Giving Back: Finding Healing in Helping Others

Giving Back: Finding Healing in Helping Others

To understand why giving back is a great way to heal yourself, learn more about studies that show how giving your time and energy to someone else in recovery affects your own body. You can then learn how to get started helping others as you explore a formal method of volunteering that helps you heal.

About Giving Your Time and Energy

Maria E. Pagano, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, wrote the post, Helping others helps alcoholics stay on the road to recovery. This article was published in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, and it shows that many people find healing effects when they volunteer their time and energy to helping others. For instance, actively serving other people helps alcoholics and other addicts get and stay sober, which suggests that volunteering helps all people who avoid drinking or using drugs if they get involved. Her research focuses on the helper therapy principle: when someone helps someone with a similar condition as himself, he ends up helping both parties. She focused on this therapy to explore how it diminishes egocentrism or selfishness, a root cause of addiction: she believes that support programs enable people to forge therapeutic kinship, as camaraderie has vast potential in recovery.

Pagano participated in a 2004 study that shows 40% of the alcoholics who helped other alcoholics during their recoveries ended up avoiding alcohol for 12 months after three months of rehab ended. To put that statistic into perspective, only 22% of people who refused to help others stayed sober for that long once rehab had ended. In a follow up study in 2009, Pagano saw that 94% of alcoholics who helped other alcoholics at any point during the 15-month study continued to do so as part of their ongoing recovery; they also experienced lower levels of depression. One of the key concepts of her studies is that, when people help others through similar experiences (addiction or other chronic conditions like depression, AIDS or chronic pain), the benefits of doing so still applies. In short, you can help your own recovery by helping someone else recover.

How to Help Others

People who attend quality rehab centers will often receive a great deal of information about helping others, support groups and even peer mentoring. To learn more about these programs, the post, Mentoring in Recovery – Staying Sober by Helping Others, provides the following insights:

  • Evaluate what you have to offer – People in different stages of recovery can offer different qualities. By reflecting on the lessons you have learned so far, you can identify the experiences and insights you can offer to newcomers in recovery. For example, think about why you are grateful along with the experiences that you found overwhelming at the time. By doing so, you expand your perspective of what you have to offer and may feel more comfortable sharing your thoughts with other people. By helping people find their ways in recovery, you will benefit from remembering who you were as an addict, what you risked at the time and what you must do to continue improving.
  • Sharing resources – You have learned many lessons the hard way, but many resources and people helped you get clean. At this point in your recovery, you can offer the same help to other people. You can help them overcome anxiety about meeting new people, about looking for resources (such as housing and work) or by introducing them to programs that are especially helpful. In short, your expertise in recovery can guide someone else to long-term sobriety.
  • Help with the transition – People who are new to recovery need to learn how to have fun and socialize while also staying sober. You can help such people find opportunities to enjoy life without feeling tempted to drink or use drugs, because they can accompany you on some sober fun. This company will be especially helpful during peak trigger times, such as holidays and other celebrations.

As much as you give while helping others, you are also receiving the benefits that they enjoy. Furthermore, you will stay focused on recovery while you create a sense of purpose in your work.

Resident Graduates

One option you can explore is the resident graduate program, which is described in the post, Working as a recovering addict in a drug rehab: Helping others as you help yourself. Rehab graduate residents may continue to live in rehab centers rent free, which means they get free board and can also attend therapies in a sober environment without having to pay. In return, graduate residents must contribute to the experiences of newly admitted patients—through mentoring and discussing the experience of getting and staying sober. Resident graduates end up fulfilling essential components of continuing sobriety, which is to give freely to those who are still struggling with recovery.

Learn More Giving Back to Other People

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