Addiction recovery can be an all-consuming process. It requires a great deal of time and attention to transform your habits, attitudes and mental state so that you no longer feel compelled to misuse drugs or alcohol. Although it may not seem to make sense, volunteering can help with that transformation in some dramatic ways.
1. Volunteering Keeps You Busy.
Every person in recovery knows that having too much time on your hands is never a good thing. When you have nothing productive to do, chances are you will find something to fill that time, and there is always a chance that you will turn back to previous substance use if no better option presents itself. Volunteering can get your mind off your substance misuse and keep you too busy to return to unhealthy patterns.
2. Volunteering Helps You feel Better Emotionally.
It feels good to help others. Volunteering actually releases endorphins — the same endorphins that are released by drugs and alcohol (although at a different level, usually). Anything you can do to release endorphins naturally without drugs and alcohol will benefit your emotional state and help you get back to emotional equilibrium.
3. Volunteering Helps You Feel Better Physically.
When you help others, you may benefit from having reduced physical pain as well as an overall enhanced sense of well-being. The same endorphins that are so beneficial to your emotional state can also help block pain receptors, which will make you feel less pain overall. Feeling pain for seemingly no reason is often a problem after detox, and volunteering can help you get your mind off the pain in addition to blocking some of it.
4. Volunteering Gives You a Purpose.
If your addiction has cost you your job, significant relationships, and other things in your life that gave you purpose, you may wonder “what now?” While you probably cannot afford to volunteer all of your time for the rest of your life, some initial volunteering during or right after rehab can remind you that the rest of your life can recover from your addiction just like your body did.
5. Volunteering Lets You Give Back.
If your addiction caused you to end up in a situation where you benefitted from volunteers, your own volunteering can be an opportunity to help others in similar ways. You can volunteer with NA, AA or whatever ongoing support group you decide to join and have a part in mentoring others on the same recovery journey you are on. If you were ever homeless because of your addiction, you could volunteer at a shelter.
Giving back shows that you have left your addiction behind and want to help others in the same ways you were helped at one time. Volunteers like AA sponsors are more committed to their own recovery and less likely to experience a relapse.