Giving It Away to Keep It


We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  AA Promises

Without question, I have seen a shift in my motivations for my actions in recovery.  As a child of the 60s social activism, I had always framed my behavior in support of the underdog and the oppressed.  I certainly don’t mean to dismiss all of those years of effort.  Yet early on in recovery, I understood that a significant part of my motivation resulted from a rebellion and anger at whatever I felt was actually oppressing me.  Despite some very good intentions, relationships were often formed based on what I was going to get out of it.

I don’t suggest that in recovery I evolved into some sort of ultimate altruistic do-gooder.  But I have the occasional clarity of thought today that an action I am about to take is not going to benefit me in terms of economic, sexual, career, or any other directly self-serving motivation.  To be mindful of that fact is an important recognition.

This leads to a discussion in our AA meeting last night – reaching out to others.  The person raising the topic noted that outreach could be either for our own needs in reaching out for help or for the needs of others in reaching out to help.  I was struck that these needs are often the same.

In my first 90 days of recovery, every Friday I went to the local indigent detox center and spent 45 minutes with folks who did not particularly want to be there and who did not particularly want me to interrupt their morning television with my impromptu AA meetings.  During that first 90 day period of sobriety, I needed that outreach to stay sober myself.  That process also planted in my head the understanding that the solution to my problems was being in service to others.  I never left that facility feeling worse than when I walked in.  Most generally, I always found an answer to whatever problem I faced at the time.  I find the same is true in going to meetings today, talking to the addict who still suffers, or simply when being in service, and knowing I have nothing of selfish value to gain, that I truly gain the most.

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