Congratulations if you’ve made it this far in the shame busting process!
You were willing to exam the wreckage of your past and took responsibility for it.
Those are significant accomplishments and something many people, whether in recovery or not, are afraid even to attempt much less complete. You’ve done well, and most likely it shows in your face and your life.
You’ve begun to experience the many benefits of recovery like serenity, peace, and joy as well as miracles in your life – great relationships, renewed career, and a prospering bank account.
And shame is no longer driving you to drink or use in the way it used to before recovery.
What a relief! In the final part of our series on Busting Through Shame, we’re going to look at being of service and how even the most simple, thoughtful gesture can snuff out the last flickering ember of shame and help you remain clean and sober and hang onto your new, happier life.
It is often characteristic of addicts to exhibit high levels of narcissism and entitlement.
Although it may not seem like it, these behaviors are often rooted in high levels of shame and are how the addict attempts to suppress shame to make their life more tolerable.
Being of service involves getting out of yourself and focusing on helping others instead of sitting in self-absorption.
Doing service work also helps the addict recover from isolation, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, which can all contribute to relapse in a heartbeat.
Often service work involves interaction with other people, online, over the phone, or face-to-face.
It feels good to help someone else and to remember that you do have a purpose here in life, are a capable human being, and have skills unique to you to share with the world.
No two people are going to take the same approach to help someone else, no matter how big or menial the task may be. You are uniquely you, and you are special.
Service work has a way of reflecting that back to you with humility and reflection of the good in you that you may have trouble seeing in yourself.
When you begin to embrace the truth of who you are, shame has no hold over you anymore!
There are many opinions out there, even in the world of addiction recovery, on what it means to do service.
There are even more opinions by addiction recovery experts on when and what constitutes service to further your recovery.
The truth is, service can be done in an infinite number of ways. Service opportunities can show up at any point in your recovery and can be embraced as they come.
The important thing about service in recovery is that you just do it!
For instance, in early recovery, you may have the opportunity to set up or put away chairs at your support group or 12 step meeting.
You might be the designated coffee preparer. You might be the greeter at the door.
All of these are simple yet powerful ways of being of service. Many recovering addicts believe that sharing experience, strength, and hope in their support group or 12 step meeting is a way to be of service.
Being willing to be the speaker at a speaker meeting, even if you don’t feel like you have anything valuable to share, is a great way to be of service.
Taking outreach calls, helping fellows with outside issues (like maybe helping a fellow addict move to a new home), writing a blog for addiction recovery – there are so many ways to be of service in recovery depending on how far you are along in your process.
You may visit prisons and work with inmates dealing with addiction issues. You will be able to become a sponsor for other addicts in recovery once you’ve worked your recovery program thoroughly enough and to the best of your abilities.
Your counselor or sponsor will help you to know when you are ready to take this step in service.
Some recovering addicts may even choose a career change to work in addiction recovery.
You can also do service in more than one way. How you do service is up to you and is a very personal choice.
The spirit of step 12 is often something that confuses many addicts when they first come to recovery and begin working a recovery program, particularly if the program is based in the 12 steps.
The thinking is that step 12 is the step where you start being of service to other recovering addicts.
But read the wording of step 12 as taken from Alcoholics Anonymous, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
The step does not state that this is the only time service work is done or allowed in the program.
The gist of step 12 is to continue to give back to the group the recovery that you have gained and to continue to work your recovery program as it affects every area of your life.
Step 12 isn’t graduation from recovery; it is the beginning of a life-long commitment to it.
Being of service, whether you’re working a 12 step program or an alternative program of recovery, is something you are encouraged to do reasonably soon after you walk in the door and finish initial detox.
That’s where the confusion comes in about step 12 – you may wonder why you’re being pushed towards service when you’re brand new to recovery.
Now that you understand more about the spirit of step 12 and are learning here what being of service can look like at different stages of recovery, you’ll begin to have a better understanding of why service work is so often one of the first things you’re asked to do.
There are different schools of thought on whether or not service work needs to be focused within the addiction recovery community or if any service work will help to keep a recovering addict clean and sober.
