If you are among the millions of those in recovery who regularly attend 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meetings, you already know that the Twelfth Step work involves sharing the A.A. message with other alcoholics \u2013 and that such an endeavor can help keep you sober. But there\u2019s a lot of confusion over how you get to the point of sharing the message \u2013 without coming across as an evangelist or pushing an agenda on someone. Just what does it mean to be of service to others in recovery, and how do you do it? Here are some answers. Words from Bill W. Why not go right to the source to find out what A.A. means about service? In A.A.\u2019s Legacy of Service (\/\/www.aa.org\/lang\/en\/catalog.cfm?origpage=203&product=62), Bill W. states it quite succinctly: \u201cOur Twelfth Step \u2013 carrying the message \u2013 is the basic service that the A.A. Fellowship gives; this is our principle aim and the main reason for our existence.\u201d Bill W. goes on to say that is more than just a set of principles. Rather, it is a society of alcoholics in action. Being Ready to Help \u2013 Anytime, Anywhere The simplest explanation of what it means to be of service to others in recovery \u2013 and this also includes recovery from drugs, compulsive gambling, compulsive sexual behavior, workaholism, compulsive spending, substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorder \u2013 is that you\u2019re ready to help someone in recovery who\u2019s in need -- anytime and anywhere. Maybe that\u2019s being on the other end of the line when your friend (or 12-step group acquaintance) calls you crying and begging for help. You don\u2019t have to be his or her sponsor to lend your support. Just the fact that you take the time to listen to the person\u2019s concerns is often enough to get them over the immediate issue. Maybe their sponsor wasn\u2019t available and the individual thought to call you because you hit it off together at various meetings or somehow seemed to share a similar background. It could be offering to pick up and take a newcomer to a meeting or buying the person a cup of coffee during a time of need. So, one-on-one help is an important part of being in service to others in recovery. But it\u2019s not the only way you can help accomplish the work of Step Twelve. Become Active in Your Local Group A.A. isn\u2019t governed like an organization, but it does rely on the combined expertise and volunteerism of individuals in local groups, the local intergroup or central office, institution committees, and general service. Remember back to when you first started going to meetings, how confused and a little afraid you were? What you were really afraid of was what you didn\u2019t know \u2013 how A.A. worked and what was expected of you. Then, someone came forward and invited you in and suddenly this meeting place didn\u2019t seem quite so intimidating after all. Part of helping out in your local A.A. meeting is as easy as greeting newcomers and helping to put them at ease with a smile, a hearty handshake, and a few gentle words of welcome. Becoming active in your local group could also involve volunteering to set out the chairs, ensure the coffee is brewed and hot, that the cups are all arranged. By the same token, after the meeting is over, there\u2019s the breakdown of chairs, cleaning the coffee pot, disposing of the cups, taking out the trash, and other duties. Someone has to do this and even if there\u2019s a person who regularly does it, you can offer to help to speed things along. What do such simple tasks have to do with being of service? Actually, a lot. What happens is that you begin to incorporate being of service in how you live your life every day. Maybe it\u2019s a small thing to help out at a meeting, but it\u2019s certainly a start. From there, many other instances of being of service can grow. For example, let\u2019s say that your local chapter plans to get involved with other groups to conduct a seminar, or work on state conference details as part of a committee. Maybe your group has a jobs fair or skills training workshop. You can volunteer to help out, lend your expertise, put out literature, make phone calls, whatever. Ask Your Sponsor By the time you arrive at the Twelfth Step, you\u2019ll probably have many discussions with your sponsor under your belt about any number of points related to the Steps, the Twelve Traditions, and the Twelve Concepts of Service. But, if you haven\u2019t touched on being of service to any great extent, now is certainly the time to ask your sponsor about how you can get involved. Chances are pretty good that your sponsor will encourage you to become active in service early on. In fact, some long-time