In recognition of all those who volunteer within DISC and The Basement Recovery Project, Christina Howard and Andy Bryant planned and produced a special Volunteer Appreciation Presentation Ceremony held at the Basement on Wednesday 1st June 2016, which coincided nicely with National Volunteers Week. A local celebrity, in the form of the recently elected Mayor of Halifax, was cordially invited to hand out the ‘Certificates of Appreciation’ to all those who were able to attend, which was roughly about seventy five percent of us and, when all sat together, we made a rather large group of particularly attractive people.
I think those of us in recovery who do it on a regular basis, and I’m talking about volunteering here, fall into it without really making a conscious decision. We pick up a tea towel and help out at Breakfast Club or we chat to a newcomer and make them feel welcome and find a sense of satisfaction in being useful. Our enthusiasm is recognised, which is lovely, and slowly our confidence builds.
That’s how it started for me. Then one thing led to another; more opportunities were offered to me, both at TBRP and with DISC. Training courses were completed, conferences attended and regular supervisions and appraisals which helped tweak out skills and strengths from the mass of defects and weaknesses I defined myself by when I came into recovery.
So, volunteering gives us many, many things; inclusion, status, achievements, a chance to develop new skills or enhance the ones we may have forgotten about and all within a safe and caring environment. For example, it enhances our self belief and self worth and encourages us to start mixing with a wider range of people and develop our communication skills. It enhances our concentration and those other important cognitive skills (like memory!) that have usually all but disappeared.
And we start to learn a little bit more about ourselves; finding out what we are good at, what interests us, what we’d like to get better at etc. We start to envisage a life beyond recovery.
So, yes, for me volunteering is a brilliant stepping stone within recovery to the ‘real world’, to getting back into the job market – (it does looks good on your CV) and it gets you involved in ‘life’ again in a positive and meaningful way.
However, being a mass of contradictions like most addicts I went along to this presentation ceremony with a lot of trepidation. I love being a volunteer but I feel uncomfortable being praised for it. I did it for Christina and Andy and for everyone else at TBRP and DISC who have given me those chances and who have recognised my enthusiasm and encouraged my participation. Both organisations have not only saved my life (and I am not exaggerating when I say this) but have, as importantly, given me a new way of living. And my way of saying ‘thank you’ in recognition for all of that was to humbly accept their gratitude for my ‘services’ through my volunteering!
Basically, we all need each other. Volunteers do much more than ‘help out’. Without them many of the services we take for granted would not be maintained – from Breakfast Club to SMART, from peer mentoring and giving support to vulnerable adults and to going into the wider community and getting involved in other projects, we make recovery visible and spread the message of hope and freedom. Our message is not only to those who still suffer from addiction but also to the wider public who may have no real understanding of the illness or the solution.
It was wonderful to see my friends getting their recognition and being part of this amazing support system. By helping others we gain confidence, by being useful we stay well and getting proper recognition of that means we can start to value ourselves again.