T he sixth chapter of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is titled Into Action. There is no chapter entitled Into Thought or Into Feeling.
Chapter 7: Working with Others
Chapter Seven is titled Working With Others. The first line reads, “Practical Experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.” This sentence is extremely clear. “NOTHING WILL SO MUCH INSURE IMMUNITY FROM DRINKING as intensive work with other alcoholics.” The book states clearly that intensive work with other alcoholics is the most powerful tool to staying sober.
This chapter of the Big Book discusses not only being a sponsor and sponsee, but also working in general with alcoholics. I will not go over the contents of the chapter, as my goal is not to reiterate what the book says, rather share my experience with why this is such an important chapter.
Working with others is one of the staples of Twelve-Step recovery. I only know my experience with the Twelve Steps, and it tells me that being of service is of utmost importance. I had a sponsee present when I took my six month chip. Many people told me it was too early to be sponsoring other men, but I did as my sponsor directed. He made the point that Bill and Bob went through the steps in a few days, and were taking others through the steps within a few weeks.
The gifts of working with others (for me) have been innumerable. What I have gained from being of service in the Twelve-Step program would have been unfathomable to me while I was still using. I love seeing a sponsee prosper, I learn from them, I learn to turn my will and life over, I get osutdie of my head, and I learn compassion and selflessness.
Working with others essentially helps me continue my growth, and pass it along to others. I am a true believer that I was saved to save. I am only sober so that I may pass the message along to those who are suffering. However, Buddhism offers me somewhat of a different perspective on this.
Being of Service in Buddhism
Compassion is one of the main tenets of Buddhism. In Mahayana Buddhism, compassion is one of the most important principles toward achieving enlightenment. Compassion does not only apply to those in the Twelve-Step program or close friends. Compassion should be extended toward everyone and everything.
Buddhism does not use the term “being of service” very often, but it does discuss our constant thought of others, and what we may do for them. Twelve-Step programs often discuss carrying the message to other alcoholics and being of service. Buddhism, however suggests we must act with compassion to all.
I do not mean to claim that Twelve-Step programs do not condone compassion toward all beings. I merely wish to point out that the Big Book and Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole seem to focus on being of service to other alcoholics and drug addicts. Buddhism, on the other hand, encourages compassion toward all individuals.
In the section regarding Twelve-Step programs and being of service, I discussed the rewards I received from working with sponsees. Buddhism has taught me that the benefit of helping others is simply the other person feeling better. The idea of self is a false perception. Helping another being is in reality helping ourselves, as we all belong to the same energy.
When my head is running or I find myself distressed, I know that thinking of others will undoubtedly help me. I also know that sometimes I do not feel like fulfilling a commitment to another, but if I don’t I feel horrible. Being of service to me is as simple as putting somebody else before me as often as I can.