It’s not news that being of service to others is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. In recovery, it’s one of the most important things you can do to safeguard your progress.
Folks in recovery don’t have a monopoly on volunteering and doing service work. People from all walks of life know how good it feels to donate their time and their talents without expecting anything in return. Helping others is proven to lower stress and improve overall happiness. Getting involved in the community and helping others is good for the soul—and for young men in recovery it can help them stay sober.
We’re in this together
Performing service work often means getting up close and personal with folks who are in a vulnerable state, and it can have a profound affect on our patients. Young men in early recovery learn that they are not alone—that there are others who suffer and have suffered. It broadens a young man’s perspective and nurtures his compassion.
There’s a wonderful organization in Palm Beach County we visited on more than one occasion with the same group of patients. Our first visit had a profound impact on some of our patients. Our mission was to prepare and serve a meal to the people served by this organization, which provides a homelike atmosphere for parents who need to be near their children while they’re undergoing hospital treatments. It was a successful evening, and everyone in attendance had a full belly and a smile on their face.
Addressing the past...
We learned in group that a couple of our patients really struggled during this service work. They connected the visit with memories of traumatic childhood experiences of hospital stays. Hearing these young men share openly about their experiences gave our clinical staff an opportunity to help them process their memories and explore new ways to approach the experience.
...And finding a new perspective
The following month, we booked a second date for the same group of guys to serve a second meal, but before we embarked we used our daily group to revisit those issues. With guidance from our counselors and support from the other men in treatment with them, were able to talk through their fears and their resistance.
Now aware of what to expect from the experience and from themselves, these young men were eager and enthusiastic to get involved, planning a menu and preparing food for the guests of this wonderful charity. They had a really clear idea of the kind of comfort food they wanted to serve these folks.
They pulled off a masterful service from start to finish, and the people they served were warm and appreciative.
Connection and belonging
Looking back at this group, and most young men who come through the doors of Voyage Recovery, we’re dealing with young men who felt disconnected from the people around them and from things deep within themselves while they were using drugs or alcohol.
Service work gave them the opportunity to address some of the hardest experiences of their lives, to be honest and open about them in group with their counselors and peers, and then to find ways to move beyond those memories and be fully present in the moment.
The guys learned that the more they put into an experience, the more they get out of it. This particular event really galvanized the idea that there is lots of opportunity for personal growth in activities they would have passed up before treatment.
In the midst of experiential programming and all the fun things we get to take our guys out to do, there are also some really meaningful, impactful opportunities for growth and learning through service work.
A place in the bigger picture
We’re helping these guys challenge their old wounds and destructive patterns of behavior in a clinical environment; when we get out on the water, or in the woods, or get involved with the community for service work, there are so many opportunities to challenge their old ways of thinking about themselves and see how they fit into the bigger picture.
Service work is a cornerstone of recovery, and it’s built into the experiential program at Voyage Recovery. Service work is a fast-track to getting out of your own head as it forces you to think of other’s needs. In this case, our patients got to experience the joy of service work, while at the same time processing some childhood trauma and working together as a team.
To find out more about service work as part of the experiential program at Voyage Recovery, contact our team at 772-245-8345.