There are many opportunities even for those who feel unable to speak at meetings or who are so situated that we cannot do much face-to-face Twelfth Step work. We can be the ones who take on the unspectacular but important tasks that make good Twelfth Step work possible, perhaps arranging for the coffee and cake after the meetings, where so many skeptical, suspicious newcomers have found confidence and comfort in the laughter and talk. This is Twelfth Step work in the very best sense of the word. “Freely ye have received; freely give . . . ” is the core of this part of Step Twelve.
Cake?! The meetings I’ve attended only have cake for anniversaries.
A couple of things. Unable to speak at meetings? When I started in AA, I was told not to say “no” if I could possibly say yes. I know many people still believe in that. I believe it saved my butt. I am introverted. I don’t like to be the center of attention. I don’t like to talk about myself. This is one of the reasons individual therapy didn’t work for me. Left to my own preference, I would never talk at an AA meeting. Still, my heart pounds, and I hate it.
I was told that was tough, that I had to give it away to keep it, that I am not so special that I can say no when others have to say yes, that other people spoke at meetings so that I could listen, and I needed to do the same. If I had waited until I was “ready” to speak at an AA meeting, I would not yet have spoken.
Mostly, I think, the people I come into contact with still believe this, but some don’t. Some people say “no,” they will not speak at a meeting, because ……….
- they’re not ready
- they don’t want to
- they haven’t done a 5th step
- just no
I hope they stay sober. I think I might not have stayed sober if those had been my thoughts. I do not know what Bill W had in mind when writing this part of the 12th step.
The coffee, the snacks, the washing of ash trays (back in the day), the putting up and taking down chairs, shoveling snow, arranging literature, collecting the money – all that is wonderful 12th step work. I’m grateful to the people who do it, and, again, I think I shouldn’t say no if I can possibly do the task.
“Freely ye have received; freely give . . . ” is the essence of it. The people who spoke at the meetings I went to, the people who answered the phone and offered their number or gave me a ride, they didn’t say no, the gave it to me without asking for anything in return. How ungrateful would I be not to give it back? I don’t want an AA where only people who are “ready” speak. I know who those people are, and I’m tired of hearing them.