Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and help others. It’s especially rewarding when you’re in recovery from addiction, as it helps increase feelings of gratitude and happiness that help prevent relapse. There are many ways to volunteer, depending on what you’re passionate about – from packing food at food banks, to serving homeless shelters, to helping other people achieve recovery in your community.
At Enlightened Solutions, we firmly believe that volunteering is integral to the recovery process. You help yourself in significant ways when you spend time helping others.
It’s a given that volunteering helps others, but did you know there are other benefits as well? Here are just a few of them to consider.
Substance abuse and addiction thrive in isolation. They draw people away from their families and friends, which is required to keep drug or alcohol use a secret. Isolation also occurs as a result of the deep shame that is associated with addiction.
Volunteering is a great way to draw you out of that isolation and form a healthy support network. You can meet new people and learn from those whose lives and circumstances differ from yours. This exposure is part of being a more open-minded, well-rounded individual. It may require leaving your comfort zone, especially if you have an introverted personality, but that kind of discomfort is occasionally good and healthy for us.
The cycle of shame from addiction can understandably impact self-image and self-esteem. You may think that addiction makes you weak-willed, even though it’s a disease that requires treatment like any other. When you serve others through volunteering, you can start to see yourself in a more positive light – as someone who cares and wants to give back. These feelings can help rebuild a brain that has been damaged by prolonged substance use, in which the only way to feel good about anything was to get drunk or high.
Volunteering can teach your mind to feel good with natural feel-good hormones, and you can access these by helping other people. As you start to rebuild your confidence, you’ll find that you don’t need substances anymore.
What will you do with your time now that you’re no longer getting drunk or high? Perhaps you’re looking for positive, healthier ways to keep busy and avoid relapse. Volunteering can help you with developing healthier time management skills. Whether serving on a local school board, attending community support meetings, or assisting with local blood drives, there are endless ways to fill your time. The less idle time you have, the better your chances of staying sober.
Many people with substance use disorder (SUD) struggle with co-occurring disorders. This is when substance abuse occurs alongside a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety. Often, these conditions fuel each other, or one causes the other (the scientific consensus is unclear).
However it happens, one way to manage the symptoms is to look beyond yourself and focus on others. Volunteering helps accomplish that task. In addition to helping others, which floods the brain’s pleasure center with dopamine, you are building healthy, long-lasting connections with others.
While there are many personal gains in volunteering, the main point is to help others. It’s about giving back to the community that helped you get sober. It’s also about providing access to resources for others who may be struggling in the same way you once struggled. If someone helped you at some point during your recovery, at no benefit to themselves, paying it forward is the best way to pay them back.
The world can feel like a big, aimless place when you are newly sober and struggling to find your place within it once again. Perhaps you struggle to fill your time productively now that you’re no longer using substances or hanging out with people who do. Filling that time with volunteering can help you feel needed and useful. Taking the focus off yourself and directing it toward others will also help you stay sober. When people are counting on you to show up and fulfill certain responsibilities, there is an additional layer of accountability that can keep you grounded and resist the temptation to use.
Many people have trouble getting their lives back on track after struggling with addiction. Perhaps they lost their job and need help getting back on their feet. If that’s you, volunteering is a great way to help you develop the skills and experience necessary to one day get a job in that field.
Volunteering is a two-fold process that helps the people being served as much as the people serving them. When you volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about, you can network with like-minded people and be able to ask for references from people you volunteer with.
The skills learned in substance abuse treatment can serve you well in the world of volunteering. Not sure where to get started? Think about the causes you’re passionate about, and see what opportunities are available in your community. The right opportunities are out there, waiting to be discovered.
At Enlightened Solutions, we believe that giving back to the community is a vital part of the addiction recovery process. There are many ways we recommend our clients do this. Whether it’s making coffee or setting up chairs for 12-Step group meetings or serving as mentors for other people in need of accountability, we can help you find volunteer work in a setting you’re passionate about. Not only will volunteering help take the focus away from yourself and allow you to help others, but it can also lead to opportunities for rebuilding a life that has been negatively impacted by drug or alcohol use. To learn more about our programs, call us today at (833) 801-LIVE.
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