When many people look at the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, they see them in their linear form, as they are meant to be worked in my opinion. However, Step Twelve which states, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs,” can be worked from the beginning. It is not something that is often stressed, but I found and continue to find it to be a crucial part of my recovery.
Although a newcomer may not have worked all twelve steps, and the first part of the 12th Step (“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps…”) is not fully applicable, they absolutely have something to offer other alcoholics. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains in Appendix II: Spiritual Experience, “The terms “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms.” In essence, what this says is that the terms spiritual awakening and spiritual experience mean a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism.
Many of us experience this “spiritual awakening” in the beginning of our stay in Alcoholics Anonymous. My experience is that I had a spiritual experience at around my 30th day of sobriety, where I became truly willing to work the program and open-minded to the ideas laid out before me. It is my opinion that this was enough of a “spiritual experience” to begin my path to sobriety, and be of service.
When I was new, I met people with a few days or weeks more than me, and they were of just as much service to me as anyone else in the program. Similarly, when I had 30 days, I spoke to people with less time, and when appropriate, shared what I had done so far. I had my first sponsee at just over five months sober (and yes, he is still sober today, and an amazing young man), I was secretary of a meeting before having 6 months, I spoke on Hospitals and Institutions panels regularly from 30 days on, and I returned to my treatment center immediately after I left to be of service to those there.
It has been my experience that service is a crucial part of sobriety. Regardless of how important time appears to be in many meetings, we ALL have something to offer our fellows. Being of service from early sobriety and offering what little I did have helped me build a strong foundation of my understanding for compassion and love in Alcoholics Anonymous.
The flip side to this is that I try my hardest to NEVER shut down a newcomer for any reason. When I was new, I was timid and afraid of what the “oldtimers” would think of me. I was afraid to reach out and offer help, because I was surrounded by people who had far more time than me. When I see two newcomers helping each other, I let it happen. I also encourage my sponsees to do their utmost to be of service where appropriate. Having commitments, speaking on panels and carrying the messages, and volunteering to help at meetings are great simple ways to be of service every day.