Serving others is one of the most rewarding experiences we have as human beings. It allows us to focus on the needs of someone aside from ourselves and become part of something bigger in the community.
In most recovery programs, service is a vital part of the recovery process. Learn how service in recovery helps you succeed and the different types of services you can perform as you grow in recovery.
How Does Service Help You in Recovery?
When you perform acts of service, you are helping yourself as well as others. Service helps you in recovery because it aids you in developing new habits and thinking patterns that don’t revolve around yourself and your addiction. Service in recovery helps you in several of the following ways.
Service helps you develop responsibility. Responsibility is a sense of duty or commitment to someone or something else. To be responsible means that you understand that your actions affect others and that you have a duty towards a set of tasks, a person, or an organization. Developing responsibility helps you in recovery because as you become more responsible you stay true to promises that you make, including those to yourself.
Focus on Others
When you serve others, you take the focus off yourself and your addiction and attune yourself to other people. This helps you develop empathy for their situations and can even help you be grateful for where you are at in your recovery. In a very tangible way, serving others also takes your mind off your circumstances and feelings and allows you to get outside of yourself while aiding another.
Most humans want to belong to something bigger than themselves. When you participate in volunteer work or serve in your faith or recovery group, you get to feel that sense of belonging and meaning. When you work for a bigger purpose, you feel like your life has meaning, and what you do matters. One of the toughest parts of recovery is dealing with loneliness and a sense of isolation, so serving others and developing a sense of belonging is one of the best things you can do for your recovery.
Service helps you develop self-esteem. You begin to see that others look to you as someone who matters, possibly even as an inspiration for their own recovery. You begin to trust yourself and what you are capable of. Maybe you like who you are for the first time because you are doing something you care about and see that others care about you.
Accountability is similar to responsibility, but with accountability, you are not only morally held liable for your actions, you are tangibly responsible. Accountability has to do with showing up to meetings, following through on commitments, and consistently showing up to perform service work. Developing accountability is essential to recovery because it keeps you showing up when and where you are supposed to.
Skills and Experience
Service helps recovery by giving you skills and experience to navigate the world. This can mean you gain experience in a volunteer field or in facilitating a support group or skills in networking with others. By performing service work, you may go out of your comfort zone and learn about organizations or hobbies you’ve never tried. These skills and experiences can help you in later recovery.
Focus on the Present
Another way service helps in recovery is to keep your mind rooted in the present moment. Those in recovery often ruminate on the past or become anxious about the future, both of which lead to unpleasant feelings and the desire to escape negative emotions. When you perform services, you force yourself to be mindful of the present moment and to accomplish the task at hand. It takes your mind off your worries and keeps your body and mind busy.
New Social Network
Part of struggling with addiction has to do with severing ties with acquaintances and friends who are still involved in addictive behaviors. When you take part in service, you begin to surround yourself with a new network of people who are invested in sobriety as much as you are. You make new friends and mentors who help you stay on the right path.
Types of Service
There are several different ways you can perform service for others. Working with official organizations, doing volunteer work, organizing your own service, or simply living each day with a service-minded attitude provide you and the community with positive benefits.
Helping with support meetings
If you can help facilitate support meetings, it is a great way to give back to those that have helped you. Even something as simple as preparing the coffee, bringing snacks, or handing out pamphlets is a wonderful form of service. This is a great starting point for those ready to start actively serving.
Co-chairing a support group
Support groups need members who are willing to organize gatherings, so once you get to a certain point in your sobriety, consider co-chairing a support group. This level of responsibility shows you truly trust yourself in your sobriety and your ability to help others.
Volunteer at an animal shelter, soup kitchen, charity, or support organization. Volunteer to clean up your local roadways, parks, and playgrounds. There are always organizations looking for volunteers, so take steps to find your local volunteer opportunities.
Serve Yourself By Serving Others
There is a good reason that most recovery programs promote service as a main tenant of maintaining sobriety. At the Right Path Recovery Treatment Center, we believe that performing service for others is to take ownership of the world around you and to interact with it in a positive way instead of feeling like a victim. By taking an active part in service for others, you are making an investment in your sobriety.
Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.