Step 12: Service
For those of us in recovery, this is simply “how it works”.
My sister-in-law Laura posted some blog fodder on my Facebook wall yesterday. Young, beautiful Cameron Russell did an interview where she admitted her privilege because of “winning the genetic lottery” and fitting our society’s marketable image of beauty. She realizes this is a gift and would like to use her platform for good. She’s young to already get this, and I can’t wait to hear whatever message she decides to deliver.
I’m actually supposed to write about Step 11 this week, but I’m preempting it because my brain has decided to write about Step 12. I’m going to trust that instinct. Step 12 is the step that tells us we need to carry the message to other sufferers and to practice these principles in all our affairs. That is not a small order, but all of these steps ask me to step beyond what I feel is comfortable.
The most obvious way to practice Step 12 is to answer the call when another addict, co-dependent, or suffering person reaches out for help. But, there are so many ways that the message is carried that it is impossible and crazy to limit it to one avenue. Just showing up for meetings is another way to practice Step 12. Yes, I get something out of it for me. But, I never know when what I share or just my presence may impact someone in some way. I was struggling with a decision early on in my recovery, and I remember asking God to help me find the answer. I went to a meeting, and the meeting was on a totally unrelated topic. No answer there. A young man whom I had nothing in common with except our journey through recovery started sharing. It was totally off topic. He said at the end that he knew that his share had nothing to do with the topic, and he didn’t know why he shared it. But, I did. It was exactly the information I needed to hear to feel some hope in the painful dilemma I was in. That’s the way God speaks to me most frequently – through others.
I have suffered with codependency, and I have to be painfully aware that I don’t always know the answers to someone else’s problems. I can turn myself inside out to try to help someone. And, although it might be nice in my intentions, I may be compromising someone’s growth by making it about me being helpful. Sometimes the answers to their issues may come from someone else, from sitting in the dilemma of their problem, or from watching someone doing it wrong. I have to trust that whatever they need to know will come to them without my having to force it down their throat. If they ask, then I am free to give.
And, if I really believe that, that means I have to show up and be myself. And, this is where I think Ms. Russell’s dilemma comes in to my share on Step 12. If she shares from her own experience, strength and hope and doesn’t try to be someone else, she will touch whomever God needs her to reach. No matter her choice of message, if she follows her soul’s lead, someone will get the right message from her behavior, her history or some other facet of her being. For me, it really does JUST mean showing up and being who I am. God created me with talents that are unique. If I try to be someone else or be perfect, I may mess those up. Being present in the moment, interacting with people in a way that allows them to be themselves and trusting in the process is what works for me.
I have issues with the saying If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. We can’t all be part of every solution. Some people are uniquely gifted for ministry. Others are gifted as parents…. and ALL parents are the messengers to their children. Some are gifted in keeping people healthy physically. Others are gifted in teaching life skills. Some are even gifted in making money that can be spread around to others. There is no talent or gift that is wasted in this world if you allow yourself to accept the gift you have and give it lovingly. And, to put demands on myself that I have to help with everything will paralyze me and make me ineffective in what I do well. At times in my life, I felt worthless because I wasn’t doing anything big to help. I hadn’t started a non-profit or written a book or become a minister. But, I’ve learned that big is not necessarily what everyone is called to do. I’ve learned to be grateful that I can be a small, normal person and make an impact in my little corner of the world.
As a little girl, I daydreamed of being a singing superstar. I would belt out songs and sing them to my “audience” which populated the empty pasture next to my house. The applause was deafening, and my fans loved me. In my fantasies, I was a great big shining musical star. One day my sister hit me over the head with a stick to get me to stop singing. That may be why I don’t’ like to sing and don’t think I sing well to this day. But, I know this. I wasn’t given the vocal chords of a great singer. My college roommate Cristal has that gift, and that’s one of the ways she spreads the beautiful messages of love that she shares with the world. By accepting I wasn’t equipped to be a star singer, it opened up other avenues for me like writing, reading and playing sports. Those things are my talents. Sometimes we have to be hit over the head to be re-directed. And, my sister gave me that message early on.
As my friend Jessica was driving me to the airport this morning, we started discussing prescription medication addiction and its impact on the life expectancy of white females. It is rampant, and it’s a killer. Jessica has a blossoming desire for using health and fitness for healing people recovering from addiction. She’s exploring that idea in her mind and heart. I wonder how she ended up running across me? I’ll never believe any meeting or attraction is coincidence. That topic led us to talk about other problems in the world (our economy, the death of the American Dream, poverty) and I started to feel quite overwhelmed inside. The world’s problems are immense and very, very complicated and difficult to resolve.
I reminded myself that I only impact what is directly in front of me. I may not be a singing star or a Victoria’s Secret model with a huge platform like Russell, but I can write, I can go to 12 Step meetings, and I can be who I am with every person, in every interaction that I have. If one person is influenced for the positive, it will be worth it. One of the most powerful, loving things that ever happened to me was a very small thing. I was reeling in grief after my first marriage failed, and I was visiting with my friend Lorna who died last year. I started to cry. She said, “Come here.” She sat me down on the sofa by her and held me in her arms and just let me cry. It was the first time since being a small child that I was allowed to just be with my feelings and not have to plug them up or wipe my tears up with a tissue. I felt supported….loved…safe. And, I remember it still – over 20 years later. I try to give that gift to my friends and acquaintances because I remember how powerful that moment was for me. It was a small thing in the moment….but it spoke to me in a very big way.