Addiction can be a selfish disease.  People struggling with substance abuse may become self-centered to a certain degree to feed their addiction, and recovery requires an often-difficult transition back into a life of compassion.  The best way to grow and foster this compassion in your life is to find ways to be of service to others. Being of service can take various forms, all of which have powerful effects on your brain as well as your spirit.  For those that have a history of relapse, finding ways to dedicate your time and attention to the needs of others may be the key to unlocking lasting sobriety once and for all. Here are some ways being of service may help you stay on track and prevent relapse.

The Gratitude Factor

Gratitude is more than just feeling thankful.  The experience of gratitude is deeply rooted in many spiritual practices as a necessary aspect of personal growth and transcendence.  More recently, research has confirmed this ancient wisdom, finding that people who regularly practice gratitude are generally happier and have lower rates of mental illness.  One way to practice gratitude is to find ways to help those less fortunate than you. It is hard to stay focused on your own troubles or wallow in self-pity when you are faced with the hardships of those around you.  It is an important distinction, however, to feel gratitude for your blessings by taking action to lift others up, rather than to simply acknowledge the misfortune of others.  

A Sense of Belonging

A major risk factor for addiction and relapse is a sense of social isolation.  For many people new to recovery, finding places to connect with others in a sober environment can be a challenge.  A great way to meet other sober and like-minded people is through service-oriented projects and volunteerism. This might mean offering your time and assistance to the recovery community by organizing support group meetings or becoming a supportive point of contact for those new to sobriety.  You may choose to find a service project outside of addiction recovery by volunteering at a soup kitchen or animal shelter. Wherever you choose to focus your energy, you will be sure to find good people and the benefits of becoming a part of something bigger than yourself.  

Improved Self-Esteem

Addiction can happen to anybody, but those recovering from substance abuse may still become overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, shame, and a lack of self-confidence.  In early sobriety, it can be easy to beat yourself up over past mistakes. Unfortunately, becoming overly self-critical can lead to relapse as you find it increasingly difficult to believe in your ability to succeed.  Discovering a way to help others and provide service or support can give you a sense of purpose and empowerment. It feels good to be needed, and by proving to yourself that you can do some real good in the world, you can start to believe in your own capacity for growth and positive change.  

Acquire New Skills

Finding a way to be of service can also be an opportunity to learn something new.  Whether it be developing social skills, learning about the inner workings of a non-profit, or picking up dog grooming tips at a shelter, expanding your knowledge base in any area can be fulfilling and fun.  You may even find yourself with a new passion or hobby, or apply your new skills to a future job opportunity. Learning something new helps you stay busy and productive, and may open doors to further service opportunities in the future.  Building a solid foundation for a sober lifestyle that involves new activities and opportunities is crucial in preventing relapse.    

Finding Balance

Just as addiction can make it seem as if the world revolves around you alone, recovery can also cause you to become consumed with the details of your personal struggle and neglect other aspects of life.  Finding a way to be of service to others can come as a welcome distraction when the stress of early recovery becomes overwhelming. Getting out of your usual environment and pushing your limits by trying new things can remind you that there is more to life than your addiction.  Being of service isn’t only about hard work and selflessness, but can also be a fun, social, and enriching experience. Relapse can happen when the pressure of early sobriety, accompanied by the deeply emotional experience of working through mental illness and past trauma, all becomes too heavy to bear.  Spending some time focused on something or someone entirely separate from yourself and your problems can lighten your emotional burden and give you a different perspective.

 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to seek help.  At Burning Tree Ranch, we specialize in long-term care that produces real results, especially for those who have experienced relapse.  Here you will find a team of qualified and compassionate professionals, ready to help each client through a customized treatment program that addresses all aspects of addiction, including the identification of co-occurring disorders.  We know that the journey towards recovery doesn’t end with the conclusion of an inpatient program, and therefore we provide extensive aftercare programs to best support our clients during their transition into lasting sobriety. We also know that addiction affects the whole family, and therefore loved ones are encouraged to participate in the recovery process and take advantage of all our support resources.  For more information, call us today at  512-285-5900