What Are the Benefits of Helping Others While in Recovery?

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After you have made the brave step to seek out treatment for substance misuse and begin your recovery journey, you're likely going to be feeling pretty proud of yourself. You've made an effort to achieve something you may have never thought you could. Now you're on the path to living the best possible version of your life. Although not in a selfish way, going out of your way to make sure you are helping others may not be the first thing on your mind at this point in time. 

This could be because you've been used to pouring so much of your time and energy lately into your own sobriety. 

Being hesitant to help others when you're right out of recovery does not mean that you don't care or don't want to make a positive difference around you. It can simply feel as if doing so would take away your focus on your own well-being and newfound sobriety. You may be surprised that not only does helping others play an important role in recovery, but it can actually bring about a lot of benefits for you as well. 

There is a common phrase, “to give is to receive," and in recovery, it is very applicable. Giving back to others is one of the greatest gifts that you can receive in recovery. It can help you to get a fresh perspective and look at the world around you differently. Most of all, it can remind you exactly why you ever decided to get sober in the first place. 

How Can Helping Others Actually Help Me While in Recovery?

When you first begin your recovery journey, you may feel a little overwhelmed and drained, though not necessarily in a negative way. It's likely that you've learned so much and are so excited about what is to come next that you might not know where to begin. You've likely got a new sober support system around you and a new plan for your life moving forward. At the same time, you're likely still in the process of making amends and working on healing relationships that may have been damaged when you were still in active use. 

Maybe you're thinking to yourself, “I don't possibly have any more energy to give to anyone else right now.” But in giving volunteer work a shot you may find a newfound spark and motivation as you move forward. It may help you to develop an even greater sense of excitement and hope about all that is to come. While you help others who are struggling with their own problems, you can also continue to work on yourself as you strive to become the person you want to be. 

At Pathways Recovery Center, we believe that giving back during recovery can be a great way to gain a fresh perspective and continue to learn more while in recovery. 

What Other Benefits Are There Associated With Helping Others While in Recovery?

There are so many benefits to consider when it comes to helping others while in recovery, but one of the most important is the sense of purpose and fulfillment. While you were still struggling with substance misuse, you may have felt as if your life lacked true purpose. Perhaps, your substance misuse stole your motivation and held you back from living the life you truly wanted. By giving back in recovery, you have the chance to regain that purpose back. 

Similarly, in the past, you may have turned to substance misuse in hopes of finding a false sense of fulfillment. But as you likely learned time and time again, any fulfillment that comes from substance misuse is not genuine or long-lasting. By the time the effects of the substance wore off, that desire for fulfillment still remained unsatisfied. Now you have an opportunity, by giving back to those around you, to find true fulfillment and purpose. 

Another way that helping others in recovery can benefit you is by providing you with a sense of community. Struggling with substance misuse can be a very isolating experience. Sometimes people you thought would always be there don't end up showing up in the way that you've hoped. Due to tension or hurt feelings, there might be some distance between you and those that once made up your close circle. 

While you are in treatment for recovery, you have the opportunity to form new bonds with other people who are going through the same things in life that you are. However, upon leaving your treatment facility, you may have a hard time figuring out what exactly your place in society is meant to be. By giving back by volunteering for an organization, you will have the chance to meet other like-minded people who are passionate about the same things you are. You'll feel a sense of belonging and community. 

There are many other valuable benefits to giving back while in recovery. Just a few examples include:

  • A boost of self-confidence and self-worth
  • The sense of connection with others as opposed to isolation 
  • An ability to learn and develop new talents and skills 
  • The sense of true meaning and value in life
  • A feeling of self-empowerment
  • An increased sense of gratitude 
  • A unique and concrete ability to help improve your community in your own way
  • The chance to use your unique gifts to make a positive difference in the lives of people around you 
  • An opportunity to see firsthand the benefits of living a clean and sober life
  • A fresh perspective
  • The ability to show those closest to you the dedication you have to change your life for the better

How Do I Decide What to Do to Give Back in Recovery?

The best way that you can give back to others who are in recovery is to consider what you are passionate about and what your gifts are. Perhaps you have a certain skill that you might want to consider sharing with others. That skill could be anything from the ability to play a musical instrument to the ability to prepare a good meal. How can you use your own unique gifts to help others?

For example, if you are passionate about animals, maybe you could consider volunteering for your local animal shelter. Many facilities like these are short-staffed and don't have the volunteers they need to meet the requirements of the animals they hold. You may consider helping to walk animals, clean their enclosures, or bathe them. This way, while giving back you are still doing something that you enjoy. 

