Going through treatment for addiction was like waging a long and difficult battle. You had ups and downs, times when you thought you wouldn’t make it, and you fought hard. You had allies throughout, but you also had enemies. Most importantly, you came out on the other side victorious over the disease of addiction. Now, firmly in recovery, you can use those experiences to help others who are fighting the same fight. If you aren’t sure just how you can help, here are some ideas to get you started.
- Become a sponsor. If you took advantage of the social support and the community atmosphere of a support group during your recovery, you know how important sponsors are to staying sober. Even if you never had a sponsor, you can learn this role and step into it in order to help others. A sponsor is someone who is secure in recovery and has been sober for a long period of time. As a sponsor, you are expected to act like a role model and to use your own experiences to guide someone new to sobriety. You encourage newcomers to attend meetings and are available, within reason, when he or she needs help or is feeling like relapsing.
- Another way in which you can help others struggling with addiction is to do volunteer work. Being a sponsor is a volunteer position too, of course, but it is not the only way in which you can give your time and experience to others. Homeless shelters, addiction clinics, sober houses and other similar institutions that help addicts who are unable to afford private treatment are always looking for help. Contact a facility near you to find out what opportunities are available and what is required of new volunteers. You may be able to contribute by leading group sessions, mentoring or helping to train recovering addicts in skills they can use for work and daily life.
- Train to become an addiction counselor. If you want to do more than contribute a few hours a week to helping recovering addicts, you might consider making this your career. Go back to school to learn how to be a counselor, an addiction specialist or even a psychologist or psychiatrist. Go to your local community college to find out what your options are and what kinds of programs are available. Any trained counselor or therapist is qualified to work with recovering addicts, but with personal experience as a tool, you will be even better able to help people.
- Learn to be an interventionist. As you know from personal experience, one of the most difficult parts of getting sober is taking the first step. Many addicts struggle with denial and are unwilling to get help until they have really hit rock bottom. An intervention is a powerful tool that friends and family use to convince addicts to get help, but it can also backfire and be dangerous. More people are turning to professionals to host interventions. If you want to help addicts get out of denial, you can use your own experiences plus training to become someone who leads interventions, guiding families through the process safely.
As a recovering addict, you have a whole host of experiences that are painful to recall. Those experiences need not have occurred in vain. However you choose to help, your compassion and empathy will assist other people in overcoming their struggles and learning to be sober and healthy.