written by Suzi Jacobson, Stepping Stones advocate and 12-step bookstore manager

There’s a familiar saying in the recovery community, “You can’t keep it unless you give it away.” This idea of service is an important part of the lifestyle and teaching at Stepping Stones’ advocacy and shelter services.

These days, I lead a 12 Step Study at the shelter once a week for individuals we serve who are also committed to staying clean and sober. It’s a part of my commitment to the Twelve Step program and to Step 12 in particular which says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Gotta give it away, not only to keep it but also to better understand it. Most of the teaching I’ve done in this group, as well as in more traditional classrooms, has hammered home to me the “rule” that to truly understand a subject, one has to teach it.

Service and “giving it away” showed up again recently in our program. Our Children’s Advocate works with all the kids who come to shelter with their parent. While keeping the little ones engaged can be easier and more straightforward, it’s always a little more challenging for the tweens and teens.

Recently, one of the residents living in our transition housing noticed that her tween daughter, along with other older kids in shelter, needed a time of their own to share stories, continue learning how domestic violence affects kids, and gain strength from each other. Finding out that one kid’s experience is just like another kid’s is vital to the process of reducing shame, sharing feelings, and healing.

So, as a result of her own recovery and healing journey, one generous and courageous mom stepped up to start just such a program for tween/teens once a week. Now that’s SERVICE! That is giving it away, and in the process, she keeps what she has been given. PLUS she actually receives even more because she learns from the kids. For a long time, these kids have kept secrets, fear, and anger bottled up while needing time and a place of their own.

The grand circle of learning, serving, teaching, and learning some more is working at Stepping Stones’ shelter.