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Service Without Expectation


In my free time I enjoy trolling 3-4 drug forums. This is a habit I have carried over from my active addiction into recovery. Before the hairs on the back of your neck begin to rise, let me promise you; I spend more than a majority of my time browsing the recovery sub-forums. I never really noticed these sections prior to getting clean. Funny. Anyways, I was reading around and I came across a story that triggered a number of mixed emotions I have felt regarding the communicative patterns present in these environments. It was written by a gentleman who claims he terminated his relationship with his girlfriend as a result of his IV heroin use spiraling out of control.


Initially, I felt both sympathy and respect for this man. He had set a healthy boundary in his relationship. He either didn’t want to risk hurting his girlfriend, or she gave him an ultimatum: heroin or me. I decided to offer my condolences and sought out some specificity. I wanted to know the rationale behind him severing ties. Once he clarified, I would be able to better tailor my advice/support to cater to his needs. Instead of offering clarity, he posted the details of his one man pity-party. “Booooo-freaking-Hoooo. Poor me,” I thought to myself. I was significantly disturbed and (I’m not gonna lie) slightly offended by the lack of consideration and gratitude this man possessed. He cried out for help and I answered his call, which was shot down. I hadn’t felt such a sense of betrayal and letdown in some time. I decided I would chew on this tough piece of fat for awhile to see where I could go with my new thoughts and feelings.


I kept on thinking about how this made me feel, and my resentment towards this fellow grew bigger and bigger as the rest of my day went on. I made plans to go home after my evening AA meeting and give this dude a taste of my medicine. I had a clear-cut plan and I was going to stick to it. At the meeting some sort of psychic change occurred inside me. My sponsor volunteered to share, and he conveyed to a tee the message I needed to hear. He shared about his experience sponsoring newcomers. He got in to how he used to take it personally when a sponsee would relapse chronically. He described the exact same feelings I was then experiencing. Each successive word he spoke impregnated a deeper sense of pride in me. I nodded my head vigorously. What he said after this is what has rattled me to my core.


He got in to describing the nature of service work. It is committing an act from a place of goodwill without the expectation that it will be reciprocated, appreciated, taken to heart, or even recognized. The light turned on in my mind. I had already known this, and had simply lost touch with my sense of intent. I remember very clearly learning about the Karpman Triangle in rehab (see: ) and asking the therapist giving the lecture if this concept could be applied to servicework. Quite simply put, if you come from the place of the rescuer, what you are committing is not an act of service, but an act of selfishness and entitlement. The way in which acts of service “keep people sober” makes crystal clear sense to me now.

By Andrew T.

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Filed under: Featured, Recovery · Tags: AA, AA meetings, Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Recovery, relapse, resentments, Service work, sober is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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