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In Praise of Service

how service helps you stay soberHow Service Helps Sobriety

Monday, January 20 is MLK Day, a time set aside to remember civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and the selfless acts of service he performed during his lifetime, cut tragically short by an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1969.

To commemorate MLK Day, let’s take a look at the growing body of research showing us how a life spent in service is an effective tool in promoting and preserving the sobriety for those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Service Keeps You Sober

In recovery circles, there’s a saying, “service keeps you sober.” Another common phrase in 12-Step programs is “you have to give it away in order to keep it,” or in other words: serving others can be as valuable to the giver as to the receiver.

But what exactly does that mean? How does being of service help someone stay sober?

Researchers at Case Western University have shown helping others provides a measurable benefit to those helping, both mentally and physically.

In fact, a 2010 survey showed nearly three-quarters of those surveyed responded that volunteering helped them feel better physically while lowering stress levels and improving their emotional health – all of which can contribute to finding and maintaining a life of sobriety.

It’s also important to note that service keeps you busy and helps alleviate social anxiety, all leading contributors to relapse, while introducing us to new social circles.

Type of Service in Recovery

You’re seeking ways to be of service. Where should you start? You can start with your own 12-step group.

All 12-step programs are able to function primarily through volunteerism, even if it’s something as simple as making the coffee or setting up the chairs before the meeting.

Sponsoring another recovering addict is a great way to be of service. Some other ideas include:

  • Take a more official role in your 12-step group

Simple tasks are important to keep a 12-step program functioning, but other more official tasks need to be completed as well, including roles like treasurer, secretary or chairperson.

  • Speak out about addiction and recovery

From church groups to schools, speaking out about your experience with addiction and recovery can be valuable, your story inspires others to turn their own lives around and to seek a better quality of life after addiction.

Service needn’t be restricted to the arena of addiction either. Volunteering your time to work with the homeless, the elderly, or with children are all valuable and great ways to perform acts of service.

The Benefits of Service in Recovery

There are many benefits to being of service, both mentally and physically. While being of service, though, it’s important not to lose sight of our own needs.

Nevertheless, follow the lead of Martin Luther King Jr. this January 20 and consider ways to volunteer your time.

Not only will you help to preserve your sobriety and prevent relapse, but your service will also contribute to making the world a better place for us all.

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