Working With Newcomers
Newly sober addicts are strongly encouraged to immerse themselves in the program, including volunteering for AA and working with newcomers even if you’re a newcomer yourself.
It’s commonly said that one should never say no to AA: if asked to be a sponsor, speak at a meeting, be a secretary, treasurer, set-up person, coffee maker or cleaner-upper at a meeting, one is supposed to say yes (though there are some minimum-sobriety requirements for some positions).
Like the rehab patients who took care of me while I was detoxing as a way of paying forward the gratitude of having been taken care of themselves, sober addicts are encouraged to freely give away what they’ve been given. This isn’t charity work. It’s a reciprocal deal because helping others is not only good for those being helped, it’s beneficial for the volunteer too. It keeps him involved, it builds a sober support network and acts as a constant reminder of the positive benefits of working a program. Having commitments at meetings can also insure sometimes reluctant participants to show up because others are relying on them.
Volunteering, especially with the newly sober, reminds you where you’ve been and can easily return to again if you pick up a drink or drug. It serves to “get you out of your head” – interfering with self-obsession and listening to the wrong voices in the “committee” of your mind’s motivations. It’s impossible to be self-centered, I was told, while working on behalf of others. And, since addiction is a shame-based disease that results in isolation, volunteering builds self esteem and acts as an antidote to seclusion.
Rehab encouraged me to use my experience to help others even before I was officially released from detox. At the time, I was astonished because as negative as I was about all things related to sobriety I couldn’t see why anyone would listen to what I had to say. Remarkably, I was told that I should share that negativity with detox patients who were newer than me because they probably felt the same way and it would be a fellowship-building exercise.
They were right. Helping others was so beneficial that after obtaining the required 90 days of sobriety, I volunteered at the rehab, working a four-hour shift every Friday for two years before scaling down to once-a-week.