Skip to content

Service Work: Giving Back in AA, Large and Small

When we’ve overcome the immense burden of drink addiction, we’re bound to feel gratitude for what the program has so freely given us. The small asks from our sponsors and meetings do not compare with the gift of removing the immense misery of addiction.

So we start to think about ways we can give back. We think about what we can do for the program outside of the voluntary money contributions. Thankfully, there are numerous ways for us to engage in service work.

Service work and commitments also help us in our times of need. Often we need to engage in service even when it’s not feelings of gratitude that we bring. Service takes us out of ourselves when we’re feeling anxious, scared, or angry, so it protects us from slipping.

No matter the reasons we perform service work, the methods are the same. Let’s look at the ways we can give and describe them.


The most common way to give back is to sponsor others. Sponsorship depends on you having worked the steps yourself so that you have a message to share. If you haven’t worked the steps, get those done so you can engage in the enjoyment of sponsorship.

Becoming a sponsor shouldn’t be a passive activity where you only raise your hand when the meeting chairperson asks who’s available to sponsor. Instead, you can actively seek out potential sponsees by talking with newcomers and getting to know them. If someone picks up a white chip at the meeting, that’s a good queue for you to introduce yourself, get to know them, and offer your phone number. Ask for their phone number and check in with them the next day as well.

Engaging other people and showing interest is a more sure way that they’ll ask you to sponsor them. Reaching out to them on your own accord puts you ahead of most people by showing interest and your willingness to help. Newcomers take note of your enthusiasm and already know someone to help and work the steps with them.

Chairing Meeting

Next, you can perform service by leading meetings. Being a chairperson means you have to find a discussion leader beforehand, set up the meeting, pass out readings, and manage the donations.

The time commitment is smaller than full-blown sponsorship and puts you in the center of the action. You’re not passively listening in the meeting and passing the time. You are contributing one of the most important forms of service to ensure the meeting goes off well.

Attend a Business Meeting: Take on a service position

Thirdly, business meetings are a great way to find where the meeting needs volunteers. Business meetings are usually held every quarter, either before or after the regularly scheduled meeting. You may need to ask a homegroup member when the next meeting is.

Business meetings are also a great way to see how the upkeep and administration of overall AA processes work. There’s a whole world of broad activity that occurs outside of the 1 hour of a meeting. You’ll learn about how votes are held for donation handling, paying rent, building up supplies, and changes to the meeting format.

Ultimately, you’ll discover the democratic ideology that permeates the entire program, all the way up to the global service office.

If you stick around the business meeting, you may be encouraged to apply for a service role. Let’s describe some of these roles.


The treasurer is one of the most trusted positions since it involves managing the group’s finances. This position is also one of the hardest to fill since many people don’t feel comfortable or skilled at keeping good books and records.

However, most of the time, we’re not talking about vast sums of money, and record-keeping isn’t as complex as many people believe. For the most part, you keep track of what goes into the bank and what goes out to pay for group necessities, such as rent, coffee, and chips. The time commitment should not be a burden for smaller meetings.


The secretary has a vital role in keeping a meeting organized. Tasks include:

  • Taking the minutes of the business meeting
  • Overseeing the business meeting, such as which topics are brought to a vote and recording yeas/nays
  • Keeping an archive of meeting information.

The time commitment is probably a bit less than what’s required of a treasurer, but the secretary still plays a vital role in service.

General Service Representative

The General Service Representative, or GSR, brings the group’s voice to their area’s assembly. Each area is like a district that groups fall under. The area usually meets quarterly or bi-quarterly to vote on matters that affect the broader district.

Literature Representative

The literature rep makes sure official texts are stocked and highlighted during meetings. Literature includes

  • Pamphlets and information brochure
  • Big Book, 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, and other official texts
  • Grapevine subscription information and perhaps old archives to give out

Coffee Crew

The coffee crew is straightforward: show up early to start brewing and stay later to clean up. It also includes the responsibility for ensuring enough supply on hand, shopping for more if needed, and keeping receipts so that the treasurer can reimburse you.

Showing up early/leaving late

An essential aspect of getting into any service at meetings is arriving early and sticking by after the meeting ended. Many people show up when the meeting starts and leave at the very minute it ends. Doing the bare minimum will not suffice for finding ways to be of service.

As a rule of thumb, show up 20 minutes early and stay 20 minutes late. This isn’t always possible for every meeting you attend, but the rule gives plenty of time for you to learn of new opportunities. Plus, it gives you a chance to meet home group members and regulars.

Going into hospitals and institutions

One of the most rewarding service works is to go into jails and psychiatric institutions. Perhaps you may have spent time in one of these facilities. If so, it can open your eyes to how far you’ve come since you were in.

The service also brings you to people near rock bottom and open to hearing your message. You shine a light on one of the darkest times in their lives as someone who has recovered. This type of service also reminds you that you could just as easily be in their shoes if you had not recovered.

H&I (hospitals and institutions) service is the short-hand name for this type of service.

Giving rides to people without cars

As a result of multiple DUIs, many meeting attendees have lost their driver’s licenses. If you have a vehicle, you can give rides to those who don’t have easy means of transportation.

The drive to the meeting is also more enjoyable. You get to know a newcomer and hear their story.


These are just a few suggestions for giving back. There are countless ways to get involved. Service strengthens your gratitude for your sobriety, gets you out of your head, and protects you against a possible slip.

The program touts service as one of the only sure ways to stay sober long term. For many, service isn’t optional but is the central resource for their recovery. So it should not be pushed aside as a time-suck or distraction from more important matters.

Service work is the most crucial activity for long-term sobriety.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *