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Volunteering in Recovery – Strengthen Your Sobriety by Helping Others

“You can’t keep it unless you give it away.” AA Oral Traditions.

Odds are, someone helped you along the way… so, isn’t it time to return the favor?

If you’ve finished with formal addiction treatment and achieved lasting sobriety you’re uniquely qualified to help others find recovery. Why not give a few hours a week and change someone’s life? Here are some ideas for getting started.

Why Volunteer?

Is it really altruism when it helps you as much as anyone?

Get Involved with AA Service Work

12 step meetings provide ample opportunities for service work. Some examples of ‘helping’ activities include:

  • Sponsoring others
  • Making the coffee, setting up and cleaning up, and generally - coming early and staying late
  • Taking a group office (treasurer, etc.)
  • Serving on a regional committee
  • Organizing or volunteering to help out with events

Become a Volunteer Recovery Coach/Mentor

A recovery coach is a person with substantial recovery time who mentors those newer to recovery. A volunteer recovery coach:

  • Models healthy lifestyle choices
  • Gives advice and companionship
  • Helps out with instrumental support to remove barriers to recovery

Many public health agencies fund training for recovery support volunteers. To find out what’s available in your area, ask around at local self-help meetings or call your county health agency.

Become a SMART Recovery Volunteer Facilitator

If you’ve found benefit from SMART Recovery, consider taking the next step and training to be a volunteer SMART Recovery facilitator – and then running meetings for people in your area.

Volunteer at a Local Non-Profit Addiction Treatment Program

There’s never enough money to offer all the programs and services that are needed – that’s why volunteers who bring in expertise and enthusiasm make a huge difference in countless treatment programs across the country.

For example, Phoenix House, a 120 location non-profit provider runs a page on their website seeking volunteers at most locations for the following tasks:2

  • To run skills programs, such as workshops or tutoring services
  • Helping youth with college prep work or SAT preparation
  • Helping organize sports and recreation activities
  • Leading arts activities in painting, poetry, creative writing, photography and others.
  • Helping out with special events, such as BBQs or outings
  • Helping out with the general facility operations and maintenance

Or at Hazelden, another major treatment provider, volunteers are sought to:3

  • Help orient newcomers to the traditions of AA
  • Host visitors
  • Be guest speakers for program meetings and events
  • Become an alumni contact person
  • Help with research projects
  • And other tasks

No matter your background, there’s an excellent chance that your skills are needed at a treatment program near you.

Contact Volunteers of America

Volunteers of America (VOA), a national organizing agency, will help find you a placement in your area of interest, such as in an addiction recovery capacity.

To find out what’s available in your area, visit the VOA website or call their volunteering hotline at 1 800 899 0089.

Join the NCADD Registry of Addiction Recovery

Register with the National Council on Addiction and Drug Dependence (NCADD) as a person that is willing to speak to media on issues of recovery.

People who speak openly about addiction issues and share recovery stories do a lot to reduce the stigma that surrounds substance use disorders.

Give Back… Help Yourself

With volunteering, it’s hard to know who benefits most, you, or the people you serve – it’s truly a win-win activity.

Volunteering can help you:

  • Stay active and avoid isolation
  • Find more purpose and meaning in your life
  • Stay focused on a recovery-oriented lifestyle
  • Meet interesting people and make great friendships
  • Learn new career and social skills
  • Improve self esteem and self confidence (how can you not feel great about yourself while helping to literally change lives?)
  • Improve physical health and increase your resilience against mental illnesses, like depression
  • Feel valued and needed
  • Help improve your community

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