The Importance of Giving Back in Recovery Treatment

giving back

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From a purely medical standpoint, altruism does not seem like an appropriate treatment for alcoholism and addiction. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the 12-Step program has an intense focus on altruism and just so happens to be among the most effective, successful, and versatile treatment methods for alcoholism and addiction ever devised. Adding altruism to recovery treatment increases the chances that one can get and stay recovered, as proven by the success of those who work the 12-Step program.

Of course, altruism alone is not enough. The specific brand of altruism taught in the 12-Step program must be engaged with while continuing to work the entirety of the recovery program. Medical treatments, therapy, and psychiatry along with physical, mental, and emotional health are still important factors, too. Being that alcoholism and addiction is a disease of a three-fold nature — 1) the physical allergy, 2) the mental obsession, and 3) the spiritual malady — the solution to this disease must be equally encompassing.

Altruism in the 12-Step Program

The 12-Step program requires work along three lines: unity, service, and recovery. Unity is the fellowship, when those who have recovered from the disease help others who need recovery. It is also the attendance of meetings and sharing with others who have similar experiences. Service is altruism, rendering good works to anyone and everyone we may encounter, whether they are fellow alcoholics or addicts or not. Recovery is the spiritual program of action outlined in the Twelve Steps, in conjunction with meetings, fellowship, and service.

The importance of altruism appears frequently in the literature of recovery. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is said that “our very lives as ex-problem drinkers depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs.” Not only does recovery depend upon altruism, but our very lives as recovering alcoholics and addicts depend upon altruism as well. There is no gray area here. The importance of learning how to be of service and give to others cannot be overstated as it pertains to altruism’s positive impact on recovery treatment.

Altruism in Action

The fellowship of recovery itself is an altruistic body. Our meetings are run by us for the benefit of newcomers and each other. Our entire organization is self-run, strictly for the benefit of alcoholics and addicts who need recovery. We cannot recover alone — we need each other. And we participate for fun and for free because the 12-Step program saved our lives, and all it asks in return is that we help others. So, of course, that is what we do.

This concept goes even further when we consider the sponsor/sponsee relationship. Sponsors render help for free and give back what was freely given to them. All they ask of a sponsee is that as soon as he is ready, he sponsors and helps any others who need it. This is how the fellowship and organization of recovery survive, when those who need recovery find a helping hand whenever they ask.

The spirit of giving in recovery goes well beyond the recovery fellowship, however. The Big Book says that more important demonstrations of the principles of recovery lie in the other areas of our life. It is a good thing indeed to uphold the spiritual principle of recovery within the rooms of recovery, but in some ways it is even more important to carry and demonstrate those principles outside the places where recovery happens. The spirit of love, tolerance, and altruism that we learn in recovery is something we must carry with us everywhere and to all people, all the time. This is not a small task, but we do not do it alone. We have all the help we could possibly need.

We Are Here to Help

Jaywalker Lodge makes no bones about being firmly rooted in the 12-Step program. By definition, this means that we consider altruism to be a core part of the recovery treatment model — so much so that we make it a regular part of our own program. First, altruism is practiced in the immediate community. Those of us at the Lodge learn how to give and receive service in countless small ways every day. Beyond that, we have an active and thriving alumni community that participates in things like family dinners and recovery meetings with those staying at the Lodge. These alumni freely offer their help, advice, and experience. The new man begins to see altruism in action beyond the borders of initial treatment. Our alumni make service a part of their everyday lives because they aim to grow and live happily in their recovery.

Together, with our alumni, we also have regular service opportunities where we reach out to the larger recovery community beyond the Jaywalker family. Our alumni lead the way in showing our men how to integrate into the greater 12-Step community while rendering good service. Absolutely nothing tops what comes next, though. All of us from the Jaywalker family — both new and old, including alumni — get together regularly to render service to the greater Colorado community, helping people, charities, businesses, and local heroes. Nothing beats seeing all the Jaywalkers coming together to help brighten the world, one service event at a time. And we do it as often as we can. It’s just too much fun! Experiencing the bountiful joy of service and altruism in recovery firsthand can get anyone excited for the journey.

Jaywalker Lodge is firmly rooted in the 12-Step program of recovery. This is our foundation: unity, service, and recovery. We’ve got all the unity you could ever want, both at Jaywalker Lodge and in the surrounding recovery community. Service? Well, we simply can’t say enough about that. Service to both the recovery community and the greater Colorado community are among the most important and wonderful things we do here. We get involved in service opportunities regularly, but what is truly amazing is how involved our alumni stay in these service opportunities. They may have left the Lodge, but they come back just to help us help others. That’s a pretty special and rewarding thing to be a part of! We couldn’t be more grateful for the thriving, altruistic community that has sprung up around Jaywalker Lodge. Come experience it for yourself. If you’re ready to join us, call Jaywalker Lodge now at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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