Ex-addicts not a lost cause

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I wanted to take the time to talk about something that’s been really positive for my addiction recovery. You’ve heard about the lows, well now it’s time for some highs (and I don’t mean the chemically induced ones).

I’ve been volunteering at Sheffield Alcohol Support Service (SASS) for a couple of years. I think volunteering has had some really bad press recently, perhaps for the right reasons with reports of people being ‘forced’ to volunteer as part of their benefit process.

Well, let me reassure you – I have certainly not been forced and volunteering for me has been a really rewarding and beneficial part of my recovery process. For most people a massive part of coming to terms with an addiction is being able to talk with people who have been there and see with your own eyes that addiction is beatable.

There are around 40 volunteers at SASS, with the majority being in addiction recovery. Roles can vary from making tea and coffee, facilitating groups, right up to providing one-to-one sessions.

Last month I was sitting on a recruitment panel helping SASS recruit employees and next week I’ll be supporting new people at the drop-in. Not only am I developing new skills, but this has been huge in terms of making me feel useful and, in a way, paying back the drain I was on society during my drinking years.

There has been some quite in-depth research collected in America and Australia about the long-term impact of people in recovery. The findings suggest that once someone has overcome an addiction they actually become very active and positive contributors to society. For example, take volunteering, researchers found that the majority of people (nearly 100 per cent) who have managed long-term, stable recovery for five years and onwards, have volunteered or given their time to charities or community groups.

Sheffield Hallam are conducting a similar survey in the UK, so if you’re in recovery (whatever that may mean to you) then make sure you take part – visit the SASS website for the link.

My point is, don’t be afraid of people who have had an addiction. We are not a lost cause, people do get better and when they do, they really add something to society. It just may take a little time to get there.