How I Learned to Serve

               I spent a long time in denial that I was an addict. Despite my constant use of drugs and alcohol and all the consequences I was facing as a direct result, I just couldn’t admit to myself that I had a problem. My friends and family all expressed concern and my relationships suffered, but I just wasn’t ready to listen to them. Life just kept getting worse, and finally I was broken down enough to admit something needed to change. I was ready to accept the truth—that I was an addict and alcoholic, and I needed help if I wanted to get better.

               I’ve told the story many times in previous blogs, and to summarize, I did get help, and I got sober. But I couldn’t help feeling a little resentful about the whole thing. Addiction is considered a disease, which means it’s not my fault, right? I mean, sure, I did some really bad things during addiction, and of course I accepted responsibility for them and tried to make them right, but at the end of the day, it’s not my fault I have that weird combination of factors that makes me unable to stop using drugs and alcohol once I start. It all left a bad taste in my mouth.

               To state the obvious, this is not a healthy way of looking at things. If you spend your time feeling sorry for yourself, you’re probably not going to stay sober for long. And I didn’t. It took a lot of relapses for me to figure things out and find long-term recovery. I had to change my perspective before things started to work.

               It’s true that addiction isn’t my fault. But many people in the world struggle with problems that aren’t their fault. Sitting around complaining about it doesn’t accomplish anything. Just like any other bad situation, I had to look at the bright side. Yes, I had a serious problem that would probably kill me if I didn’t manage it. But I had found a way out of it. I had successfully found recovery, while many others were still struggling. Maybe I could use my experience to benefit those trying to find their way to recovery. Maybe I could be of service.

               It’s not difficult to find service opportunities in recovery. In fact, you almost have to go out of your way to avoid them. I got my start by working with others in sober living. I spent quite a while living in sober living, and there were new people coming in all the time. It didn’t take long at all before I was one of the more senior residents, acting as a mentor to others. It started to feel like I was making a difference, and something crazy happened: my own recovery felt stronger as a result of my service. This is not a unique experience. Service is a tried-and-true method to improve your chances of staying sober long-term.

               As I progressed in my recovery, I found many other opportunities to be of service. I helped out at meetings, took meetings into treatment centers and institutions, and even worked for a while as part of a group serving those struggling with substance use. As time passed, I realized I had built a full, complete life and found long-term recovery, all as the result of putting my situation to use.