The Other Side of Service: When Giving Back Becomes Exploitation

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Exploitation Presented as Service

The literature goes further to suggest that our recovery is incumbent upon that giving: “The joy of living is the theme of A.A.’s Twelfth Step, and action is its key word. Here we turn outward toward our fellow alcoholics who are still in distress. Here we experience the kind of giving that asks no rewards. Here we begin to practice all Twelve Steps of the program in our daily lives so that we and those about us may find emotional sobriety. When the Twelfth Step is seen in its full implication, it is really talking about the kind of love that has no price tag on it.”

Placing Value on Expertise

I am a full-time freelance writer and content strategist. The only way I pay my bills, and the exorbitant fees of running a business, is by getting paid for the work that I do. And often this involves having to negotiate fair pay from highly profitable businesses within the recovery industry — where executives earn six figures — because they do not value or understand what goes into being a writer. I haven’t had a vacation since I have been self-employed, and I pay for my own insurance.

The True Meaning of Service

I think it’s time that we revisit the true meaning of service: sharing our story of recovery to someone who is struggling. That means sharing at a meeting, or taking a newcomer to their first meeting. It doesn’t mean taking away someone’s ability to support themselves.



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Olivia Pennelle

Olivia Pennelle

Writer. Journalist. Activist. MSW student. Passionate about challenging perspectives on addiction and recovery.