Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction using the Twelve Step Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous involves a lot of work on self, but a basic tenet of 12 Step recovery is summed up in this common guideline: In order to keep your recovery or sobriety, you must give it away. Or, put another way, using the words of the AA preamble: “Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholicss to achieve sobriety.” Here is how NA states this concept in their publication, Who, What, How and Why (White Booklet): “The newcomer is the most important person at any meeting, because we can only keep what we have by giving it away.”

Often, members of AA or NA, even those with long term recovery, may feel that they are not good speakers, don’t seem to have made great progress in working the 12 Steps of recovery, or in some other ways think they may not have anything to offer the newcomer or have anything “to give away.” I ran across this quote in one of the daily meditation books I read, which is encouraging in its message that any individual in recovery may help another, even with only a smile directed toward another at a meeting:

“They might not need me;

but they might.

I’ll let my head be just in sight;

a smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.”

–Emily Dickinson

As always, comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams, 06/22/2015,