Addiction can draw a person inward, leading them to withdraw from society and lose their sense of community. With recovery comes a fresh start—an opportunity to live a life filled with meaning and purpose. For many individuals in recovery, community service and volunteering is a key element of this new life. In this article, we’ll look at some of the many benefits of community service and explain how it can help you find fulfillment in recovery.
Proven Benefits of Volunteering
It feels good to help others and give back to your community, whether you’re in recovery or not. However, research has actually proven the health benefits of volunteering. A study by UnitedHealth Group examined a group of 3,300 adults who volunteered regularly.1 The physical and psychological benefits of community service included:
- 94 percent of respondents reported that volunteer work improved their mood
- 76 percent reported feeling healthier when they volunteered regularly
- 74 percent stated that volunteer work reduced their stress levels
If you’re in recovery, it’s important to do all you can to prevent a relapse. The power of community service to improve mood and reduce stress levels can make a real difference in your recovery efforts. When you’re feeling balanced and fulfilled, you’re less likely to succumb to triggers and cravings.
Finding Purpose and Community
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has identified four important components of a life in recovery:2
Volunteering is an effective way to satisfy two of these components: community and purpose. Volunteering allows you to connect to others nearby in a positive way, fostering a sense of connection and building new friendships. When you get involved with volunteer opportunities, you can expand your network and build new relationships while doing meaningful work at the same time.
If you don’t have much experience with community service, you may not be sure where to begin. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to give back to your community. Most non-profit organizations gladly accept volunteers, and there’s a good chance you’ll find an opportunity that matches your passions and interests. A few possibilities include:
- Animal shelters
- Soup kitchens and food pantries
Some people who have battled addiction also find it rewarding to give back to the organizations and programs that assisted them in their recovery journey. You may not yet feel ready to revisit these places or programs, but they may be a good option in the future if you have the desire to help people move forward on the road to recovery.
After you’ve struggled with addiction, it can be difficult to figure out how to find purpose and fulfillment in recovery. Giving back through volunteering and community service can be a rewarding part of your recovery. Not only are you doing something to strengthen your recovery, but your efforts also benefit others. Even if you can only commit a few hours a month to a cause, remember that your service can make a difference.