I will never forget about that first experience…
I was sitting in a state-run treatment center in Newtown Pennsylvania. I was underweight. I hadn’t shaved or even trimmed my beard in weeks. My anger covered up my fear. My expression told people not to talk to me, but my heart was craving help and love. I felt like a scared puppy.
Anytime I was approached by a new person, my immediate reaction was to tuck my tail between my legs and hide in a corner.
It had been so long since I could relate to anyone. I am an isolator. I tried seeing a therapist out of desperation, but the sessions never really seemed to scratch the itch.
On my third day of treatment, these two men came in to speak for us. At the time, I still didn’t understand what the point was. I didn’t know what an H&I commitment was, I didn’t know that there were people out there who just wanted to help me.
These guys told their story, and told me that it was okay that I didn’t believe in God. They told me that all I needed to do was believe that they believed.
The longer I have stayed sober, the more I understand the importance of helping the newcomer. The foundation of our recovery community depends on it. Regardless of your method of sobriety, reaching out and being of service of humanity is the fabric that holds us all together.
Let’s get started…
1 – Passing the Message
Helping the newcomer is how we all stay alive.
Everyone is a newcomer at some point. If we don’t pass down what we have learned to the “next generation” of recovering alcoholics, then our solution will slowly drown out and dissolve.
For as long as there have been people, there has been addiction. It seems that compulsion and addiction are somehow woven into who we are as a species. We will always need this solution and if we fail to pass down the message, we are setting up our children for a dreadful experience.
Sounds dramatic, but it really is that important.
Before our population started taking addiction seriously, addicts and alcoholics were considered “insane” and were usually shipped off to live in sanitariums or insane asylums. Not the kind of lifestyle I would want for the next generation.
2 – Builds Self Esteem
As we will discuss, helping the newcomer is in a way a selfish act.
Of course, you are helping someone else and you are doing it without expectation of receiving anything in return. However, most importantly you are helping yourself.
It has been said that if you want to have self-esteem you must do esteemable actions. When you help other people, that is exactly what you are doing. You are creating value for yourself and for other people.
It is amazing how it works. It is amazing what helping other people and helping the newcomer will do for your self-esteem and for your perception of yourself.
It works.. trust me.
3 – Good Old Fashion Karma
I am a firm believer that if you do the right thing, good things happen to you.
When people are new in recovery they are usually scared and confused and desperate for help. Many times they are even too scared to ask other people to give them a helping hand.
Reaching out to them will mean the world. Do you remember how you felt when you were first getting sober? Did you have someone who held you up? Who gave you hope and who was always there for you?
Somehow, the powers that be have made it so that when you do good for other people, goodness returned to your life. When people speak of the word karma, they aren’t necessarily speaking of the Hindu law of karma, they are simply referring to the idea that good things happen to good people.
Sure there is ugliness and tragedy in the world. But I would wager that most people who have good livea would attest much of their happiness to being of service to other people.
4 – It Keeps You Sober
This is the big one right?
This is the entire reason that alcoholics help other alcoholics. We all agree that it feels good to help other people and it builds self-esteem and it brings good karma in our lives. But the meat and potatoes is that helping another alcoholic is the best way to ensure that YOU stay sober for the day.
When you are helping someone else you are getting out of your own head. You are thinking about someone else’s problems instead of your own.
Helping a newcomer is also a great reminder as to why we stay sober in the first place. Many times newcomers are still experiencing withdrawal symptoms or are dealing with depression. Many times newcomers are living unmanageable lives and it is healthy for us to see what that looks like first hand.
This keeps it fresh for us. When life gets good it can be easy for us to forget how bad it actually was. How depressing it was to be consumed by alcohol and how insignificant it made us feel.
Helping the newcomer is the best way for us to remember, and a reminder to why we never want to go back.
Always Pay It Forward
This is what it’s all about. One person helping another. One alcoholic helping another. Alcoholics relating to each other in a way that most people don’t understand.
As soon as we stop reaching out to the newcomer is when our beautiful recovery community will start to collapse. That can’t happen.
No matter what, keep reaching out. Keep offering your help to someone in need, especially someone who doesn’t have the capacity to pay you back!
We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please leave your comments below. 🙂