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Recovery Tip: Making the Time to Help Others is a Great Way to get out of our Head and stop Picking

I often joke when sharing my recovery story about being "abducted" into happiness by recovering addicts and alcoholics. I don't share it as much now due to our society's growing tendency to be professionally offended. But my sponsor used to say, “See that person over there? They’ve got a bad back. You could help them out by mowing their lawn. They’ve got some solid recovery time; they might be good to know along the way.” Initially, my knee-jerk reaction was, “WTF, I didn’t agree to do yard work to stay clean.” However, that's how recovery worked back then; I followed the instructions without protest. In the process of mowing and doing yard work at “Pete” and “Beth’s” home, I found a form of temporary relief and freedom in the absence of my constant thoughts.

I learned other skills as I continued making myself useful to disrupt the relentless "thought train" that always seemed ready to derail and explode. I learned to make coffee for 30-50 people at meetings, to set up chairs, and during that time, I discovered what “death-row” meant in meetings. I realized that I had once been a part of that particular clique before being "abducted" by those with more recovery time than me. My Grand-sponsor once said, “I didn’t know that a life of giving could free me from myself.” That resonated with me. This giving was the fruit borne from the seeds of making healing connections that, as a result of investing time and energy in my community, bloomed in all areas of my life. True is true.

These connections and relationships brought an unexpected benefit that I didn't realize until years later, lacking the perspective. Learning to be of service taught me to trust and even genuinely like people, rather than interacting with them solely for ulterior motives, as was the case during my active addiction. Understanding that not everyone has an angle and is trying to take something from me was a valuable lesson. That's not to say there aren’t "bad actors" in the rooms of recovery; there certainly are! We don't all heal at the same rate, as our degrees of dysfunction vary. Everyone's different, and remembering that has been helpful for me. Yet, some of the healthiest, kindest, wisest, and most beautiful relationships I’ve experienced, about 80% of them, came through the rooms of recovery.

The invitation is to put ourselves out there for those who may need a little help, whether at home, with others in recovery, or at the office. The principle is to break free from our silo of thought. Accidentally, making a friend is just a bonus. It can be an A.F.G.O. (Another F*cking Growth Opportunity) to allow ourselves to be inconvenienced slightly. After all, it can't possibly be more inconvenient than being caught in the grip of active addiction. That's for f*ck’s sake, sure. Discover!

—Dignity and Grace

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Dec 13, 2023

This hits home for me, on both the recovery and Buddhist front (not two, not one?). The AA big book emphasizes this principle, and my Zen group has been going through the Diamond Sutra which also places a lot of focus on giving. Thank you for sharing.

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