In 2015, I was recuperating at home from major surgery and could not go to the Portland OA meetings I usually attended. My OA meetings, then, transitioned to phone meetings. I heard a speaker talk about her recovery through applying the instructions found in the Big Book. I called the speaker and asked her to guide and sponsor me through the Big Book. Why not try it? Nothing else was working for me. She agreed. One of the most important principles she continuously impressed upon me was service.
At first, service was just to keep me from compulsive overeating. In working all of the Steps, my sponsor told me what Dr. Bob wrote on his prescription pad: "trust God, clean house, help others." A six-word synopsis of what I needed to do to become happy, joyous and free.
I started reaching out to newcomers I heard share at phone meetings. I started to sponsor according to the Big Book instructions. And I offered myself for outreach calls to any member who wanted to chat.
But sometimes there are no new sponsees or outreach calls. Or if I make a call and ask “how are you?” the other party may be just fine and really doesn’t need any help from me.
So I had to expand my definition of “service.” It wasn’t just for OA members. It had to expand to every single person that showed up in my life: sponsees and outreach callers, for sure. But I added friends, family, strangers, drivers, cashiers, waiters and waitresses---in other words, everyone to whom I could add an instant of joy. My job was to be of service to absolutely everyone.
Here’s the miracle of that: while I first started to do service to insure my abstinence, now (six years later), I actually WANT to do service for others. I WANT to make their lives a little cheerier by a kind word or gesture. I WANT to brighten someone else’s day. And the by-product of my desire is a fairly easy, smooth, and effective abstinence and food plan, not to mention healed relationships, peace of mind, weight loss, building of self-esteem, etc.
A couple of years ago I added something to serving others. In 2017, I started leaving small gifts, such as Dollar Tree pencils with a reindeer motif, with tips at restaurants. I gave them to the cashiers at McDonald’s, gas station attendants, my pharmacist, the receptionist at my dentist’s office. Anyone doing service for others would get a little treat from me. And I soon added an inexpensive something to every other holiday during the year. I just wanted to give that other person a smile: a heart-shaped candy at Valentine’s Day, fun stickers for Independence Day or Thanksgiving.
You’d think I gave these random people gold nuggets. They smile, they say “thank you,” some say “you’ve made my day.” Even the grumpiest lighten up a bit. But I don’t do any of this to get a “thank you.” NONE of this simple giving has anything to do with me. But it sure has everything to do with my abstinence, my self-esteem, and my relationship with my Higher Power.
And that’s the gift I give myself. It works when other activities fail.
Happy Holidays, my fellows. And happiness throughout the coming year!