8 Meaningful Ways to Be of Service in 2017

By Maile Proctor 02/05/17

Volunteer projects not only help addicts strengthen their recovery, they also promote human kindness.

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A group of people in matching teeshirts in a park, smiling, talking, and looking at a clipboard.
Give yourself a sense of community and purpose.

In addition to The 12 steps, meetings, and recovery centers, there are certain suggestions from addiction specialists, medical professionals, and The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous to help addicts in recovery. Regardless of whether you go to meetings or went through a treatment program, one common theme is the idea of being of service; in fact, as you know, there’s an entire chapter in The Big Book on working with others. This chapter reinforces the idea that in order to maintain your own sobriety or abstinence, you have to do your part to help others. As it says in the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, “It is the great paradox of A.A. that we know we can seldom keep the precious gift of sobriety unless we give it away.”

While there are lots of opportunities to help fellows, like setting up chairs before a meeting, making coffee, and calling people, there are also a lot of fantastic ways to be of service in the community. Giving back can give recovering addicts a sense of purpose and a sense of self outside of their addiction. Volunteer projects not only help addicts strengthen their recovery, they also promote human kindness. So if you want to spread kindness and strengthen your own recovery, here are eight ways you can be of service in 2017.

Note: Not all of these ideas will be appropriate for everyone. Make sure to check with local organizations for volunteer requirements and more information.

1. Mentor a Child

Find a local organization, like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS), where you can work with underprivileged children. It only requires a small time commitment, and you can really make a difference in a child’s life. According to BBBS, “when children and teens have the influence of a caring adult, they are more likely to avoid risky behaviors and to focus on academics.”

When you mentor a child, you’re not only a friend to that boy or girl, you’re also a positive role model who can set him or her up for success in school and in life.

2. Volunteer With Senior Citizens

On the other end of the spectrum, why not be of service to the eldery? There are lots of senior centers and assisted-living facilities that will gladly take volunteers. You can show up and spend time with seniors during recreation hours or help staff take care of elderly who may require additional assistance due to physical or mental limitations.

Helping seniors can be very rewarding, not only will they appreciate your service, but think of the stories you will hear and the wisdom you will gain from someone with a different life perspective.

3. Recovery and Addiction Programs

Here’s a great way to use your experience to help others. Look for treatment centers and recovery and addiction programs that accept volunteers. Since you have been through something similar, you can provide valuable perspective to those struggling with addiction. You can also provide an invaluable sense of hope, and encourage others to work on their program of recovery and do whatever else may be required to maintain their sobriety.

4. Donate

Do you have items in your house like food, clothes, books, or DVDs that you don’t use? Why not donate these things to people who will be able to use them? Donating is one of the easiest ways to give back; it doesn’t require much effort besides collecting items and taking them to the appropriate place. It also gives you the unique experience of helping others while simultaneously decluttering your own space.

Take a look around your house, do you see items you can part with? Put them together and take them to a local facility like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. If you’re feeling really ambitious, encourage your friends and family to follow suit and get in on the effort.

5. Serve Food at a Homeless Shelter or Soup Kitchen

What better way to warm hearts than to serve a warm meal? Many people volunteer at soup kitchens and homeless shelters during the holidays, but why not give your time the rest of the year? “Making sure people have basic nutrition is incredibly important to their health and wellbeing,” according to Juliet Kaman from How Stuff Works. “And volunteering at a soup kitchen, like volunteering for other charitable groups, is a very rewarding experience, which in turn can be beneficial to your overall health and wellbeing.” Besides soup kitchens, you can also find shelters and food banks that will gladly accept your donations and your time.

6. Work With Animals

Whether you love animals, want to avoid people, or are just looking for other ways to give back, you can volunteer your time at an animal shelter or animal protection organization. Humans aren’t the only ones in need of care and companionship.

There are several different things you can do like walking dogs, bathing animals, and helping caregivers. Working with animals helps them and makes you feel good, too. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “You'll never find a more grateful and accepting comrade than an animal you've comforted.”

7. Get Crafty

Do you have an activity you enjoy such as building things, creating artwork, or knitting or crocheting? You can donate items you make to different organizations like Knit-A-Square, Afghans for Afghans, and Creating Hope. It’s a great opportunity to be creative, engage in an activity you enjoy, and help others.

8. Environmental Service Project

Get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Plant trees or participate in a park or beach cleanup. Connecting with nature is an integral part of recovery for many people, so do what you can to take care of the environment; get involved with organizations like Habitat for Humanity or find smaller, local organizations near you.

These are just a few of several different ways to give back, help others, and strengthen your own recovery. You can also check with an organization like VolunteerMatch which will match you with opportunities based on where you live and your interests. There are even ways to be of service online. As it says in The Big Book, “When I am willing to do the right thing I am rewarded with an inner peace no amount of liquor could ever provide. When I am unwilling to do the right thing, I become restless, irritable, and discontent. It is always my choice.” So whenever possible, let’s choose to spread kindness and be of service, one day at a time. What creative ways have you found to give back? Let us know in the comments below!

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