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If you’re moving into recovery then 12 Step meetings are one of the most important steps you can take to ensure you stay in recovery. Simply attending Alcoholics Anonymous or similar meetings can give you motivation and social accountability to stay in recovery – and that’s proven in scientific studies. For most of us, that starts out with simply attending 12 step meetings as a guest, then signing up to be a full member, eventually finding a sponsor, learning to speak at meetings, and eventually making commitments.
Giving to others is an important part of recovery. It’s an important part of learning to see yourself as you want to see yourself. So, it makes sense that service or commitments are an important part of your recovery in 12-Step.
Commitments in a 12-Step group are any steps that bind you to an action. Often, that means taking on acts of service to aid the group and to aid the meeting(s). That can mean:
However, normally when people say commitments, it’s about learning how to show up for others in sobriety. That means:
Often it also means taking steps to specifically aid the meeting itself. That might mean:
Essentially, there are very many ways you can make Commitments at a 12-step meeting. It doesn’t matter how you’re able to serve, because there is a role where you can fit and where you can add value.
Commitments are an important part of your recovery. They give you accountability. They force you to create perspective and goals. They ensure that you feel like you’re part of the group. And, they give you things to do so you can give back to the people helping you. You may be committing to helping make and pour the coffee for your next group but what you’re really doing is saying “I know you need me. I’ll show up clean and sober and capable of doing this job for these people how care about me”.
Moving into 12-Step, it can be difficult to stay motivated by people you don’t know and haven’t yet connected to. Getting to know people and offering to help can make you feel like less of an outsider.
Even the simple task of helping to fold away chairs and sweep the floor after a meeting can help you to break the ice of feeling like an outsider and connect with the group. And, that can do a lot for how you connect with the people in your group, how you’re able to share, and how you’re able to trust them.
Helping others can help you to learn to help yourself. That’s true no matter what you’re doing. For example, providing text support to your peers when they’re dealing with cravings can help you to better understand how to deal with your own cravings. Reaching out and calling your peers to ask for support for things like making coffee or chairing the next meeting can help you to learn how to connect with others and see their perspectives and points of view. Acting as a sponsor can help you to learn more about yourself, your recovery, and how recovery works for others. You may be helping others, but you’re still learning and you will always walk away with something new and new experiences to build your life on.
Everyone likes to feel valued. In fact, volunteering boosts your self-esteem and your self-image. Both of those are things that addiction harms. Feeling like you’re adding value is an important part of feeling like you’re part of a community. And, volunteering and offering service through Commitments will help you to feel that way. And it will be easy to see why, because you will be actively helping the people around you.
It’s a simple thing that the act of contributing to your community makes you feel like a valued member of that community. By adding value in that community, you can stop questioning your own part in it. That’s also true even if you already have a very strong place in the community and only need the assurance for yourself.
Social accountability is one of the most powerful motivators for change. It will keep you aware of the fact that you have to be there for someone. People rely on you to stay clean and sober, to show up, and to do the work. And that trust can be a powerful motivator to stay clean and sober, to show up, and to do the work. It’s also accountability for yourself because you’ll have goals that are in sight and reachable. I can’t lapse now because I committed to this thing on Tuesday and I will feel bad about myself if I don’t make that. Those little steps can be very good for motivating you to stay on track.
Working with people struggling with substance use disorders can often feel like a negative cycle. People use drugs or alcohol because they feel bad, the drugs or alcohol make them feel worse or cause them to make decisions that make them feel worse, then they use more drugs and alcohol. Making commitments means taking steps and agreeing to put in the work to make things better. You’re actively breaking the cycle and working to improve yourself and the people around you. That act of giving back to the people who are helping you will also carry on to the next group of recovering people who move into your group. Someone helped you find your feet and your voice when you moved into a 12-step meeting. Someone became your sponsor. Someone texted you or picked up the phone when you were struggling. And, now you get to give back, to break the cycle, and to make sure everyone around you gets the help.
Making commitments is a large part of recovery in 12 step groups. However, you shouldn’t do it blindly or without thinking. It’s important to consider your capabilities, the time you have, how much stress you feel, and what commitments you can make without them negatively impacting your recovery. For example, you wouldn’t want to talk to people struggling with cravings in early recovery because it might trigger you to drink or use. You don’t want to offer more time or physical effort than you can give. So, you want to start slow, start out with small commitments, and slowly increase them as you gauge their impact on your time, your mental health, and your recovery. Take turns, share work with people, and discuss what you can do – and let your group offer input as well. And, good luck.
If you or a loved one is seeking help for alcohol or other substance abuse, contact us at Stairway Resource Center today. At Stairway Resource Center we provide a 60 to 90-day outpatient program that takes place in an engaging and supportive community setting. We offer dual diagnosis treatment and daily group and individual therapy for our clients, in addition to fun community-based events and activities.
Michael D. Stone, MD has been in practice for over 30 years. He graduated from Medical School in 1986 and attended LA County/USC Medical Center Residency in the field of Emergency Medicine. He is a practicing E.R. doctor at 2 hospitals in the Southern California area. Dr. Stone also has a Specialty in Chemical Dependency and Addiction Medicine for 22 years. He is the Medical Director of numerous Residential and Outpatient Facilities in the Los Angeles area. Dr. Stone’s interests outside of medicine include a commercial pilot, all outdoor activities including skiing, fishing and boating.