When I first heard people say in S-Anon meetings that they were focusing on themselves, I thought this sounded like a selfish and self-absorbed fellowship. In my childhood, I was taught that giving to others first was the way to go. Being generous and self-sacrificing was being good. How could focusing on myself be of any good to anyone including me? Working through the Twelve Steps has been an opportunity for me to examine my motives and my relationship with God and others. Through the Twelve Steps and using other tools of the program, I have learned to focus on myself. I saw the truth about harm I had caused others and myself in my noble effort to be helpful. How could trying to be helpful be harmful? That didn’t make much sense to me for a long time. I still sometimes forget.
I found S-Anon was a fellowship that welcomed me and allowed me to collapse in exhaustion and despair. Even in program, I needed to feel helpful, worthwhile, and approved of. What would I do if I couldn’t do for others what they weren’t doing? There was plenty of stuff around that needed to be done. Who’s going to do it? Why not me?
Step Eight asks me to consider whom I have harmed, and make a note of them. I can see that I have harmed others and myself by helping too much. By being too busy, I have harmed my body, mind, and spirit. By doing for others what they could do themselves, I have not respected them or shown confidence in them. By taking on jobs that were too big for me, I have hurt my confidence in my ability to set boundaries. I am seeing that even after years in S-Anon recovery, I am still pulled into other people’s business and needs. I want to help and it seems good and harmless, yet my Higher Power seems to remind me that some things are not in HP’s will for me to do. I have abilities that are good for me to use and just because there are big needs out there, doesn’t mean I have to tackle them. Sigh.
I am grateful that I am doing service again, after a hiatus. I am using a service sponsor who knows me well enough to help me see that sitting on my hands is a good option. I don’t need to raise my hand for every job that needs to be done. Even when the job looks exciting and challenging, not every job has my name on it. Sometimes I have to grieve when letting go of opportunities. I get frustrated that something might not get done in a fashionable time. It is not easy to remember that not every job has my name on it. And not every job I see is a job that needs to be done. I can’t see the bigger picture or God’s timing. Now I am doing service and learning to set boundaries. I can enjoy my service and not feel worn out and resentful and unappreciated. Doing my service doesn’t mean I am ignoring my needs or having to please others in order to have worth. One day at a time I am willing to make amends by pausing and seeking God’s will for me in doing service. I can choose to do or not do service. In the big picture, maybe both options are actually being of service. I am grateful for progress not perfection.
Reprinted from the Summer 2012 issue of S-Anews©.