Recovery from substance abuse can be a process that requires a lifelong commitment to sobriety. Once recovering addicts leave rehabilitation, there is often still a long road ahead. When reentering society, many former addicts find themselves out of work, or struggling to reacclimate to the job they left behind. While returning to work can be a major challenge, the stress of being unemployed can be just as detrimental to the health of a recovering addict. In addition to being stressful, unemployment can also leave a recovering addict depressed and with an alarming amount of free time. This could be disastrous to their recovery effort. One positive option that could give them an opportunity to get out of the house is volunteering. Volunteering just a few hours a week can positively impact both the volunteer and those who receive their assistance.
Although volunteering has many benefits, it is important to consult your therapist or recovery counselor before getting into any project. Some projects may be too stressful for a person in recovery, or may involve triggers that could cause someone to relapse.
Sense of Purpose, Community, and Belonging
Volunteering can help recovering addicts reclaim a sense of belonging that they may have lost while in the depths of addiction. Whether working with children, adults, or animals, helping during times of need can boost self-esteem and provide a sense of purpose, all while giving to others.
Addiction can cause people to feel isolated from their family, friends, and sometimes society as a whole. Volunteering is a great way to get reacclimated into a community. It also gives those in recovery a chance to surround themselves with positive influences as they strive to better their community.
Opportunity to Explore Passion
In addition to giving back to the community, volunteering provides people with an opportunity to invest in something they are passionate about. Often in life, it is impractical to make your hobbies and passions into a sustainable career, but volunteering provides a meaningful outlet that enriches the lives of both the volunteers and the many lives they touch. For example, if you are passionate about art, but don’t wish to pursue it as a full time career, you can volunteer to be a docent at your local art museum or as an after-school art teacher at an elementary school.
For addicts in recovery, this can even be an opportunity to give back to an organization that aided you through your recovery process. If equine therapy was an effective tool in managing your addiction, volunteering at an organization that provides horse riding lessons for urban youth may be a natural fit.
Valuable Social and Professional Connections
Volunteering is a wonderful way to make connections and build friendships with like-minded individuals. Bonding with people who share your hobbies and passions can be valuable for reasons far beyond just social. Volunteering can be a great way to get your foot in the door at an organization that is near and dear to your heart.
Even if you aren’t interested in the volunteer position becoming your full time job, volunteering allows you to network with people from various backgrounds, so the possibilities can surprise you. Many companies host employee engagement programs that encourage volunteering. Other companies have developed philanthropic relationships with nonprofit organizations, and have recurring volunteers. Both of these can serve as opportunities to build professional relationships that could be beneficial in the future.
Gain a Positive Perspective
It’s understandable that some recovering addicts may feel a little discouraged in the aftermath of rehabilitation. While in rehab, they had a team of doctors and staff who were there to help them on their recovery journey. Once they are back home, they may feel helpless and vulnerable. Volunteering is one way to give them a more positive perspective. In many instances, volunteering may allow them to see that there are people who are far less fortunate than they are. For recovering addicts who are a little down on their luck, volunteering with people who are also struggling may make them feel less alone.
Volunteering can also give recovering addicts a healthy boost of confidence. Volunteering gives people an opportunity to learn new skills and try new things in a healthy environment. Knowing that your efforts are useful and appreciated is a great feeling for most, this feeling could only be multiplied when felt by those who may be struggling to find their place in their new sober environment.
Help Those in Similar Situations
A great option for recovering addicts that want to give back to their community is volunteering at an addiction recovery center. In addition to the good feeling that comes from community service, volunteering at an addiction recovery center is even more rewarding for former addicts because it gives them the opportunity to not only show their appreciation to those who nurtured their recovery process, but to also mentor and support those who are in a similar situation as they were once in.
When former addicts volunteer at recovery centers, it adds an entirely new layer for the experience for both the patients and the volunteers. The progress that the recovering addicts have made can serve as an inspiration for those patients who may feel that they will never be able to shake the strong grip of addiction. The recovering addicts can speak from experience and they can listen and emphasize without judgement or criticism. Although most of the benefit is to the patients, volunteering at a recovery center can also be incredibly beneficial for the recovering addict. Regularly being in an environment that discourages addiction is helpful for obvious reasons, but seeing new patients who are as bad off as the recovering addict was initially can serve as an incentive to stay on the straight and narrow path.
The road to recovery never truly ends. There will always be obstacles to lead you astray, but making positive choices and surrounding yourself with good people is a great way to aid the often difficult process. By volunteering, you not only get to invest in the wellbeing of your community, but also yourself.
Author Bio: Kelsey Hawkins is a contributing writer and media specialist for Nexus Recovery Services. She regularly produces content for a variety of informational and lifestyle blogs.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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