Addiction is consuming, and it comes in many forms. It’s intricate and confusing, and it’s something that has a tendency to define parts of your life. For those who have never experienced addiction, it’s hard to describe how you can go from being a functioning human, to giving up everything for your addiction. For those who get out, it’s a blessing. It’s hard work, and not everyone can do it — and for those who can’t, the results are heartbreaking. For many who are in recovery, it can feel helpless to watch others continue to flounder. Some in recovery looking to use their experience with addiction to help others, can help by getting involved with organizations, sharing their story, working in an addiction related field, or donating to organizations working to advocate for addiction recovery. However, for some, their focus needs to be on them and their own recovery.
Many former addicts and alcoholics find solace in turning their negative addiction experience into something actionable. Getting involved in an organization or process that helps others battling addiction can be an extremely healing part of the recovery process. Research the local drug abuse prevention organizations in your area and decide if they are the right type of organization for you to be a part of. Look into drug related policy in your area, and if there’s an important piece of legislation you’re passionate about, content the organizers and offer to help them pass out fliers or get the word out to voters.
What helped you get out of your addiction? Whether it’s faith, family, an activity, jail, or a rehabilitation program, find that thing and find a way to get involved. If it’s faith, offer to start a support group within your church for addicts or families of addicts. If it’s family, go to Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings and give other addict’s family members hope and advice. If biking or music got you through, join a local biking or music group and volunteer to help with anything they need. There are so many ways to get involved with whatever it is that you’re passionate about in terms of your recovery and addiction story.
Share your Story
Sometimes, sharing your story is the most helpful and inspirational thing you can do for others. Whether you’re talking to those before, during, or after an experience with addiction, your words can be more powerful than any other’s. Look into sharing your story by speaking to schools, talking to counselors, talking to rehabilitation centers, starting a blog, or seeking out group homes to find the appropriate audience to speak to. Even if you aren’t in one of the counseling, therapy, or psychology careers yourself, others in this field that specialize in addiction may appreciate your consultation or a discussion with you and a patient battling addiction. Turn your story into your own organization. Many addiction related groups are created from the loss of an addicted family member, start yours based on the life you’ve chosen in recovery. Raise money, start a community, or offer support through your story.
Work in an Addiction Related Field
Working in an addiction related field is one great way to use your experience with addiction and turn it into a positive; one that will positively impact those you help, as well as your own career. There are many ways to work in a counseling related field, and one way to do that is to work as a substance abuse counselor. Substance abuse counselors can find work at treatment centers, homeless shelters, universities, or hospital-based outpatient clinics with job growth predicted at 22 percent from 2014 to 2024. However, there are also many career options available that don’t hit the nail on the head in terms of an addiction related field. For instance, nurses can make such an important difference in the life of those suffering from addiction. Those who understand what addiction feels like can offer more empathy for patients, and there are expected to be almost 20 percent more nurses in the United States by 2022.
You don’t have to think too specifically about a career and how it links to addiction. There are many positions that can have a positive impact in a way that is meaningful for you and your story. For instance, starting a dog grooming business because animal therapy helped you in your recovery and donating a portion to an animal shelter or addiction recovery is another way to work in a field that benefits recovery without being too specific.
Sometimes using your experience with addiction to help others can be overwhelming and triggering. In order to combat that, you can support others with addiction by donating to organizations that exist to combat addiction. The Amy Winehouse Foundation, Natural High, To Write Love on Her Arms, and Shatterproof are all great organizations created for addiction, aimed at youth, and are non-profits always in need of donations. You also don’t just have to donate money, finding a local non-profit with the same overall goal and donating time or supplies is another way to give back and help others going through the same thing.
The best way to use your experiences with addiction to help others is to first help yourself. Not everyone in recovery can get involved with organizations to battle addiction epidemics, talk about their story, or work with other addicts without feeling triggered themselves. Don’t feel like you have to turn this experience into something that will continue to define your life. The best way to help others with your addiction is to recover and stay sober. If you ever feel the need to reach out and help others with your experience, you can, but when you’re ready. Battling triggers and trauma caused by a life in addiction is difficult, so don’t feel pressured. The best thing you can do is to help yourself.
Addiction looks a little different to everyone. For some it’s drugs, for others it’s sex, for some it’s alcohol, and there are so many other instances of addiction out there. Sometimes it’s paired with other difficult situations. Trauma, abuse, and mental health issues all tend to go hand in hand with addiction. For this reason it’s a difficult subject. For those who have experienced it, it can feel comforting to use their experiences to help others. For some, it’s triggering. If you are looking for ways to use your experience to help others, there are many ways to do that. However, make your recovery your priority.
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Chelsy is a writer/blogger from Montana who graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. Her interests are eclectic, her hair is a mess, and she prefers her coffee cold.