2014 - August

by Mark Rector

According to Webster's dictionary, one must practice, "unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others," in order for ones actions to be considered altruistic. The concept of altruism has been present for centuries and has stuck around for a reason, it works. Coming into recovery, I did not want to help people in anyway whatsoever. The only thing I wanted for myself in life when I first got sober was to stop shooting heroin and drinking every day. I had convinced myself that there was no way I would ever be happy. I didn't even think I could be of use to myself, let alone anyone else. When someone introduced me to the concept of altruism, it completely baffled me. Why would I ever help someone for no reason whatsoever?

I had always lived life selfishly, always looking for ways I could get something out of someone. If that meant me showing up angry and violent or even kind and considerate, then I would do it to get what I wanted from you. From this way of life I experienced fights, loss of finances, loss of love, death, violence, misery, emptiness, pain, anger, and repercussions. Only when I looked at the truth about my life as I had been living it and saw that living selfishly led to a lot of my problems, did I become willing to give the altruistic approach a chance.

I have found that it actually isn’t really difficult to practice altruism in recovery. Turns out that the only thing holding me back from helping someone and approaching newcomers was fear, not the idea that I was unable to help. It just so happens that my unique experiences, trials, and tribulations qualify me to help other addicts and alcoholics in a way that no normal person can. I went through all these terrible life circumstances so that I could one day help someone with the same issue. This is a concept I have to remember when I am struggling. Even when things aren’t going well in sobriety, I realize I can stay sober through this and then use that triumph as fuel to ignite someone else's own recovery, and then expect nothing in return! How cool is that? That even my struggles have a purpose today!

The practice of altruism and recovery go hand in hand and the ripple effect that can occur as a result of helping one person is infinite. I must remember that I could say one thing that may save someone's life one day and in turn help hundreds of others, their families, and their friends. This is a practice I must continue to do daily if I am to maintain sobriety or happiness. Turns out I am the happiest when I am helping others and carrying the message to those who still suffer. It is what fuels me, drives me, and rockets me outside of my selfish, self-centered mind today. The change that has taken place by being open to the truth and being a decent human being today is incredible. I have found a purpose in life today, for the first time in my entire life. I constantly have to remind myself something that was told to me very early on in my sobriety, that the bravest thing I can do today is help someone with no expectation of reward. I feel the most whole and at peace when I am helping someone and that may not mean much to you, but it damn sure means a lot to this drug addict.

About the Author

Mark was born and raised in Houston, TX before attending Louisiana State University in 2007 to study Chemistry. An aspiring chemist and baseball player, he had a bright future ahead of him. However, heroin addiction and alcohol dependence destroyed any dream he had for his life. After numerous treatment centers and failed attempts at getting sober on his own, Mark became desperate enough and found freedom from his addiction in 2012 through Alcoholics Anonymous. He is currently working for a treatment center and living in Austin, TX.

( 5 Votes )
Comments (3)
3 Tuesday, 05 July 2016 08:18
Alicia Sanders
I too share a similar past, one that was consumed with alcohol and drug use. It was always the alcohol that triggered the drugs, crude and deadly behavior. I have been clean from meth since January 2011 and that was the easy part. Thank you for sharing your story, it has opened my eyes to a new thought pattern and way of life.

2 Sunday, 30 August 2015 15:21
Enrique R.

Thank you so much for this article, Mark. I stumbled upon this on accident but am glad I did. I appreciate your words of positivity and wisdom, I, too, will be sharing this in the outpatient dual diagnosis recovery treatment I attend.

Very inspired,
Enrique R.
1 Wednesday, 25 February 2015 13:48
Connie Sprague, LCDC
I enjoyed your article; thank you for sharing!

I have printed this out to share in my groups in hopes of passing along your inspiration.

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