Sober Summer Idea: 5 Ways to Volunteer in Recovery
Volunteering as part of your recovery effort is not only a way to give back to the community, but it is also a great way to stay active, meet like-minded people and learn new skills at no cost. You can draw your experience in addiction and recovery in order to help others.
Becoming more involved in a support group for people in recovery from addiction is doubly-beneficial because you will be surrounded by people who are experiencing the same challenges and triumphs as you. The encouragement and motivation these groups can offer is invaluable, and taking that a step further by volunteering has proven to help people boost self-esteem, gain skills, feel like a part of something and have a sense of purpose in recovery.
Here are five ways you can volunteer in recovery this summer:
- Volunteer with a 12-Step group like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery
Within the structure of a 12-step group, there are numerous ways you can get involved. Joining a recovery support group is a great first step to take after leaving treatment, and volunteering with the group will help you feel more involved and committed to meetings and sobriety. You can help with meeting set up or clean up, organize group events, act as treasurer or secretary or become a sponsor to another person in recovery. All of these are great ways to stay connected to others in recovery and to become more active in your local sober living community.
- Volunteer with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)
To get your feet wet in volunteering, the NCADD works with volunteers who are in recovery to help with local event planning, fundraisers and Recovery Month celebrations in September. They are always searching for volunteers to help, whether they are answering phones and sending mailings or joining a planning committee. As a volunteer, you can meet people who are also in recovery while contributing to the effort to help other people recover from addiction. Many volunteers with NCADD have said that volunteering made them feel more self-confident and valued, helped them learn new skills, made feel like part of a community and gave them a sense of purpose and belonging. They also felt proud that they could help and were able to share their talents and experiences to help others heal.
- Volunteer at a local non-profit addiction treatment center
Many rehab centers in the U.S. are non-profits, meaning they do not earn any profit and receive only enough funding to cover the basic costs of running their treatment programs. Often, these rehab centers depend on volunteers to help with their extra-curricular activities like tutoring programs for youth or leading an art or musical program, depending on the skills of volunteers. Check out local non-profit recovery centers near you to find out what volunteer positions they need, and you may be able to give back to your community and help guide others in recovery. Your experience and strength can inspire others to stay motivated in recovery, and when you become a role model, you will also feel motivated to stay on track!
- Become a support group facilitator
If you have been active in support meetings like AA, NA or SMART Recovery, it may be worth considering becoming a meeting facilitator! These organizations often have training manuals and guides for people in recovery who decide they are ready to lead a support group. This may be a big step with more responsibilities, so only consider it if you feel confident in your recovery. The group facilitaror will act as a mentor who guides others as they adjust back to their normal lives after addiction treatment. If you feel like you are ready to take the next step, reach out to your support group organization to find out more about how to become a facilitator and what steps you have to take to get started.
- Become a public policy advocate for addiction
Another way to volunteer your time and add purpose to your recovery is to become an advocate for public policy as part of the movement to destigmatize addiction and reach out to professionals to change the way people affected by addiction are treated. Millions of people in the United States are affected by addiction, yet stigmas make it difficult for people to seek out and receive the treatment they need. Advocacy groups have made progress like their efforts to promote the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act and ensuring that the Affordable Care Act would include coverage for addiction treatment. There is still a long way to go to change policy and public opinion about the nature of addiction as a disease and not moral failing. To become a policy advocate and join the movement, you could contact an organization like The New Recovery Advocacy Movement, which has 100 chapters throughout the country to find out how you can contribute.
Getting involved in any project that will help others find their own path to recovery is a great way to stay sober in the summer and especially as National Recovery Month is set to kick off in September, celebrating the millions who have recovered from addiction and the millions more who are still on their journey to recovery!