4 Benefits of Volunteering in Recovery

Addiction impacts every part of a person’s life and can wreak havoc on someone’s physical, social, and mental health. Over time, you can lose focus on everything else in your life and give all your time, energy, and resources to the addiction. The people you love, responsibilities at work or home, and hobbies you loved fall away as the addiction becomes the focus of your life. What used to be important feels much less so. Addiction can be long-lasting and all-consuming until you get the treatment and support you need.

In recovery, people re-discover their lives–the good parts and the challenges. They learn to manage their stress and overcome obstacles without using substances. Volunteering in recovery can be an important and meaningful part of the healing process for some people. Reconnecting with a cause you support and giving your time, knowledge, and energy to it is restorative for many people in recovery.

Together, we’ll explore four of the many benefits of volunteering in recovery. You might be inspired to invest some of your time and energy back into the community–and you’ll reap the rewards, too.

1. Find Your Purpose Outside of Drugs and Alcohol

When you are in the midst of your addiction, your life experiences narrow until the only thing that seems to matter is your substance of choice. Finding, using, and recovering from using becomes the main focus of your life. If you struggled with addiction for a long time before getting treatment, you may find that you have to discover a new purpose for your life.

Volunteering in recovery can help with this. There are so many opportunities to give back in a variety of ways that can also help you find meaning in your life. Whether you want to work with people, technology, or animals, there is an organization out there looking for people willing to gift their time.

You might already know where you’d like to direct your energy, or you may need to think about what kinds of opportunities interest you. Think about what interests you. Reach out to organizations to ask if they need help, or speak to friends or family members who are active in the community. The right volunteer opportunity is out there–you just need to find it. You might also discover your new life’s purpose.

2. Meet New People Who Live Healthy, Meaningful Lives

For some people, recovery is a time of self-discovery and a re-evaluation of priorities. This often means being thoughtful about the people you spend time with. Often during periods of substance abuse, people isolate themselves completely and lose connections with friends and family members. They may let old relationships fade away in favor of friends who are also using drugs and alcohol.

Volunteering is a good way to meet new people and establish fresh friendships that are not based on substance use. It can help you feel connected with others on a personal level and help you feel invested in your community. Meeting like-minded people while giving back to the community can be an important step in building back the full, healthy life you want in recovery.

3. Volunteering can Improve Your Mental Health in Recovery

Giving your time and energy to a cause you support can make you feel really good. There’s some science behind that warm, fuzzy feeling. Research shows that people experience measurable effects when they volunteer–from reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease to maintaining a healthy body. But it also noticeably affects your mood. People who volunteer regularly report an 8.5% improvement in overall mental wellbeing and a 4.3% reduction in anxiety.[1]

Recovery is full of ups and downs. You will have days that feel good and some that feel like an uphill climb. You may struggle with guilt or a lack of confidence because of things that happened while you were using drugs or alcohol. Contributing to the community can help you overcome these feelings and move past mistakes.

Taking steps to actively improve your mental health can help you get through each day of recovery, one day at a time. Volunteering can be a powerful tool in helping not just others in your community, but yourself, too.

4. You Will Gain New Skills and Experience

Volunteering can help you use skills you already have and can help you learn new ones. Moving forward in recovery means settling into a new lifestyle and new habits. Giving the gift of your time and energy to a worthy cause can lead to new things for you, too. These might include:

  • Gaining new skills
  • Learning more about community resources
  • Gaining accountability
  • Networking with likeminded people
  • Learning to live on a schedule again
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Confidence when applying for jobs
  • References for future work

The skills you learn while volunteering in recovery/sobriety can lead to good things in the future while improving your community and helping others in the present.