“Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs.”
– Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 20
No matter how much I drank, I never felt satisfied – I always felt a gnawing void in the pit of my stomach, one that would relentlessly scream for more, more, more. I would be in the midst of a complete black-out, and continue drinking until I could no longer open my eyes or hold a bottle to my lips. I had no idea what fulfillment felt like; all I knew was the desperate aching of discontentment. All I knew was a constant search for gratification – one that remained entirely inconclusive, because I was ceaselessly searching in all the wrong places. In bottles, in cans, in sex, in booze-fueled train rides to far away places. In bars, in parties, in colorful pills, in external validation from friendly strangers. Nothing was working. But what else was there? Some things worked temporarily, but only until they no longer did. And then, at the end of the day (or in the very early morning), I was left alone and unoccupied – hollow as ever, aching and throbbing and wondering why God (or whatever it was, if it was anything) was keeping me around for. I certainly felt like a waste of space, and I had a hard time imagining that my life was going to go anywhere. But then again, and here it is – I had no idea what fulfillment felt like.
Fulfillment in Altruism
Thinking of others does not come easily to the alcoholic. An alcoholic in his cups is an unlovely creature, indeed. While actively drinking ourselves to death, we often think things like, “Why am I still alive? I am in pain; I am not happy. Why do I feel this way? Why is life so cruel to me?” We rarely stop to think about how our actions are affecting others, and much less about how helping others might make us feel better about ourselves. The concept eludes us. Helping others is as foreign as attending a social event without an adequate pregame. It makes no sense. Even those who have years of sobriety under their belts, who have undergone significant psychic changes and have truly been rocketed into a 4th dimension of existence… even those who have adopted the principles in their entirety and strive to live by them every day will slip back into selfishness on a regular basis. It is human nature to put ourselves first, and it is healthy and there is nothing very wrong with it (unless we only think of ourselves, and neglect the altruistic nature of the program altogether).
Service in Alcoholics Anonymous
In reality, before we truly give something away, we must first possess it ourselves. But this is not to say that we cannot begin giving back as soon as we commit to a different way of life. Showing up to meetings, picking up small service commitments like making coffee or greeting at the door – this is enough! At the beginning, this will sustain us. We must allow ourselves a bit of breathing room as we work through the steps with a sponsor. Once we complete steps one through twelve (honestly and thoroughly), we are equipped to begin working with others on an entirely different level. We, ourselves, can begin sponsoring others. And once we do, that feeling of fulfillment that has eluded us for so long will come crashing down on us, hard and fast, and we will understand why the program has worked to keep millions of men and women sober for years and years and years. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous relies very heavily on the eventual development of a strong relationship with a higher power – though another indispensable cornerstone is that of altruism. Brotherly love is a fundamental principle, and long-term sobriety rests on our newfound ability to care for and constantly be of service to others.
The Ability to Give Back
If all of us lived for ourselves and ourselves alone, civilization would quickly cease to exist. Acts of kindness and altruism, big and small, make the world a pleasant place. For some, it may be difficult to find ways in which to contribute to the greater good. Us alcoholics and addicts, on the other hand, were blessed with a lifelong opportunity to give back – we are uniquely equipped to help others who struggle with the same problem that we struggled with and overcame. How lucky we are! We have found a solution to the largest problem we ever faced, and now we have the ability to help others who are struggling with that very same problem.
It is not until we begin helping others that we will feel an authentic and lasting relief from the aching void in the pit of our souls.
The Next Chapter program of addiction and trauma recovery is grounded in a proven combination of intensive therapeutic treatment, holistic methodologies, and 12-Step immersion. We thoroughly introduce our patients to the 12-Step program of recovery, making sure that they are familiarized with the literature, principles, and suggested work, and transporting them to outside meetings four times per week (we additionally hold in-house meetings 2 times per week). We encourage each of our patients to begin meeting with a sponsor while he is in treatment, and allow our patients to attend outside meetings with a sober support or sponsor if their pass is approved. For more information on our male-exclusive program of recovery, please feel free to contact us today.