Help Yourself by Helping Others

Help Yourself by Helping Others

I need to let you in on a little secret…I’ve been in kind of a funk lately. Yep, even those of us long-term sobriety folks sometimes wake up not feeling it, with the urge to stay in bed and pull the covers over our head. It all started with a darn head cold that I just couldn’t shake off which left me tired and listless – combine that with some financial insecurity and the result is me feeling like a turtle just wanting to put her head inside her shell and do absolutely nothing. Or better yet, a turtle with her head inside her shell with enough of a view of the TV to binge watch Netflix all day long!

How did I manage to get out of my all-engrossing blue mood? Well, first I needed to recognize what was happening and then I needed to get into action. Please note, I’m not talking about a clinical depression or other mental health conditions that require medical attention and I’m not minimizing those suffering from such conditions. I know for those of you with such debilitating disorders, it’s not a matter of just recognizing something and getting into action.

In my opinion, the easiest way for me to snap out my doldrums is to be of service to others.

Service – the action of helping or doing work for someone or contributing to the welfare of others.

Flashback to a few weeks ago and a woman (we’ll call her DL) called to ask me if I’d help her out at the library located at Parisi House on the Hill – a residential alcohol and drug treatment center serving women and their children. I have a passion for helping people recover from the insidious disease of addiction so I proudly sit on the Board of Directors of Parisi. When asked to help out and my calendar showed availability, I gladly said yes.

When the time rolled around, I looked at my calendar and thought, “Ugh! I don’t want to go!” In my head followed a whole host of reasons why – too tired, too much to do, etc. Luckily, one of the cornerstones of my recovery that I’ve stuck to all of these years is living up to my commitments. Back in the days of drinking and using, I never did what I said I was going to do. Now, if I commit, I’ll be there – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Also, I knew deep down inside that helping others less fortunate than myself would surely help me pop out of this down-in-the-dumps feeling because, you see, it’s worked before! Yep, regularly helping others keeps me grateful for what I do have in my life and not so concerned about what I don’t have. I really noticed the benefits of being of service a number of years ago when the mother of one of my best friends had a stroke and eventually passed away. During that time, my friend needed me just to be with her at the hospital. It was right after the holidays and I was on a rip of feeling sorry for myself – single and alone over the holidays – oh poor me! Sticking by my friend to help her walk through the painful road of losing a parent and the aftermath of all the tasks to do in the wake of a loved one’s death, got me out of my little pity party lickety split.

So back to my library story… I suited up and showed up to the library that day and amazing things happened! First, I got to watch DL read two stories to the kids, the littlest, most innocent victims of the disease of addiction. I wish I could convey the look of sheer delight on these little kids’ faces as most of them had rarely been read to while their mothers drank and used drugs. Next, I got to check out children’s and adult books to the ladies. I have a passion for books and reading and to be able to pass this hobby, that gives me so much pleasure on to others, truly filled my heart with joy. I left a lot lighter in my step, thinking that the world is a pretty awesome place!

One of the tenets of Evolved Recovery is Community, to which service is a big component. Being of service to others enables you to truly be a contributing member of any community. In my sobriety, I’ve tried to remain of service in numerous ways – shaking the hand of a newcomer at a 12-step meeting, getting up at the crack of dawn to speak to a group of alcoholics and addicts, facilitating a workshop for women with addictions, picking up the phone for a friend in need or dropping turkeys off a the local food bank during the holidays. Every time we reach out our hand to others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves, we become ever more grateful for our lives and the people in them and are less likely to have those down-in-the-dumps feelings that make us to want to pull the covers over our head or pick up that drink, pill or any other form of self-medication!

Have you been down in the dumps? Did helping others help you more than them? Do you have your own unique way of dealing with your blues? How are you of service to those in your community? Please share your stories!

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