It Works At Work – Grapevine Article June 2000 Debra M Richland , WA

A FRUSTRATING MORNING AT WORK drove me to a noon AA meeting where I was called on to share . I unloaded my frustration of working with people who cared only for themselves . A coworker had ( I thought ) intentionally misled me about the location of a business meeting where , as a trainee , I was to observe him facilitate . This , I thought , was my big chance and he seemed intent on elbowing me out of the limelight . Four years of both college and sobriety had resulted in an unfinished degree and the title of clerk . No matter how hard I worked , nothing seemed to make a difference in either my income or my title . I was ambitious and hardworking but with no direction . I repeatedly asked my sponsor when I would know what direction I should take at work . His response was always , ” Just show up and be of service . ”

After I concluded my whining , Joe D . was called on . He looked at me and said , ” Debbie , no one was happier than I was that you worked the Steps . Now why don’t you try working the Traditions ? Start with the first one . “

It was explained to me that to put our common welfare first , I would have to put myself second . Tradition One meant ” putting ourselves to the side and working for the greater good . ” This was not what I expected to hear , but I had run out of ideas and became willing to try doing it differently .

It didn’t take long for me to realize that in order to consider the common welfare of my work group , I had to be willing to let go of my resentments toward them , specifically toward my coworker . I had to look for my part in the situation because I knew by this time that people didn’t usually avoid me without good reason . I remembered that a couple of times at a meeting which my coworker was leading , I had fired some of my sarcastic – but – funny comments at his expense . The group laughed but I remembered the look in his eyes . No wonder he was avoiding me! He couldn’t control what was coming out of my mouth .

I had to clean up my side of the street with him and did so by telling him that I was both aware of and sorry for what I had done and in the future I would make every effort to support rather than embarrass him . I asked him if there was anything I could do to be of service to him . He didn’t jump at my offer .

A few weeks later I saw an opportunity to be of service , and I asked him if he’d like me to assist with the design of a presentation layout for the training course he was preparing . It was an important project and one that he had put a great deal of time and effort into . He accepted my offer . This time , I had a different motive than before , designing to meet the needs of the presenter and the audience instead of my own desire to be paid more or singled out for praise . As the design began to take shape , so did my attitudes about my job . I began to experience the true satisfaction of being a worker among workers .

I found that I had an opportunity to help make something that fostered confidence rather than panic in the presenters . I even found opportunities to apply humor into the presentation , not the wicked kind that hurts but the witty kind that can help people feel good .

The week prior to the Big Event , my coworker asked me to accompany him because , as he put it , ” I will have more confidence if I know you are there to help if anything goes wrong with the presentation . ” Imagine that .

As I worked the First Tradition to the best of my ability , I noticed a sense of well – being at work and an increased interest in others . It had never occurred to me before that the results of working the Traditions might be the same as working the Steps .

And the effect of Tradition One continues to amaze me . A few months after the Big Event , my coworker’s wife entered the AA Fellowship for the first time . The combination of relief , gratitude , and awe at the power of the AA program washed over me when I realized that my behavior outside of AA could affect , either positively or negatively , a newcomer who had not yet entered our doors . What would they have thought of this program if I had not cleaned up my side of the street and worked Tradition One ? Thank God we will never know because my coworker’s wife liked what she saw , wanted what we had , and has just celebrated two years of sobriety . It is my privilege to be her sponsor .

What about my career and the title that I had been so anxious to attain ? It comes as no surprise to me that my current job is to identify areas of need in organizations and then design information systems that will meet those needs . As for my job title , it will probably change when I complete my degree , somewhere around June 2001 . Imagine that .

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