giving back in recovery

How Does Giving Back Help My Own Recovery?

Published on October 23, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Early into one’s recovery from alcohol and/or substance use disorder, self-care should be a top priority. By the time addicted individuals seek treatment, they usually have hit an emotional, psychological, or spiritual rock bottom — or sometimes a combination of the three. Finding themselves at a low point, they seldom have an abundance of confidence. Feelings of self-love and respect often border on zilch, as self-esteem experiences a serious drought. Treatment can help first responders and others re-learn how to look in the mirror with love and compassion.

After graduating from a treatment program, alumni can begin bearing the weight of supporting others as well. Although these undertakings can feel like huge responsibilities, those in recovery may be pleasantly surprised to find that helping others actually helps strengthen their own connection to sober living. Feeling needed by others provides a sense of purpose that is inherent to human existence. Deep down, all individuals crave acceptance. By taking care of an essential service for others, the joy of making an impact on a stranger’s life reinforces the notion that we are all capable of making life better for our communities.

First responders know well the reward of helping out their community. Even those whose careers already center around civil service can experience the benefits of helping out their local community in other ways. Law enforcement officers may see a different side of the city they regularly patrol. Firefighters could get the opportunity to connect with the many lives they save through volunteer engagement. Choosing to spend free time improving the well-being of others is a time-tested method to improve mental wellness and fortify recovery.


How Can Those in Recovery Give Back?

There are many ways to give back outside of first response work. Addicted individuals looking to reconnect with their empathy might find it rewarding to volunteer. Serving at soup kitchens, working food banks, and assisting at homeless shelters are all small tasks that can reconnect anyone in recovery with the joy of providing for those in need. These types of opportunities provide a feeling of collaborative care, which allows people to build camaraderie with those united in philanthropy. 

If working with others isn’t as appealing to you, then volunteering with animals may be a better option. With COVID-19 demanding that more people work at home, many have turned to pet adoption, increasing the volunteer opportunities available that are related to animal care. Another way to volunteer while making a direct impact on the community is habitat cleanup. This work keeps volunteers on their feet, while positively impacting ecosystems that may never get cleaned otherwise.


What Are the Responsibilities of Being a Sponsor?

Alumni also find strength through sponsorship of others in recovery. Chances are, anyone who has graduated from a recovery program knows how much a sponsor can help fortify one’s recovery. The sponsor acts as a close friend who happens to have their own relationship with alcohol and/or substance use disorder. At the beginning of recovery, finding someone who understands the challenges you are going through helps reinforce the accessibility of recovering from addiction. After a year of sobriety, alumni may consider sponsoring an individual who has a more tenuous relationship with their alcohol and/or substance use.

Sponsorship might feel like an uncertain step in recovery. Alumni may ask themselves all sorts of troubling questions. What if I offer bad advice? Why should anyone look up to me? How can I be there for another’s addiction when my own is challenging enough? It’s natural to begin feeling doubt when faced with additional responsibilities. With sponsorship in particular, the main responsibility will be listening to the stresses and concerns of someone else in recovery. Initially, the prospect of acting as another person’s lifeline often feels daunting. But as the relationship builds, many sponsors begin to recognize a similarity between their own thought processes from early in recovery and the thoughts of those they are sponsoring. By the time they have the opportunity to sponsor another individual dealing with addiction, they have already completed the legwork of grappling with their own addiction-influenced logic. Now they are ready to help others.


How Else Can People Give Back?

Giving tends to be exponential in its own right. There’s often an exhilarating rush from helping out and seeing the profound difference you have made on the world. One of the easiest ways to scratch this healthy itch is through random acts of kindness. Cheesy? Possibly, but a positive outlook is a great way to improve happiness and overall quality of living. Challenging yourself to compliment friends, family, and even strangers will impact how others feel about themselves, as well as your outlook on the relationships in your life. Writing letters and making gifts for others when they are struggling not only provides emotional support, but allows the gift giver time to reflect upon their appreciation for others. Ultimately, giving to others will strengthen your commitment to sobriety and healthy life choices.


When an individual is struggling with alcohol and/or substance use disorder or mental health issues, their friends and family often feel the impact as well. Relationships suffer as lies and secrecy become the norm, and an inability to participate in family activities, casual outings, or daily life can cause a rift that’s difficult to mend. As the person becomes more isolated, manipulative, self-centered, or non-communicative, their struggles begin to have a profound effect on those around them. Giving back to support those in need is a great way to reconnect with the priorities in your life. First Responders Wellness is here to help you seek recovery and healing, so you can help others. To learn more, call us today at (888) 743-0490.