Addiction – When Your Past Begins to Help Others

Father Talking to a College Student About Marijuana and Mental Health

Contributor: Burkwood clinical team member Ryan Poling, M.A.

A famous saying among writers is, “Write what you know.” In other words, do not try to fake knowledge of something. Someone who grew up in posh New England high society might have difficulty writing authentically about life in inner-city Detroit. In fact, Stephen King, a popular writer who has sold millions of books worldwide, often sets his stories in his home state of Maine. Of course, one can research and learn, but there is often no substitute for personal experience especially in recovery.

Wheat Stalk silhouetteAs someone who is recovering from addiction, you have a perspective that no one else has. While others can research addiction and read about it, you have lived it.

You understand addiction in a way others do not. And often when a person finds freedom from drugs, alcohol, or addictive behaviors, he or she wants to share it with others.

With your experience, you are in a unique position to help others escape the chains of addiction. But how can you help?

There is a growing body of research that suggests that connection with others is an essential component in addiction recovery. In other words, one of the best things you can do to help yourself and others in recovery is to form relationships with them.

Here are some avenues through which you can connect with others and use your story to encourage their recovery.

Volunteer with local substance abuse organizations

Organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the Salvation Army are excellent places to begin to use your experiences to help others.

Speaking at AA meetings and being a sponsor to others can allow you to not only maintain your own progress in recovery but also help others in their journeys to overcome addiction.

Share your recovery experiences

African American father and son talking about recoveryHaving battled an addiction and won, one of the most helpful things you can do is to share your story.

While book-writing and public speaking circuits may be appropriate for some, this is not the only way to share your story and help others.

Even something as simple as starting a blog or organizing a community meeting can be helpful.

Do you like being out and about and meeting people? Perhaps staying inside and writing a book or blog is not the best option for you.

Similarly, if you prefer a quiet office, maybe sharing your message through an online presence is a good option. Whatever you decide to do, it will be easiest to continue doing it if it is something you genuinely enjoy doing.

Become a recovery counselor

Of the all the options described here, this one will likely involve the most effort. Addictions counselors typically have advanced schooling, such as Master’s or doctoral degrees, and must be licensed and/or certified. However, they are able to have a direct impact on many people’s lives.

Senior couple looking out their window

Those counselors who have overcome addictions themselves can be some of the best because they have a unique, personal perspective on what their clients are going through.

That said, being a counselor requires significant personal maturity and can be a stressful job, so it is important to consider carefully whether this is the correct path for you.

Having overcome an addiction is a remarkable accomplishment, and recovering from addiction often comes along with a desire to help others find the same freedom.

By working towards connecting with others and sharing your story, you can play an instrumental role in spreading the ripple of recovery.

About the author: “Addiction – When Your Past Begins to Help Others” was written by Burkwood clinical team member Ryan Poling, M.A. Ryan has experience working clinically with a wide range of populations and presenting concerns. He is a clinical psychology doctoral candidate and has also earned Master’s degrees in psychology and theology. He was adjunct professor of psychology at Azusa Pacific University from 2012 to 2015.

About Burkwood Treatment Center:

Burkwood Treatment Center, located in picturesque Hudson, Wisconsin, is a comprehensive addiction treatment center that has specialized in caring for people with addictions for over 20 years. Offering unique care through the MAAEZ (Making Alcoholics Anonymous Easier) and Way of Life programs, Burkwood treats adult men and women with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on December 11, 2015
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 4, 2021
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.