as timekeepers to help monitor sharing time and people who help co-ordinate the readings.
So how do you go about getting a service position?
All meetings will have a regular ‘group conscience’ or ‘business meeting’. These are meetings where any/all matters for the group are discussed and anyone is free to attend. If you’re looking for a service position at a meeting, listen out towards the end of a meeting for any announcements around when the next one might be, or equally feel free to ask any of the current members doing service and they will be happy to find out for you. At these conscience or business meetings they will discuss any open service positions and you can put yourself forward, it’s that simple. If multiple people volunteer for a single position, there may be a vote or some way of the group deciding, but this process will vary from group to group.
Why is service important for recovery?
My first service positions were doing the washing up and helping clear chairs away and sweeping the floor at two of my home groups. During lockdown, I was unable to do this in the absence of physical meetings so I was able to take on a new position helping source readings each week and displaying them on screen and in the chat function during our Zoom meetings. These may not sound exciting by any means, but it’s been important to my recovery for several reasons:
It helps you get to know your fellows – by doing regular service you’ll get to better know regular members as well as newcomers to a meeting.
You’re not thinking about yourself – Being useful to others is a key part of both an effective programme and our daily living as alcoholics. By doing service, you’re not just thinking and acting for yourself, but for a wider group.
It makes you actively focus more on your recovery – Service positions require you to put in more effort and action, if you’re helping setup a room before a meeting, preparing tea and coffee or helping to sweep up / wash up after meetings, there’s a time and effort commitment over and above just turning up for meetings. This extra action means you’re putting in more commitment each week and helps you stay focussed on your programme of recovery.
It makes you feel more connected – All of this ultimately leads to helping you feel closer, and more connected to your programme, your fellows and the wider world.
In my experience, service has been a hugely important and rewarding part of my early recovery. It’s helped me to focus less on myself, give back to the AA community which has already given me so much and it’s helped me to feel much closer to the programme through connection. If you’re new to AA it’s something I’d recommend without hesitation.