Scenario: You’ve walked through a forest so dark, even midday felt like night. You’ve come out on the other side and are basking in the glorious light of recovery. You feel victorious. You want to help others achieve victory too. What’s next?
Scenario: You’ve walked through a forest so dark, even midday felt like night. You’ve come out on the other side and are wondering where your path leads next. Uncertain and a little scared, you contemplate your purpose and direction. What’s next?
For those in recovery, either scenario above is common. To help answer the question, many find it helpful to seek volunteer work. It allows those experiencing victory to give back and provides purpose and solid ground for those needing guidance. In both circumstances, it lets the volunteer in recovery G.I.V.E.
- Generosity: Typically, a life of addiction is self-centered. Before entering recovery, it is likely your lifestyle revolved around meeting your immediate needs. This probably involved hurting others in the process. Now is your chance to give back. Generously give of your time and skills to help others. These selfless acts can help purge any remaining negative emotions lingering from your past. Your generous giving will have a positive impact on others’ lives as well as your own. As you renew your self-worth and continue to make positive changes, your recovery remains solid (or solidifies).
- Interpersonal Connections: Its likely your old social circle did not include a lot of positive influences, or at least included a lot of negative ones. Volunteering provides opportunities to meet new people and make new connections. Even if you have a good support system in place, adding more positive connections to that system can’t hurt. You will meet others who care about the same causes and are likely to make good friends.
- Vocational Opportunities: As a recovering addict, finding a job can be challenging. Volunteer work can assist with this task. Prospective employers will see this service on your resume and know you are making efforts to give back. They will see evidence that you are a changed individual. Volunteering can also help develop work skills. It’s an opportunity to learn new things or sharpen previous talents.
- Encouragement: As you volunteer your time and talents, you encourage both yourself and others. You realize you still have much to offer. Learning new things boosts your confidence. You feel purposeful. Others’ needs are met by your efforts. They receive they help they need through the service you provide, greatly encouraging them as well. If you volunteer in a recovery setting, your success story offers hope to others still in the woods.
A Word of Caution
It makes sense that many volunteers in recovery want to give back to others with similar struggles. This is a great way to volunteer and encourage others in the same circumstances. However, it may not be the healthiest choice for you. For some, it is best to avoid this environment entirely. Until your footing is more secure on your path, it may be better to stay clear of all drug and alcohol related activities (even if they are recovery-related.) You may want to volunteer in other areas, at least for a while.
If you are looking for ways to volunteer, there is no shortage of opportunities. Following are a few organizations that are always accepting new volunteers. Find one in your area and contact them today.
- Habitat for Humanity
- American Red Cross
- Animal shelters
- Retirement homes
- Food pantries
- National parks
Additional Reading: 7 Reasons it Feels so Good to Give Back in Recovery
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