fellowship members refer to A.A. as a kind of 36-point program: 12 steps, 12 traditions, and 12 concepts. There\u2019s really no mystery about service work. In fact, your sponsor is doing service work when he takes you under his wing and tries to make you aware of what A.A. is as a whole. Think about the things you and your sponsor talk about. It\u2019s very likely that he has made an effort to interest you in service work beyond the group. Read the Literature Want to start out as soon as possible? Other long-time A.A. members, sponsors, and those involved in service work advise that you read the Big Book and A.A. Comes of Age. Not only will you \u201cfind yourself,\u201d but you\u2019ll also think of many ways that you can start being of service. There\u2019s also The A.A. Service Manual Combined with Twelve Concepts for World Service (\/\/www.aa.org\/lang\/en\/catalog.cfm?origpage=101&product=100), also by Bill W. The manual begins with a history of A.A. services and then goes on to explain the Conference structure and the importance of its year-round work. There\u2019s also the Conference Charter and General Service Board By-Laws, if you want to get in-depth into that. But most important is the section on The Concepts, as set forth by Bill W. These are the principles of service that have grown out of A.A.\u2019s accomplishments \u2013 and its mistakes \u2013 from the beginning. If nothing else, reading this publication will prove eye-opening \u2013 and inspiring. Be Active to Stay Sober There certainly is no requirement that you have to go into service. But many in recovery relate that they felt they were only able to remain sober because they became active in service to others. How can this be? The truth is that being abstinent takes hard work. You can\u2019t just sit back and say to yourself that you\u2019re doing okay so far, maybe you can skip meetings and still get by. You know where that gets you \u2013 a quick slip or major relapse can\u2019t be far off. You know you have to actively work the 12 steps, and you can\u2019t take sobriety for granted. When you do, something will happen that will rock your stability and you\u2019ll be ill-prepared to handle the challenge. You may have heard the stories yourself, or read about them in the A.A. literature. One member says that he doubted he\u2019d have been able to stay sober for 26 years without being in service. Another proclaims that service is a part of who he is. Good Intentions are a Good Start Don\u2019t worry about the right way to do something. Start off by just trying to help \u2013 the aforementioned greeting newcomers with a smile, being of assistance wherever and whenever you can. While some may question whether it\u2019s because they want to be liked, need recognition and approval from others, or just because they like A.A. and being in the group, as long as your intention and motivation is good, you will be okay. In other words, don\u2019t rack your brain looking or waiting for a pure motive. Just get going and start doing. General Service May Not Be For Everyone For many in recovery, general service is perhaps going a bit too far. Rest easy on this one. General service may not be for everyone. You don\u2019t need to feel forced or pressured into working on committees or going into intergroup and area institutions \u2013 and no one in A.A. will try to push such an agenda on you if you\u2019re not interested or ready. Sure, they may suggest it, even encourage it. You\u2019d expect that, since Dr. Bob himself once said (more or less in these words) that if we fail to acquire a spirit of service, we will have missed out on the greatest gift A.A. has to offer \u2013 the ability to give our sobriety away and so keep it. For information on the service structure of A.A. in the United States and Canada \u2013 including a description of all the elements linking individual members and groups with the General Service Conference, see Inside A.A.: Understanding the Fellowship and its Service Agencies (\/\/www.aa.org\/lang\/en\/catalog.cfm?origpage=185&product=43). Service is actually the Third Legacy of A. A. \u2013 following behind Recovery, the First Legacy, and Unity, the Second Legacy. As the pamphlet states: \u201cService to others and to the Fellowship reminds us that we owe our sobriety to the work of earlier members, and that our continued sobriety may depend on the hundreds of thousands who still need to learn of A.A.\u201d And helping some of these many newcomers may be part of your future. That\u2019s it, in a nutshell. Simple and uncomplicated, giving of yourself and being of service to others in recovery is one of the best ways to strengthen your own recovery. In essence, you give and you receive. Twice blessed.