Years of addiction can take a huge toll on confidence and self-esteem. Helping others may sound like a simplistic strategy for coping with painful feelings of regret, shame and guilt, but giving back is actually a powerful strategy that builds self-worth and significantly reduces the risk of relapse. One study suggests that charitable work may increase maintaining long-term sobriety by as much as 50 percent.
A growing body of research indicates that volunteering provides a number of social and psychological benefits. Giving back isn’t only a huge psychological mood-lifter; helping others also benefits physical health by keeping the heart healthier.
Forbes Magazine recently reported on a study suggesting that charitable work strengthens the heart and adds years to life. People who participate in volunteer activities after a heart attack enjoyed marked improvements in mental and physical health and reduction in depression and anxiety.
Helping others may also provide the following benefits:
- Creates positive social connections, a strong sense of belonging and a powerful network of sober friends.
- Keeps you busy when the days feel long and empty during the early days of recovery. Boredom is a dangerous trigger for relapse.
- Helps replace negative thoughts with feelings of gratitude.
- Prevents feelings of loneliness and isolation that often occur as a result of giving up old friends who still use drugs and alcohol.
- Provides a sense of accomplishment, direction and purpose.
- Offers a welcome distraction from your own problems and offers a new perspective on life.