As with most other diseases, alcohol and drug addiction come with a diverse number of side effects that tend to be different for each person depending on factors like the drug of choice, length of time spent in active addiction, and so on. However, the disease of addiction is different from many other diseases in some very important ways. Whereas a disease like diabetes can be treated and managed in such a way as to curb the negative effects it the disease has when insufficiently treated, the disease of addiction has no singular cure-all treatment, requiring a number of different therapies in order to alleviate the diverse symptoms of chemical dependency. What’s more, addiction also differs from most other diseases in that it also entails a variety of behavioral and psychological effects; in addition to causing degradation in one’s physical health, addiction causes profound psychological and behavioral degradation that can manifest in a number of ways, one of which includes the tendency that alcohol and drug addicts have to resort to criminal behavior in order to sustain their substance abuse habits.
Due to the nature of addicts’ suffering, addiction treatment tends to be based on the tenets of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a form of psychotherapy that is focused on identifying unhealthy or harmful patterns of thought, helping the individual to correct them in order to prevent the dangerous behaviors that result from such thinking. However, there are a number of other components of addiction treatment that are meant to address other, more specific symptoms or effects of alcohol and drug addiction. Twelve-step programs, for example, are often encouraged as a way for individuals to develop supportive relationships with individuals who are innately encouraging of treatment, helping recovering addicts acclimate to having a social life while maintaining sobriety.
In addition to the physical and behavioral deterioration, individuals sustain over the course of active addiction, those suffering from chemical dependency often feel a severe lack of spiritual fulfillment. In fact, Bill Wilson—founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and the twelve-step method of recovery—suggested that one of the reasons for alcoholism was that individuals were searching for personal meaning in life at the bottom of a bottle, realizing too late that one doesn’t get fulfillment through substance abuse. As such, it’s often suggested that individuals find ways to give back to others while in recovery as it promotes a more comprehensive, mind-body-and-spirit recovery by offering those in recovery fulfillment through helping others. Therefore, in the spirit of altruism and spiritual health, here are five ways to give back during recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.
1. BECOME A RECOVERY ADVOCATE
Individuals in recovery accrue more and more sober time, it’s a good idea to advocate the importance of addiction treatment and recovery to those who are still suffering from the disease of addiction. Whether you’ve been in treatment for a day, a month, or a year, it’s never too soon to become an advocate of alcohol and drug addiction recovery. Regardless of where a person is in his or her recovery journey, he or she is in a much better place than anyone who is still suffering from chemical dependency and continued enslavement by active addiction. Every single day of sobriety is an achievement worthy of pride and respect, but it’s also proof to those who are still in active addiction that recovery is possible and attainable. Sharing one’s experiences and thoughts regarding recovery can be a great source of encouragement to others. What’s more, if even just one addict enters a treatment program as the result of someone’s advocacy, that’s still one life saved and a web of family members and friends who will benefit from and be thankful for their addicted loved one beginning their journey to recovery.
2. SEIZE OPPORTUNITIES TO VOLUNTEER IN THE COMMUNITY
Volunteering might not be someone most recovering addicts would be ready for in early recovery when they’re still detoxing or getting acclimated to abstinence, but after the adjustment period, it’s a great idea to find opportunities to volunteer in the community. Many churches have a variety of volunteer initiatives such as soup kitchens and clothing drives, and most cities have a YMCA center where individuals can offer to help out in a number of ways. One of the main benefits of volunteering is that it’s good for the soul, making recovering addicts feel better about themselves and feel like they really have something valuable to offer their communities. Many addiction specialists even consider volunteering to be a cornerstone of recovery.
3. START A LOCAL RECOVERY GROUP
It might seem like Alcoholics Anonymous and its many twelve-step derivatives have the market cornered when it comes to support groups, but that’s definitely not the case. Many communities have a number of twelve-step support groups available as well as a variety of other groups that are started by individuals who saw the need for a new type of support group, whether it’s faith-based or non-denominational support groups, or perhaps a directed readings group for recovering addicts, which is sort of like a book club where individuals read and discuss books that directly pertain to some aspect of the recovery process. This can not only be rewarding but also a very productive way to spend one’s downtime. As they say, idle hands can be the devil’s playground.
4. BECOME SOMEONE’S SPONSOR
Once an individual has accrued a length of sober time in recovery, attended twelve-step meetings for a while, and worked most of the Twelve Steps themselves, he or she could probably become a sponsor by taking on sponsees if he or she chooses to do so. This is another productive way to spend one’s time, helping to guide others through the recovery process by using one’s own experiences as a coaching tool. What’s more, it’s often said that one of the best ways to reinforce one’s knowledge is to teach others; as such, being a sponsor could help to reinforce one’s own recovery. Being a sponsor is also incredibly rewarding as most individuals will really appreciate having someone to guide them through the recovery process.
5. TEACH OTHERS PRODUCTIVE OR FUN SKILLS
Everyone has a talent, or perhaps even more than one. Some are talented musicians while others might be particularly adept at learning foreign languages. Whatever one’s skill might be, it could be a great idea to turn that skill into a class that can be taught to others. For example, many people like to take painting classes, which are incredibly fun even for those who aren’t very good painters and have no intention of becoming the next van Gogh or Picasso. Most treatment centers or halfway houses would welcome the opportunity for a patient or resident to start some sort of fun or constructive class. It might be worth considering teaching a class that can offer individuals a pertinent skill they’ll need after completing a recovery program, such as how to create a resume or how to nail a job interview. What’s more, sharing one’s skills or talents with others through teaching can be an especially rewarding experience.