It’s long been known that community service is good for the soul. But new research reveals it may also be good for the sobriety as well.

A researcher from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has found that partaking in community service work can help addicts and alcoholics become and stay sober. In a review article published in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, Maria E. Pagano, PhD. wrote that helping others through peer-supported programs like Alcoholics Anonymous fosters a “therapy based on the kinship of common suffering”.

In the review article, Dr. Pagano sites a 2004 study she conducted that looked at the sobriety rates of recovering addicts who had completed a three-month stay in a treatment program. The study’s results found that only 22 percent of the addicts polled remained sober a year after finishing rehab. 40 percent of the recovering addicts who had helped others after completing treatment, however, were still sober 12 months later.

How does community service help keep people sober?

The philosophy is a simple one: When a person helps another person, they help themselves in the process. This is thought to be due to the fact that helping others shrinks the ego. Egocentricism—which some believe fuels addiction—is defined as “having little or no regard for interests, beliefs, or attitudes other than one’s own”. Volunteering one’s time and energy forces a person to place another’s interests first, which diminishes egocentric tendencies, allowing the person in recovery to remain focused on becoming a healthier human being.



Sources: Case Western Reserve University. (2011, January 29). Helping others helps alcoholics stay on the road to recovery. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 19, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110128104242.htm

Maria Pagano, Stephen Post, Shannon Johnson. Alcoholics Anonymous-Related Helping and the Helper Therapy Principle. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 2011; 29 (1): 23 DOI:10.1080/07347324.2011.538320

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