The Joy in Giving

The Joy in Giving

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

-Winston Churchill

A New Way of Life

In November 1934, Bill Wilson in the darkest days of his life agreed to sit down with an old drinking friend, Ebby Thacher. The two men sat in Bill’s kitchen and discussed how Ebby has been sober for two whole months! That conversation left an impact on Bill, so much so that he checked himself back into the hospital and achieved sobriety himself just a few short weeks later. 

Bill and Ebby continued their recoveries and conversations about “What this thing is all about?”. They discovered that the main purpose of what it is all about is to stay sober and help others through giving with no expectation of return or reward. Those conversations led to the formula of a new way of life for millions of alcoholics and addicts in the future.

That new way of life is detailed in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The book details the exact process of how one hundred men and women have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. The Big Book walks the reader through the 12 steps, which the process can be described in four key principles: Surrender, Reliance on a Higher Power, Moral Inventory and Restitution, and Service. These principles worked in connection with one another result in the transformation from a self-centered egocentric alcoholic to a sober person filled with thoughtfulness and service for others.

Selfishness and Self-Centeredness

“He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well?” -pg 61

“Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles” -pg.62 

“Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us” -pg. 62

Reliance on a Higher Power

“We had a new Employer. Being all-powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life.” -pg 63

Moral Inventory and Restitution

“We went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty.” -pg. 65

“We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to a drastic self- appraisal. Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol.” -Pg. 76

“Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.” -pg. 84


“Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs” -pg. 20

Step 12: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs”

“Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” -pg. 77

Below is a list of questions for you to evaluate your days and weeks to help measure your involvement in helping and thoughtfulness of others.

  1. Took calls or spent time with a sponsee
  2. Guided an alcoholic/addict through the 12-Steps?
  3. Held a service position in a 12-Step program?
  4. Say something positive to an alcoholic/addict?
  5. Listened to an alcoholic/addict?
  6. Say hello to a newcomer?
  7. Reached out to an alcoholic/addict having a hard time?
  8. Shared personal story with an alcoholic/addict?
  9. Read program literature to an alcoholic/addict?
  10. Encourage an alcoholic/addict to go to a meeting?
  11. Donated money to AA/NA?
  12. Put away chairs after a meeting?
  13. Overall in the past month, how much did helping other alcoholics help you to Not drink or use drugs? (not at all, a little, some, a lot)


“Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it.” pg. 102

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