We only keep what we have by giving it away. Yet another saying that completely befuddled me when I first came into recovery.

What I’ve been given through recovery is far-reaching; a ball of light that extends into every area of my life. My resilience has increased, my networks have value, my ability to experience joy has soared and the satisfaction I have from being a fully-fledged productive member of society has no bounds.

So why the hell would I want to give that away? If anything I want to keep it very tight, very secret and not share a thing. This is my thing, this is what I have worked hard for and this is what I continue to work at. I deserve this. I don’t want to deplete my happiness by giving to others.

But did someone else help me get to where I am today? Well, maybe.

Perhaps my sponsor invested time, effort and passion in me. And maybe also the people I called at random hours when it was all going a bit wrong. Potentially the person I rang when I came back from a relapse. And maybe those people in meetings where I sat entirely broken, the ones who gave me a hug, made me a cup of tea and spoke to me in the break. The ones whocontacted me the next day to see how I was doing. The ones that had made that meeting happen. The one that set out the life-saving literature, the one that chaired in such a way it gave me a safe space to share my fears and be supported. Okay, so maybe other people might have helped me to get to the place I’m at today.

What does it mean then, to give it away? Doing service isn’t necessarily having an official role. Yes, those roles are vital in the recovery community. Without people to open up buildings, welcome people in, offer tea, offer literature or chair meetings our community would cease to exist. But that’s not the only way to do service. Do you work shifts or have childcare conundrums? There are so many ways to do service that don’t mean a regular weekly commitment. There are committees you can get involved in – just ask at your home group. There are also non-traditional ways: turn up early and help put the chairs out. Stay after and help clear up. Make a point of contacting newcomers and those who have said they are struggling.

As an addict I found it easy to take on service. The problem was that, as an addict, I took on too much. I tried to help at every meeting I attended and soon enough the pressure got to me. I went back to some of them, tail between my legs and said “I took on so much because I had nothing. Now that I’m clean, life is happening and I have too much.” Now I have service at one meeting. I chair for a beautiful group and it’s magical. I still do some random events like shares further afield or at detox centres, but I keep my commitments within my limits.

Recently I’ve started doing a new kind of service and it’s the most daunting one yet – I’m a sponsor. I was terrified to agree initially. Filled with dread and fear that I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t think I would have the time to support someone and I thought I wasn’t experienced or ‘well’ enough. With more than a years’ clean time under my belt and a swift kick from my sponsor, I soon agreed. And after agreeing I remembered to be complimented – this person asked because she respected my recovery and my programme.

When my head runs away with me and I’m finding it difficult, I have to remind myself that the role of a sponsor is to guide someone through the twelve steps. It is not to ‘fix’ someone’s life, take on their problems or take responsibility for them. At first I was living in an irrational fear that if I didn’t cancel all my plans and leave work the second they text then they might relapse. And if they did – it would then be all my fault. My sponsor asked me what I did if I needed support when she wasn’t available. I replied that I tried contacting other women. ‘Oh,’ she said ‘that seems simple enough’. Those four words made the difference.

We only keep what we have by giving it away, but remember – we cannot give what we do not have.