Helping others has been an integral part of the folk wisdom about addiction recovery for more than 250 years. From early Native American recovery circles, early Euro-American recovery mutual aid societies and the 20th century advent of 12-Step recovery through the ever-widening menu of religious, spiritual and secular recovery pathways, the message has been clear: help yourself by helping others.
The helping prescription is based on two core ideas. The first is the concept of wounded healer–the notion that people who have experienced and survived an illness or great trauma may have acquired unique perspectives that allow them to offer assistance to others in similar circumstances. The second is what sociologist Frank Riessman called the helper principle–the idea that the act of helping benefits the helper as much (or quite often more) than the person being helped.
This folk wisdom and the principles underlying it have been rigorously tested in a series of scientific studies about the effects of helping activities on long-term recovery outcomes. And you guessed it, science is confirming what people in recovery have long learned through their collective experience: If you want to achieve recovery from addiction and if you want to enhance your quality of life in recovery, reach out each day to help others achieve those same goals.