The Importance of Being of Service in Addiction Recovery
An important part of a truly holistic recovery from addiction is being of service to others. When we speak of holistic addiction recovery, we talk about healing and thriving in all areas of your life: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. This is because we believe true recovery to be a path beyond simple abstinence; we consider it to be a journey by which you build the strength to face the wounds that may have lead to addiction and create a flourishing sober life. Being a helpful and proactive part of your community is an integral part of such a life, and deeply nourishing to your social and spiritual wellbeing in addiction recovery.
Some people may feel a great deal of guilt for the time they lost to addiction. Addiction disconnects us from one another, and demands that we put our substance abuse above all others in our lives. In this way, you may have regrets about being “selfish,” creating a life that supported your addiction at the cost of the people and causes that are most important to you. It is important to forgive yourself for decisions you may have made in survival mode, which may be easier said than done. One way many people come to peace with this “selfish” time in their lives is by choosing to be of service and to give back to their communities and loved ones now that they are on the recovery path. Here are some other ways being of service can be of benefit when you are in addiction recovery:
- It brings you closer to your community: Community is a key part of a successful recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, and being of service is an excellent way to build and deepen relationships with others who are going through the same. Whether it’s volunteering to set out chairs and pamphlets before an AA meeting, taking on a role of mentor or sponsor of another person who needs support, or donating time to organizations that promote a cause you care about, volunteering is a way to connect with other people who share your values.
- It can give your day positive structure: It is common for those in early recovery to feel like they have too much free time, whether or not they are working or in school. Volunteering is a great way to add structure to your day or evenings, especially during those times that you are at higher risk for relapse because they are the times you historically used drugs or alcohol. Knowing that others are depending on you can be positive motivation to show up and spend your time doing something rewarding.
- Being of service positively affects your brain: Helping others has scientifically-proven benefits on your mental health. According to research, when you give time or money to people in need, your brain activates pleasure sensors, giving you a feeling of wellbeing. In this way, being of service in recovery can serve a purpose in a person’s self-care and relapse prevention plans. As a powerful way to lift your spirits and manage stress, being of service can be one healthy alternative to maladaptive coping strategies such as abusing drugs or alcohol.
- It helps define a sense of purpose: It is common for those suffering from addiction to feel anchorless, lost, or like their lives lack purpose. Early recovery can feel overwhelming, and for some who may be suffering from underlying depression or mental health issues, these feelings can unsurface in their newfound sobriety. Giving back to the community is a powerful way to find purpose in one’s life. Instead of living in an isolating cycle of addiction, those who are serving others are contributing to something greater than themselves.
How to be of Service in Recovery
At Flatirons Recovery, we encourage clients to find ways to be of service wherever they can. Because our recovery residence is an intimate community, those who are in a later stage of our addiction treatment program often feel inspired to mentor or guide clients just starting our programming through sharing their experiences, teaching life skills such as cooking, or being an emotional support. We also build volunteering into our program, so that our clients have a chance to serve the greater community in Boulder, Colorado. Our clients are also encouraged to participate in community fellowships, such as 12 Step, SMART Recovery, Recovery Dharma, and others, and have opportunities to be of service to their programming in ways that feel good to them.
We encourage clients to embrace service work as part of their long-term recovery. Being of service may be a powerful part of a person’s aftercare, and we love to facilitate finding the service opportunities that best fit each individual. While some may be drawn to helping out in the recovery community, others may find that other volunteer opportunities not related to addiction are a better fit for them.
In finding the right service opportunity for you, it can be helpful to tune into your passions and what makes you come alive. Being in recovery is a beautiful gift in that it gives you the chance to pursue the things you love most about life, things that may have been robbed from you during your addiction. Finding a volunteer opportunity that you are passionate about can be deeply satisfying. If you love cooking, consider bringing your skills to a soup kitchen. If you have a deep connection with animals, volunteering at the Boulder Humane Society, or one of the various wild animal rescues in Colorado may be a perfect fit. A therapist or recovery coach can be a great person to help you pinpoint a way to use your unique gifts towards the greater good.