There are a lot of ways you can strengthen your recovery, but one of the most important is giving back to others. Not only is giving back to others a recovery principle, but there are scientifically proven benefits to giving back — like being happier, living a longer life and gaining positive self-esteem.
This week, make small, simple changes to start helping others. Starting small will help you learn what works for you and over time, it can help you form a habit that will become a foundational part of your life.
Here are a few reasons to start giving back:
It will get you out of your own head.
We all know the feeling — our problems can become a burden, marked by consuming thoughts about ourselves and our problems. Helping others will help move you out of that mindset and instead, onto others. Most times, the problems we’re experiencing will work themselves out in time and we can only do the next right thing. Today, make the next right thing about someone else, whether that means buying them coffee, helping them complete a task or just offering a listening ear.
It will give you purpose.
In recovery, our priorities change. Giving back to others can help you learn something new about yourself and you’ll find purpose in your past experiences, especially on the days when you’re battling guilt, shame or self-doubt. If you’re not sure what you’re meant to do in this next chapter of life, it’s common to find out while helping another person. And the best part? Helping someone today can be your purpose today.
It will remind you where you’ve been (and why you don’t want to go back).
Helping someone in early recovery isn’t just important for their recovery, it’s important for yours, too. On days when you feel like you’ve got it figured out or don’t need to keep up with your recovery program, seeing someone new in recovery can remind you why you should keep doing what works — because in doing what works, you’ve found a community, a new lifestyle, and have remained sober. Don’t go back, only move forward.
It will keep you engaged in your own recovery.
Working the steps, going to recovery support meetings, or doing step work with someone else will help keep you accountable to your own recovery process. As you make it a priority to help others, you’ll need to invest in yourself first. ‘An empty cup cannot fill another’ is more than just a phrase — it’s true. Giving back can be an important reminder to fill up your cup so you have more to contribute to your friends, family and recovery community.
It will get you out of your comfort zone.
Trying new things is important in recovery, and that doesn’t just mean trying new hobbies. As you grow more mature in your recovery, sometimes you need something new to wake you up and jumpstart your passion again. Helping others can be just what you need to get out of your comfort zone. And helping others doesn’t always have to be in the four walls of a meeting — it can be a stranger, a formal volunteering commitment or even one of your friends or family members.
After I graduated from Common Ground in 2008, I never thought I would own this treatment center one day. But leading this organization today has given me a purpose and sense of happiness I never knew was possible before recovery. Seeing hundreds of people find recovery every year makes my experience matter, among so much more.
Celebrities in recovery give back through their story, by starting sober homes and donating money — you can give back in all of these ways, too, but you can also keep it simple. Today, try starting small. Speak up in a meeting, share your story, or pay for the next person’s coffee when you’re in line today.
How are you going to give back this week? Remember, every small thing matters in recovery.