As we grow along our spiritual paths, we develop a sincere desire to help others; particularly those struggling with addiction. We’ve experienced positive changes in recovery and we want others to experience them as well. It’s healthy to exercise discernment when helping others. Not everyone wants to be helped. Go into any bar or crack house, approach someone and say “I want to help you.” Then experience what happens next. Someone did this to me when I was drinking, and I simply laughed and told her to leave me alone. My response was gentle in comparison to others.
This type of “help” isn’t helpful for a couple reasons. First, we have no right to assume who is or isn’t an addict. Even if we are correct, it isn’t our place to diagnose or judge. Second, we cannot help someone who doesn’t want it. Sometimes our egos brush past this fact and think that we are special or different and can help anyone we choose. It doesn’t work that way. Until or unless an addict is ready to change and wants help, we can’t help. We can live as examples and pray but there is nothing we can do to directly help them change. And if we continue to try, we are engaging in controlling and manipulative behaviors, which harm our spiritual health.
Now, if an addict asks for our help, we are in a completely different realm. Here is where we can genuinely be of help, being mindful to keep our egos out of the way. We continue to live our recovery, which serves as an example. We can share our personal experience. Whatever recovery path we have chosen, we honestly share with the fellow addict what we have done to get clean and sober and what we continue to do. We can meet up with our fellow addicts for coffee/tea, talk and most importantly, listen. We open our ears, hearts and spirits to what they have to say. We listen with compassion and empathy. We have been where they are.
We can provide them with literature that has helped us along the way; remembering we are giving gifts and once given, it is theirs to do with as they wish. If we feel like we are becoming controlling or having expectations, we pray for guidance and meditate. We can introduce them to other recovering addicts, which can help them begin to build a support network. When they call, we can allow ourselves to be interrupted without resentment and feel grateful that we are able to be there for someone else.
So, why do we do all of this? We could turn this into a litany of logical or rational “reasons” but that would harm the spiritual experience. Instead…we help others simply because it’s the right thing to do.