It is an uncomfortable truth that substance use is known to involve self-centered behaviors. In fact, an important aspect of the recovery process is to take responsibility for selfish actions that may have hurt others. Although it is hard to humbly admit prior hurtful behaviors, it is nevertheless an important step in the recovery process.
The concept of making amends doesn’t only pertain to righting a wrong with a loved one. The essence of making amends involves taking intentional steps to change. One way to do that is through participating in volunteer work or community service. Volunteering your time to assist others yields the wonderful virtues of compassion and empathy.
5 Benefits of Volunteering
Consider the many benefits of participating in volunteer work:
- Keeps You Productive. Staying productive is one of the most important things someone new in recovery can do. One of the benefits of volunteering is that you are performing work, even though it is unpaid work. Whether you are helping a neighbor with their landscaping, running errands for someone who is housebound, or delivering meals to seniors, it is a productive use of your time.
- Gives You Purpose. Substance use can rob a person of their sense of meaning and purpose in life. In recovery, it is important to redefine your purpose in life, and then pursue activities that support that purpose. If your desired purpose is to help others less fortunate, or to help a newcomer in A.A., then seek out activities that will align with that.
- Improves Self-Esteem and Confidence. In recovery, there is a real need to rebuild self-confidence. By helping others, you get to witness the fruits of your efforts when you see firsthand the positive impact you’ve made on someone’s life. Volunteer work helps build renewed self-esteem, and in return that will boost confidence.
- Keeps You Focused on Recovery. It is very easy to become distracted by the demands of life in early recovery. The flurry of daily tasks can become so all-consuming that recovery actions begin to take a back seat. By committing to regular community service, you will structure your schedule around it. Integrating service into your schedule helps you stay focused on recovery efforts.
- Helps You Engage with Others. Emerging from substance use, which can be a lonely, isolating existence, offers a chance to reconnect with other people again. What better way to engage with others than by providing a service to them? Volunteering involves interfacing with people again, and in a very positive way.
Always keep in mind that an act of service equates to an act of kindness. As you proceed along the recovery continuum, actively contemplate which strengths or talents you have that might be an asset to someone. Consider your passions, the things you care about and that feed your soul, and let that launch some ideas for possible service work. Some volunteer opportunities include:
- The Recovery Community. Fellowship groups, such as A.A. or SMART Recovery, offer many opportunities to serve others. If you have a sponsor, ask him or her for some suggestions for service ideas. Helping out at meetings not only benefits other members, but also keeps part of your own positive recovery energy flowing to others.
- Your Family. Look no further than your own family for some great volunteer opportunities! Why not offer to help a parent with a home project, like yard work or assisting with fixing or constructing something? Or how about offering to run errands for a sick family member, or helping a younger sibling with homework? Giving back to your family can be a nice way to make amends.
- The Community. There are ample volunteer opportunities within your local community. If you are an animal lover, see if the local animal shelter needs someone to exercise the dogs or to help around the facility. Every community hosts some type of food pantry or soup kitchen, so why not volunteer to lend a hand? Thrift stores like St. Vincent de Paul can always use volunteers to help sort donated items.
Volunteering is a valuable aspect of continuing care in recovery. Continuing care actions are those efforts you make that help solidify recovery. In addition to outpatient therapy and recovery meetings, seek out opportunities to volunteer. You will be helping others while enhancing your recovery at the same time.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.