I was given the opportunity to take part in volunteering at one of the lowest points in my adult life. I was struggling in services for drug addiction and felt like there was no way out. My key worker suggested that I attend to the Service User Involvement forum as she thought I would benefit from it and I agreed not really knowing what to expect. When I arrived, it was a meeting, a pretty informal one at that but a meeting with a proper agenda and even a free lunch. Everyone was positive, friendly and had been through addiction, just like me. These people were in recovery but what is recovery? Each person has their own idea of the concept. Everybody’s recovery journey will be different as we are all individual with our own struggles and our own minds. But what I soon began to realise is what these people had in common was the forum. What it brought to them? Opportunity and hope.
Feeling inspired and well fed after loading up on free salmon sandwiches at my first meeting, I had already agreed to attend a drugs and alcohol awareness workshop at a local college, the regional forum event and a 10-mile recovery walk. Was I exceptionally inspired or simply enticed by the free sarnies? Whatever it was, since then I have continued to go back week after week and engage with the community to spread a positive message as well as with other like-minded individuals. I really am so glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone for a moment as I am now reaping the rewards.
When you are an addict you can often be selfish. Volunteering has given me the chance to give something back. Now I help to raise awareness around substance misuse by sharing my experiences at drug and alcohol workshops in local schools and colleges. I have been engaging with and attending various activities, events and meetings in order to support the local area and its people. Doing these things aids me in my recovery and helps to give me a purpose by making me feel part of the community. Sometimes it is as simple as having a reason to get up in the morning, sometimes it is knowing that I am making a real difference- but it always means something to me. I believe that successful recovery happens within the community, that is why I put my all into going to support meetings and being an active member of the forum.
Attending SMART meetings has really helped me throughout my recovery and I continue to attend them today. One day I would like to train to become a SMART group facilitator. My past experiences would give me great insight into such a role and feel like it is almost my duty to be the person who could have possibly helped me. Particularly as I see a lack of women throughout addiction services, but make no mistake this disease does not discriminate. I think it is extremely important for all people to be represented and have a voice in services and recovery however it is only when you look closer that the reality is far from this.
Though recovery was my route into volunteering I cannot deny that giving something back has brought a lot more to my life. I particularly enjoy the social aspect of volunteering; being part of a community, meeting people from different walks of life, sharing experiences and learning from each other whilst giving support. It is truly an incredible feeling to see how you are making a difference within the local community. Being active within the volunteering community certainly improves my mood and boosts my mental health. Learning new skills, setting (and smashing) goals, and having fun have all been fundamental in my volunteering and recovery journey. Since joining the forum only a few months ago I have surprised myself and achieved things I never thought I would or could do. This has helped me gain a confidence within that I didn’t know was possible to have without the aid of substances. Growing and developing each day, I am so glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone. Now I feel fearless. (kinda)
My advice for volunteering? Help a cause close to your heart and you won’t regret it.
Disclaimer: Today’s post was written by Evie and all pictures were supplied by her, not myself.