Some additional ideas that could be used to help give back while in recovery include: 

  • Helping to serve a meal at a soup kitchen 
  • Donating clothing you no longer wear to those in need
  • Visiting an elderly person at a nursing home who does not have frequent guests
  • Providing a meal for someone going through a difficult time
  • Tutoring a child who is having trouble in school
  • Picking up litter that has gathered near your home
  • Consider providing food or even a meal for a local homeless shelter 
  • Fill up a backpack with school supplies and donate it to a child in need

Other ideas include:

  • Consider taking money once used toward addiction and donating it to a good cause
  • Pass out supplies to those on the street who are struggling with homelessness
  • Consider donating blood at a local blood drive if you are physically able 
  • Find nonprofits you care about and learn how to participate with them in a positive way
  • Consider ways you can help protect the environment through recycling or other means
  • Help a neighbor out with lawn care that may be unable to keep up on their own
  • Prepare a meal for a new mother 
  • Join a community garden and help provide food for those who may struggle to afford fresh produce
  • Consider writing cards for soldiers who are unable to make it home for the holidays

It is important to remember that giving back in recovery can look however you want it to look. You don't have to spend money if you are not in a position to do so. It is possible to make an even greater difference in life by donating your time or talents. Remember that you can make a major difference even in ways that may feel small at the time. You may be surprised just how much your actions can help those around you.

How Can Helping Others Help Me to Foster Gratitude?

It is so easy to get caught up in our own daily struggles and forget that there are people around us that are going through their own struggles. In many cases, the struggles that others are facing could be considered far more significant than our own, although in different ways. For example, there are many people who are currently struggling to experience the basic necessities of life. When we don't often see these kinds of struggles it can be easy to forget that they exist. 

As we give back to the less fortunate we have the opportunity to see firsthand the basic struggles that others face on a daily basis. Upon viewing these struggles, we may find ourselves with a different perspective on life. Certain complaints you may have had regarding your own life may not seem like such a big deal anymore. You may recognize even small aspects of life that you have that others might not get to enjoy.

Gratitude is not only a very important aspect of the recovery journey, but it's also a very important one for good mental health. In fact, it can actually prevent mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. It can also make handling stress more manageable. Finding new ways to foster gratitude can help you remain on the path of recovery and avoid relapse. 

How Do I Help Others Get Sober?

When you first begin your recovery journey, chances are you might not yet feel confident in being a sponsor to someone else. This is because you're still in the process of learning and building the foundation of your own recovery. But as time goes on and you become more comfortable in your sobriety, you may reach a point where you feel ready and confident to help guide another person through their recovery. 

Serving as a sponsor to someone else can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It gives you the opportunity to give back to a community that once supported your early recovery journey. You now have the chance to get an inside view of another person's healing journey as they learn what life outside of substance misuse can look like. Equipped with the knowledge, life skills, and lessons you've learned along the way, you can now pass that on to someone else. 

After you've been in recovery for an extended period of time, it is possible that the same excitement and zest you feel for it may fade. However, by being a sponsor, you get to see firsthand how much sobriety can improve another person's life. This can help to remind you of all the reasons why you got sober and why you should continue to remain dedicated to your recovery journey. In turn, you may experience a sense of renewed motivation and commitment to your own sobriety. 

How Can I Help Others That Are Not Yet in Recovery?

Even if you are not yet in a position where you're ready to act as a sponsor, you can still help other people get sober in other ways. Your story matters and you might not realize how much it may influence and inspire those around you. Use your voice and don't be afraid to share your recovery story, whether it be on social media or a different type of platform. It could be the extra push someone else needs to make the decision to seek out help for themselves. 

Perhaps there may also be people in your life who know are struggling with substance misuse but haven't taken the step to get help yet. You can choose to give back by using your own story as motivation to convince them to seek out the treatment they need. If you have someone in your life whom you know may be struggling with addiction, consider preparing yourself to have a conversation with them. Conversations like these are very delicate and should be thoughtfully prepared, as opposed to being had on a whim. 

It is important to carefully plan out what you are going to say during this discussion. Consider the specific ways in which your loved one's behavior has affected you personally or caused concern for you. While a conversation like this may certainly carry a lot of emotion, it is important that you remain calm while having this discussion. You can make your point without raising your voice or becoming angry. 

Trying to prepare for a conversation like this can be very challenging and can bring about a lot of different emotions. Working with a therapist ahead of time can help you sort out your emotions. It can also help you to carry out this discussion in the most positive and respectful way. Remember that the goal is to encourage your loved one to seek treatment, not to feel guilty. 

At Pathways Recovery Center, we recognize the value of helping others and giving back while in recovery. This is just one of the many gifts to be considered as you navigate the early stages of your recovery journey. As you go about this process, you will likely also experience a newfound sense of gratitude and appreciation for your own life. This is a direct result of the process of putting others first in the early stages of recovery. 

Giving back during the early stages of recovery may feel incredibly draining. After all, you may be thinking that you don't have extra effort to spend on other people right now. However, you may be surprised just how much your own recovery journey may be affected in a positive way by helping others. It can help you gain a fresh perspective on life and foster a new sense of gratitude. If you are currently struggling with substance misuse, our team at Pathways Recovery Center is here to help. Please call (888) 771-0966 today to learn more about how our services work and can change your life for the better. We will be happy to answer any of your questions. 

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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