Giving Back: Finding Healing in Helping Others

The Golden Rule has long been seen as an altruistic behavioral model. Turns out, the person we serve the most when serving “others” is ourselves. Even when selfishly motivated, studies show that giving back improves health, happiness, and in some cases, longevity, according to an article published by U.S. News[1]. Furthermore, people who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness—all traits that individuals overcoming addiction to steroids require to build lasting sobriety. To learn more about how finding healing in helping others can keep you sober and thriving, read on.

Why Helping Heals

Among teenagers, even at-risk children who volunteer reap big benefits, according to research findings studied by Jane Allyn Piliavin, a retired University of Wisconsin[2] sociologist. She cites a positive effect on grades, self-concept, and attitudes toward education. Volunteering also leads to reduced drug use, and huge declines in dropout rates and teen pregnancies. Still other research links youth volunteering to a higher quality of life as an adult, a boon that ameliorates addictive tendencies.

Professional treatment centers also stress service work. Early in their recovery, addicts can become unfocused without their substance abuse to guide their behavior and motivations. Successful volunteers excel in the opposite direction. They are actually more self-focused than the average person. People wishing to build a sober life can follow in their footsteps, ultimately acquiring benefits that include the following:

  • Understanding – The desire to learn new things and acquire knowledge
  • Esteem enhancement – Feeling better about yourself and finding greater stability in life
  • Personal development – Acquiring new skills, testing your capabilities, and stretching yourself
  • Connection – Making the world—or your piece of it—a better place
  • Humanitarian values – Serving and helping others

Maria Pagano, an addiction researcher at Case Western University[3], extends findings such as these to addiction treatment specifically. In fact, analysis of her research has led her to believe that service is the key to staying sober. Her studies, which are cited by the United States Library of Medicine,[4] explore the benefits of altruism for people battling alcoholism and drug addiction. The conclusions: Former drug users and alcoholics who reach out to help others through 12-Step programs bolster a positive sense of self-identity and reinforcement. Stunning statistics include the following:

  • Alcoholics who reach out to help other alcoholics experienced a 40% sobriety rate during their first year out of rehab
  • Alcoholics who are not actively involved in serving others experienced a 22% rate of sobriety during the same time frame
  • Ninety-four percent of alcoholics in recovery who engage in supporting fellow alcoholics through recovery enjoy nearly 1.5 years of full sobriety
  • Alcoholics who are involved in service work also demonstrate lower rates of depression compared to their fellow recovering alcoholics

Part of the problem in addiction is a self-focused mentality. Addiction puts individuals on a downward spiral into isolation, selfishness and anger at others for not meeting expectations. The antidote to this is involvement in helping others.

Peer Support: Ties that Bind

Social connection is yet another perk of giving back. Besides developing a sense of community and experiencing bolstered meaning to life, it keeps newly sober people alert to the dangers of relapse. It also reinforces confidence in how far one has already come. Several ways to serve include the following:

  • Calling another 12-Step support member to remind him of the weekly meeting and encouraging him to come
  • Helping with the physical set-up for meetings
  • Sharing in meetings
  • Intentionally welcoming new members and being available

Another way to serve is to become a volunteer recovery coach or mentor. A recovery coach is a person with substantial recovery time who mentors those newer to recovery. A volunteer recovery coach models healthy lifestyle choices, offers advice and companionship, and helps out in practical ways to remove barriers to recovery. Many public health agencies fund training for recovery support volunteers. To find out what’s available in your area, ask around at local self-help meetings or call your county health agency.

Working at a local rehab center is another dynamic way to make a positive contribution. Ways to help include the following:

  • Helping out with special events, such as BBQs or outings
  • Helping out with the general facility operations and maintenance
  • Orient newcomers to the traditions of AA
  • Host visitors
  • Be guest speakers for program meetings and events
  • Become an alumni contact person
  • Help with research projects

No matter your background, there’s an excellent chance that your skills are needed at a treatment program near you.

Loving others as yourself is a principle that works not only for recovering alcoholics and drug users, but also for people in every situation of life. Rejoining the ranks of humanity and bearing the responsibilities of life with others are small steps that keep people moving forward—not focused on life seen through the rearview mirror.

Help for Steroid Abuse

If you or someone you love struggles with steroid abuse, you are not alone. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24 hour hotline can guide you to wellness. You never have to go back to a life of addiction. Please call and start your recovery today.


[1] Why Helping Others Makes Us Happy – US News. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[2] Sociology at Wisconsin. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[3] Addiction Psychiatry. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[4] Addiction and “Generation Me:” Narcissistic and Prosocial Behaviors of Adolescents with Substance Dependency Disorder in Comparison to Normative Adolescents. (n.d.). Retrieved from