The Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous was founded some 83 years ago by a man named Bill Wilson. Widely known as Bill W for confidentiality purposes, Bill started AA by applying one basic principle: one person helping another. Bill was an alcoholic himself and had tried for years to stop drinking, to no avail. He began going to hospitals to speak with and support struggling alcoholics. Some time later he stated to his wife Lois that none of the alcoholics he’d been speaking with have stayed sober. Once released from the hospital, within a short time they would be back to drinking again. At this point Lois pointed out, but you haven’t gone back to drinking since you began helping others. When was the last time you had a drink, Bill? Lois was correct, and thus the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous was born (that is a highly abbreviated version of the story but based on fact). The fundamental principle being one person helping another, which brings us out of “self” and into thinking of the welfare of others.
Many believe that following the principles of the 12 steps can be beneficial to anyone, whether they are alcoholic or not. I agree. The principles involve acceptance, making decisions (healthy ones), taking action, taking responsibility for our actions, making amends when we have wronged someone, and really just helping us becoming more aware of our behaviors and actions on a daily basis. It really is a spiritual way of living. Based on what these principles entail, isn’t it reasonable to believe that any of us could benefit from applying this lifestyle to our own daily travels and interpersonal communications?
Taking this concept a step further, if we are involved in the animal rescue community, devoting ourselves to helping animals that do not have a voice and live in compromised conditions, wouldn’t it be beneficial for any of us to apply these 12 step principles to how we navigate through the rescue systems and work with the various rescue organizations and groups? At the end of day, don’t we all share a common and primary purpose of wanting to help animals that are living in perilous conditions, being abused, neglected or at risk of euthanasia? While we all want to believe that individuals that chose to involve themselves in the rescue community did so with the best and most noble of intentions, my experiences lead me to believe that some individuals may have strayed from their initial path of being of service to animals. In the time I have been volunteering and working in the rescue community, I have been blessed to have met and worked with some amazing people; extraordinarily selfless individuals who dedicate themselves to being of service to animals. There is never a question in my mind as to what these folks are about and what their motivations are for doing the work. I have also encountered some folks who seem to have allowed their personal agendas to infiltrate their service work, at times creating a manipulative environment. I don’t feel these individuals started out this way when they began being of service to animals. More likely some of the behaviors developed over time for various reasons. Ego can be a very powerful motivator and can greatly impact how we conduct ourselves in our daily lives.
Personally, I want to be sure that my actions and motivations stay true to what brought me into the rescue community; being of service to animals, those who do not have a voice and are in need of an advocate who has their best interests at heart. Perhaps being of service helps me feel at peace with the man in the mirror. Perhaps the gratitude and unconditional love of the animals (dogs in our case) warms my heart. Perhaps helping animals contributes to my overall sense of self-worth. I believe it is that and more that motivates me to be involved in this kind of service work. I also know that any of us can lose our way if we are not vigilant in being aware of our behaviors and subsequent actions. Are my daily decisions based on what my primary mission is or are they being shaped by outside influencers or driven by emotions? These are questions I continue to ask myself so as I can stay on-point with my mission and belief system. These are questions I believe anyone can benefit from asking themselves. These are 12 step principles being applied to daily life.
Today I pray that we as rescue advocates can work together in harmony for the greater good of animals in need.
…Nor can men and women ever forget that only through suffering did they gain enough humility to enter the portals of the new world. – Bill W.