Why Volunteer Work Helps With Addiction Recovery
It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways for a person to deal with their own problems is to volunteer. This is especially true for those who suffer from substance abuse.
Addiction is a condition that promotes selfishness. Those who are wrapped up in addiction become increasingly self-centered, often cutting ties with friends, family members and activities that they used to do with others.
Volunteering helps bring balance back to a person’s life. Here’s how.
The Therapeutic Power of Volunteering
There are four key ways in which volunteering benefits clients recovering from substance abuse.
TAKES FOCUS OFF ONE’S OWN PROBLEMS
When all a person can think about is his or her own problems, it’s easy to feel that they are overwhelming, ever-present and inescapable. Volunteer work, by contrast, is outwardly focused. It requires a person to think about someone other than himself or herself.
Even a small amount of time spent in this shifted awareness can be helpful, because it provides a contrast to the selfishly focused mindset, and serves as a reminder that there are other ways of experiencing life.
BRINGS A SENSE OF POWER AND PURPOSE
People trapped in addiction feel out of control of their own lives, unable to stop their substance use from dominating their existence. Being able to do something helpful for others – especially when one feels incapable of handling one’s own problems – brings a sense of empowerment.
It’s also fulfilling to be able to help another human being or contribute to a worthwhile cause. Having a sense of purpose, a reason to exist beyond chasing next high, is critically important to addiction recovery, and volunteer work helps create that.
BUILDS CONNECTIONS WITH OTHERS
Because volunteer work is a service activity, it involves personal interaction with the people being helped, as well as the other volunteers.
This fosters a personal, emotional connection that is another important component of addiction recovery.
People whose only friends were other users begin to expand their social circle.
This new social circle includes individuals who provide encouragement, a positive example and satisfying social experiences.
Volunteering also provides a hands-on way to practice teamwork, cooperation and leadership.
REESTABLISHES COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
In addition to building one-on-one relationships, volunteering also helps recovering addicts feel like they are part of a larger community, and that they are contributing to that community in ways that matter. Over time, volunteering restores their engagement in society, which strengthens a sense of purpose and belonging.
Elevate Addiction Services Adopts a Beach
Because we at Elevate believe wholeheartedly in the power of volunteering to help our clients in their recovery journey, we recently joined the California Adopt-A-Beach program. Both our staff and clients come together several times a year to clean up our adopted beach, located in Watsonville, CA.
California’s beaches are a wonderful natural resource enjoyed by locals and out-of-state visitors alike. Keeping them clean of marine debris not only protects the environment, but preserves visitors’ enjoyment of the beaches as well.
If you’d like to learn more about the Adopt-A-Beach program, visit the California Coastal Commission website.
Taking a Holistic Approach to Addiction Treatment
Volunteering is one of the many non-traditional, yet valuable ways that holistic addiction treatment can help people recover from drug or alcohol addiction. We treat each individual with respect and empower him or her to rebuild a healthy life of purpose, connection and joy.
Tim Sinnott, LMFT LAADC
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