12-Step in Real Life: What Kind of Service Work Can I Do?

12-Step in Real Life: What Kind of Service Work Can I Do?

12-Step culture places heavy emphasis on the value of service or helping others. Yet many people enter recovery feeling broken, hopeless, and worthless. It is completely natural to be baffled by the concept of helping someone else when you know you need help first. But nobody expects you to be an expert in recovery. Most of us have other skills that are highly useful to our immediate and broader communities. Using those skills to work 12-Step in real life is not as hard as you might think.

Even if all you can do is help one person pair their socks or write a letter, you can help others. It is easy to take things like the use of your hands and basic literacy for granted. However, you may not realize there is always an asset in you that others need access to. Learn some ways to incorporate service work into your recovery by using 12-Step in real life through programs such as the one at Laguna Shores Recovery Center.

Share and Serve in 12-Step Meetings

Newcomers in 12-Step meetings often loathe to share or even say their names. But when you do so, you’re allowing others to help you. Also, consider that someone in the room you may not even know needs to hear what you have to say. Perhaps they relate after feeling alone. But you’ll never know if you remain silent.

Remember, even raising your hand for sponsorship at the end of a 12-Step meeting helps the potential sponsors, not just you. The 12th Step traditionally requires taking another person through the recovery process. So technically, you’re allowing your sponsor to complete or continue their program. As a support system, 12-Step culture allows mutual service. Guiding you through your recovery helps your sponsor practice theirs.

You can go to the next level and serve in your home 12-Step group. Someone always needs to make coffee, pass out keytags, or simply raise their hand to read the literature. Volunteering here is a great way to get your feet wet and practice serving with humility.

12-Step in Real Life: Volunteering in Your Community

Your neighbors, friends, and wider community beyond the 12-Step world always are in need of service work. The world’s social problems aren’t going anywhere, but fortunately, there are many organizations you can help out in your free hours. These types of groups can always use extra pairs of hands:

  • Homeless outreach organizations: Between serving food, operating clothing exchanges, storing documents, and performing street services, these places can always use short and long-term help.
  • Domestic violence shelters: The battery remains an enormous problem worldwide and disproportionately impacts women and marginalized groups. Regardless of gender, these organizations are in urgent need of any time, money, and skills they can get. Tasks may include gathering items for foster children or taking calls, depending on your abilities, qualifications, and commitment.
  • Animal shelters: Dog walkers, sitters for playtime, and folks to just plain cuddle with kittens are always in demand. If human tragedy is a bit much for you in early recovery, try bonding with your furry friends.
  • Harm reduction groups: If you like helping other people in recovery, harm reduction is a great way to get involved.  It is rewarding to work, but you may wish to evaluate with a qualified professional whether you will be triggered by the presence of materials like syringes and Narcan. If so, you can stick to making hygiene kits, folding pamphlets, or helping out with awareness and social media.

DIY Service Projects Any 12-Step Member Can Start

If you look around and see there aren’t many resources in your area, you can practice the 12-Step principle of service and leadership by establishing your own. Sometimes, simple problems have simple solutions. Here are some examples of services you can largely source materials for free and get started alone or with few helping hands.

  • Book Exchanges and Donation Drops: If you can construct a shelf or box, you can technically build a library. At the very least, you can donate used books to local schools or projects such as the Inside Books Project, which allows prisoners to access literacy materials.
  • Local Food Exchanges: Food insecurity continues to plague 10% of Americans, and there are never enough resources closest to those who need help the most. Setting up a simple pantry or fridge is a fairly straightforward task. One person can drive to multiple food banks, then simply leave the items in a single location with a simple sign. Of course, you can amplify knowledge of your project with social media and even old-fashioned flyers to encourage more participation and reach more people in need.
  • Clothing Closets and Swaps: People of every size need clothing but cannot always afford the luxury of shopping. Clothes are surprisingly easy to source for little money and even for free. Many programs exist to offer low-cost clothing. Shops such as Goodwill Bins and many thrift stores sell clothing by the pound or for under a dollar per item. You may have to do some searching to find the best resources in your area. Public swaps are easy to set up and advertise as online events. You can start with just your neighborhood. One great resource for drumming up local support for any of these efforts is your local Buy Nothing project, which connects neighbors directly for the free exchange of goods.

The Big Book chapter ”Working with Others” offers some of the best advice the 12-Step program has to offer on seeking and receiving peer support. Review the concepts and remember that service can take on many forms. Don’t be afraid to recruit fellow group members to get these simple projects off the ground. You never know how big the plant will grow once you plant a seed. Laguna Shores Recovery Center is here to help you grow. 

Service is a critical part of 12-step and recovery in general, but of course, you must put your own recovery first. At Laguna Shores Recovery Center, we understand and can help guide you toward the appropriate amount of self-care that doesn’t deviate into selfishness. Learning to make the best decisions for long-term sobriety is a task that requires trial, error, support, advice, and persistence. But we have seen people some would call hopeless go on to lead lives full of purpose and joy. If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance use disorder, don’t wait or be afraid to ask for help. Call our expert treatment care team today at (866) 774-1532.