Why Giving Back Helps You Stay Sober
Lending a helping hand increases the strength of you sobriety while lifting others up as well
Addiction is a complex disease. It can involve physical, psychological, and spiritual factors in varying amounts, and by the time you are ready to commit to a long-term recovery, these factors can make the process seem daunting.
Emotions can be a particularly strong component of addiction. Addicts sometimes behave in ways they later regret, and this can lead to strong feelings of guilt or other negative emotions. One of the most important parts of the healing process is to overcome negative thoughts and emotions; and one of the best ways to accomplish this goal is by giving back. Gratitude is a transformative emotion, and it can ultimately help you stay sober after you complete a recovery program.
Finding a New World
One of our former residents credits volunteering as a major factor in her ability to maintain her sobriety once her treatment was complete. Volunteering is one strategy which can help you acclimate back into your old environment after treatment, while avoiding returning to unhealthy habits. In addition to helping you overcome negative emotions, volunteering also helps you make a positive impact on your community and meet others who are interested in the same activities. Many volunteers find positive, meaningful friendships from their time spent on constructive activities in the community.
Rediscovering Your Passion
Giving back can lead to renewed interest in old activities, or it can ignite new passions. But it can also lead to a stronger sense of purpose and commitment, as you work towards the betterment of others. An ex-addict named Scott Strode realized after college that cocaine and alcohol were bringing him down a destructive and potentially fatal road, decided to make a change and surround himself with positive, uplifting people. He recognized the need for constructive activities in his life; something he could focus on to stay strong while in recovery. After taking up boxing, he realized a passion for fitness which ultimately culminated in creating Multi Sport in 2007, an organization which helps organize walks, yoga, ice climbing, mountain biking, and triathlons for the community — free of charge.
Scott’s story is a wonderful example of how the simple act of committing to recovery can lead to community service, and eventually into an organization with the potential to change hundreds or even thousands of lives for the better.
Discovering or Improving Self Esteem
Focusing on positive activities like volunteering can have the welcome effect of building healthy self-esteem. One woman in Burlinggame, CA decided to open a studio to help other women in recovery work on constructive activities. Groups center around expressive arts, wellness, and recovery, and the studio encourages volunteering for groups like Voices for Recovery. The combination of education and community service is powerful; women in the studio are able to become part of a positive movement, rediscover passions, build self-esteem, and continue their recovery over the long term.
Working with organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) can offer a way for a person in recovery to come to terms with some of the ways addictive behavior can hurt and damage others. Vivian Verdayes founded a similar organization, Friends Against Drunk Driving (FADD) that works in conjunction with MADD for many fundraising options. She was motivated to start FADD after losing a friend to a drunk driver. Her organization seeks to address those who get behind the wheel after partying, and reminds them that as tragic as it is for a mother to lose a child, it is hard for friends to lose one another too. While MADD is often thought of as a group that fights to pass tougher laws and keep more drink drivers off the road, the opportunity to work with FADD lets them know that compassion and support can often keep a person from driving under the influence in the first place without having to leap through legal hoops.
As you continue your recovery after successfully completing an inpatient program, keep in mind that one of the best strategies for remaining strong is to give back. What are you passionate about?