All service work, whether within the recovery rooms or unrelated can help further your recovery journey, mainly because of the reasons stated previously about self-esteem building and getting you to be more aware of and compassionate towards the needs of others.
Some service work can even be done as part of the amends process when living amends is recommended. (If you missed the first or the second part of this Shame Busting Series, you’d want to go back and read them as it covers inventory and amends in detail.)
But at least some of your service work is encouraged to be within the recovery groups or 12 steps rooms where you receive your recovery.
It is essential to develop intimacy within your recovery community to receive and give support to yourself and others throughout the recovery process.
Being of service within your recovery community is a beautiful way to develop and maintain that intimacy. It prevents you from falling into isolation or straying from your recovery program, which always needs to come before everything else in life.
Without recovery, you stand to lose everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Remember, addiction is not curable; it can only be arrested by continuously working a program of recovery.
From a spiritual standpoint, being of service within your recovery community is vital for its existence and continuity.
For instance, the 12 steps were designed to be a circular process. You don’t complete step 12 and graduate because step 12 is all about sharing your recovery with others suffering from the disease of addiction.
It is by design to keep you close to your recovery program by walking others through the recovery process.
Through this service, you will continuously walk yourself through the process again and again.
Additionally, without group members’ willingness to take service positions at meetings, there would be no meetings for new addicts seeking recovery to attend. To deny another addict of the recovery which was so freely given to you is a cruel thing indeed and one that wouldn’t sit well with most spiritually.
And when the spirit is in “diss – ease” you guessed it, you are in DISEASE aka relapse!
No matter what your spiritual beliefs are, the feeling of emotional comfort when you innately know you are doing the right thing is what allows you to stay clean and sober.
Maintaining integrity in every area of your life in recovery is critical to maintaining clean time and sobriety.
Service work is no exception to this just because you are doing something for free. It may be even more critical than ever for you to practice living in integrity when being of service.
If you commit to doing something for your recovery group or a fellow traveler, they depend on you to follow through on your word.
Don’t assume someone else will take care of it, step in, and pick up the slack. That was your old way of life and is the disease of addiction talking in your head!
Remember when you were in the throes of addiction everyone around you trying to cover for you and pick up the pieces because you failed to take care of even the most basic things such as paying the electric bill or cleaning up after yourself?
How did that work for you regarding increasing shame versus building self-esteem? Did your relationship issues and isolation increase or decrease?
It may not seem like a big deal to skip a meeting where you have a service commitment this one time, but even just once can create an insidious pocket of shame within you.
And often one time becomes two, then three, or it may be a meeting this one time and something even more important, like a work commitment next time, until it snowballs into a life of unmanageability very quickly.
This is all a trap of the disease of addiction; and the specific path to relapse and even more shame.
Now, if you genuinely can’t make the meeting, that’s ok, as long as you make calls ahead of time and find someone willing to cover your service commitment.
See the difference? The first way is shirking responsibility and the second way is taking responsibility.
The more you practice taking responsibility with even the most seemingly mundane things, the more that practice will extend out to more significant duties in every area of your life.
Staying in integrity at all times is a practice that will catapult your recovery and ultimately change your life to one of joy, serenity, and relief from the disease of addiction!
A common fear that many addicts in recovery have when taking outreach calls or sponsoring other addicts is that they have nothing of value to offer.
This couldn’t be further from the truth! If you had a dime for every time an old timer benefited from a newcomer’s share, you’d be a wealthy person indeed.
No matter what stage of recovery you are in, you never know when something you say in the presence of another addict may have a profound and positive effect on their recovery.
The thing about service is that it isn’t up to us to decide what is or isn’t helpful – that’s just ego and self-will talking.
The way to indeed be of service is to suit up, show up, and just do the next indicated action without questioning its value to others or the group.
It’s astounding how easy it is when you get out of your head!
Our Recovery Center has talented and skilled professionals that understand shame and how it impacts on the recovery and treatment of addicts. They can help you with your recovery efforts and to understand how to deal with shame.
If you need help with your recovery, you can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.
The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with all of your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment. Call anytime.
Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.
For over 30 years, Joy battled addiction. Now with four years in recovery, she tells her story.
Our topic is the sometimes difficult but always rewarding path from shame to worth.