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Self-Supporting through Service

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I sometimes use an image to explain the concept of OA groups being self-supporting. I draw a giant circle and label it “Everyone in OA.” Then I draw eleven large circles within the giant circle and label these “Regions” (there are ten land-based and one virtual). I zoom in on my own Region Four circle and draw sixteen little circles inside it—our sixteen intergroups. Finally, I draw tiny circles or dots in one of those intergroup circles to indicate individual meetings.

Each big circle and every tiny dot is an entity that needs to be self-supporting. Larger circles, the service bodies, are providing resources the smaller circles cannot manage on their own: creating literature, hosting websites, providing meeting lists, and planning recovery events. This visual image of clustered circles can supplement the inverted pyramid concept of our service structure. The circles image helps explain why individual meetings need to support all levels of OA. It also illustrates the “we-ness” of our Fellowship.

I’ve noticed that service done at any level always comes back to me in some form. If I contribute financially to my group, part of that contribution goes forward to my region and world service. In return, world service provides me with a wealth of resources to support my recovery. If I perform service at the group  level, I feel a part of the group and also feel good about myself.

I’ve heard that the way to increase self-esteem is to take estimable action, and service is definitely estimable action. When I do service beyond the group level, I help the Fellowship, and I help myself even more. Once, I’d been a tentative, shy person who stood back to let others speak; now, I’ve become a confident woman, and I believe my opinions have as much value as anyone else’s. I’ve gained a wealth of friends and had so many amazing experiences. Doing service is always as much for me as it is for others. Perhaps that is why it is one of our Tools! We can “support self” financially, emotionally, and with service.

Being financially self-supporting is most important for our groups, families, and selves. I’ve heard the expression “Whoever pays the way has the say,” which is why self-support is built into our Traditions—so outside groups (or even individual OA members) do not have the ability to direct OA through the use of funds. In my earlier life, my spouse and kids and I struggled with overspending and getting into debt. We were supporting credit card companies, banks, and merchants before supporting ourselves. Now, in recovery, I avoid debt whenever possible. I value being self-supporting.

Emotional support comes from contact with our fellow OA members, but we need a component of self-support here too. If one person becomes too needy, their problems draw the focus of the group, and the message of recovery can be lost. When emotional self-support is healthy, OA meetings and phone conversations can be free to focus on our program rather than on trying to prop somebody up. For me personally, emotional self-support means I’m not too dependent upon any one person. I’m able to affirm myself rather than needing others to do so, yet I know when I actually need to reach out to another person. My challenge now is letting others in: I’ve tried to be so self-supporting that it’s difficult. I may tell people I’m feeling down, but then I will quickly deflect their concern and steer the conversation in another direction.

When I first came to OA, I thought being self-supporting only referred to money. It’s easy to forget that an important aspect of self-support is service. We need individual members to help with the chores of the group. While simply coming to a meeting is a service in itself, we often need to do more. First, because doing service supports our own recovery, and second, because resentments can come up if only one person or a few people have to take on most of the jobs.

We need each other to keep OA going. We need members working at all service levels: group, service body, and world service. We need members who write and approve our literature, put on conventions and recovery events, and make meetings and carry the message. The World Service Office employs only a handful of special workers to provide professional services; it is OA members who get most of the work done. Every member doing service is a volunteer, and our payment is our own recovery.

— APR

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