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Volunteering in Recovery

PicFor people recovering from addiction, the holidays can be a difficult time of year. It is important to find meaningful activities to fill the days. Volunteering is a great activity for people in recovery because they are able to give back to the community. People who volunteer are less tempted to relapse as they feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose. When one feels good about what they are contributing to society, they are able to mend the negative feelings of guilt and shame that accumulated while they were using.

While volunteers are actively improving the lives of others, they are ultimately improving their own life. Studies have proven that volunteering time to help others has as much of a positive effect on the volunteer as it does on those who they are helping. People who volunteer have better self-esteem and overall well-being, and they are generally happier than people who don’t volunteer. The better one feels about themselves, the more likely they are to have an optimistic view of life and the future.

Also, during challenging times it’s important to engage in social interaction, as social isolation is a risk factor for depression. Volunteering keeps people in contact with others and provides a feeling of connectedness, which protects from the negative effects of stress and depression.

Here are some tips for getting started volunteering:

  • Decide who you want to work with. Do you work best around adults? Children? Animals?
  • Do you like one-on-one interactions or working in big groups? Volunteering to teach children to read may be in a small setting, probably working one-on-one. Volunteering at a local soup kitchen may be loud, fast-paced and a team effort.
  • Find something that interests you or a cause you believe is important. You’ll be more likely to volunteer on a consistent basis if you enjoy going and believe in what you are accomplishing.

Suggestions of places to volunteer include food shelves, museums, libraries, senior centers, service organizations such as Lions Club or March of Dimes, animal shelters, youth/community organizations such as the YMCA, national parks, and places of worship.