There’s a common saying that once you make it to the top, you should turn around and offer a hand to the person behind you. When you’re on a hike and you make it to the top of the cliff, you’d turn around and help your friend make it up too, right? The same is true in recovery. When you’re feeling good in your recovery, you should help someone who isn’t as solid. Recovery does so much to better people’s lives, so it’s important that we do what we can to let recovery help others in the same way.
Here are some ways you can volunteer and give back in the recovery community:
1. Advocate for Recovery
Chances are, you weren’t the only one who pushed yourself to get help. Yes, you have to be the one to accept the help. But it’s very likely that you had someone (or multiple people) urging you to seek help and enter treatment. We all crave that care and support from other people. It’s hard to address your own problems. It’s even harder to make the decision alone to get help. That hasn’t changed now that you’re sober and thriving in your recovery. There are others out there who are still struggling on their own. The best way to give back to the community is by being an advocate for the work that treatment and recovery has done for you.
You can volunteer to share at fellowship meetings, share your story to your friends, or even start your own recovery blog. Keep in mind that being a recovery advocate might compromise your anonymity, so it’s important to first make sure you’re comfortable with that. But if you do decide to advocate for recovery, the community will thank you. There has long been a stigma on addiction and recovery. People don’t like to talk about it, which causes the general public to view it in a negative way. But if more people are willing to reach out and advocate for addiction treatment, then hopefully more people will feel free to reach out for help.
2. Play an Active Role in Your Treatment Center’s Alumni Program
Some addiction treatment facilities will have an alumni program for people who have graduated from their detox or residential programs. It’s a way for them to continue helping the people who leave their facilities by remaining an influential part of their long-term recovery. Look into your treatment facility’s alumni program if you haven’t already.
New Start has a great alumni program. We invite our graduates to come on fun excursions with us, such as indoor rock climbing and go-kart racing while enjoying the fellowship of other recovering addicts. We also provide opportunities for our alumni to come back and share their experience with our current detox and residential clients. They get to tell their stories and help inspire hope for people who are new in recovery.
3. Volunteer at a Homeless Shelter
Not all homeless people are addicts. But addict or not, they’re all struggling. Helping to bring in donations, arranging sleeping places, and helping to offer food are all great ways to give back to those who need help. Check with your local homeless shelters to see if they need an extra volunteer. You might also consider developing relationships with the people who frequent these shelters. Sometimes they need an eager ear and some words of encouragement just as much as they need warm food and a dry place to sleep for the night. You might inspire someone to open their mind and turn their life around, especially if they’re struggling with addiction as well as homelessness.
4. Become a Sponsor
If you participate in a twelve-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous, you might consider sponsoring someone else. However, it’s crucial that you’ve completed the steps yourself and have a strong, solid foundation in recovery before you take on a sponsee. But, if you are ready to become a sponsor for someone else in your program, it can be a great way to give back.
Sponsors help their sponsees navigate the Twelve Steps because they’ve likely never done them before. Sponsors also use their own experiences to help sympathize with and encourage their sponsees. People in early recovery are typically still shaky and unsure of the whole thing. A sponsor’s job is to lend support, guidance, and immediate fellowship in those early days. But it doesn’t stop there. Because recovery doesn’t ever just stop, the connection between a sponsor and sponsee should be carried throughout long-term recovery as well.
5. Become a Skill Mentor
Addicts generally lack the life skills needed to thrive when they leave treatment. Treatment facilities do their best to help train and prepare clients for “the real world,” but sometimes an actual professional mentor is needed for the best results. If you excel at a professional or life skill, becoming a mentor for people in recovery might be a good option for you. Whether you’re a professional chef, a Microsoft Word genius, or just really good at writing resumes, newly recovered people can use your help. Try reaching out to addiction treatment programs to see if they need a skill mentor or life coach volunteer. If you can’t find an actual facility that needs help (which is highly unlikely), you can offer your help at your local fellowship meeting or even to your other friends in recovery. Even if you’re just helping a close friend in recovery learn how to interview better, you’re still giving back to the community.
Help Yourself By Helping Others
Giving back doesn’t just benefit the other people you’re helping. It also benefits you. Volunteering actually helps people manage stress, improve their health and happiness, and feel more connected to others. It also gives them more purpose. A study by the United Health Group showed that volunteering really helps the volunteers.
76% of participants said volunteering made them feel better.
78% of participants said it helped them manage and lower their stress levels.
96% of participants say volunteering deepens their sense of purpose in life.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to be perfect to be able to give back. No one really is. The closest we can come to perfection is just the constant betterment of ourselves and others. And we can help achieve that through giving back. If you don’t feel super solid in your recovery, maybe becoming a sponsor isn’t the best option. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give back at all. You can still volunteer at a shelter or share your story with others. Doing so will probably even help you feel stronger in your own recovery. All it takes is just turning around and offering your hand.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call us at 855-737-7363. New Start can help you claim your recovery.