Giving Back Versus Giving Gifts

Home | Giving Back Versus Giving Gifts

As we approach the season of gift-buying and giving, the financial burden can feel a little overwhelming depending on the size of your family and friend group and their expectations. Even though it’s fun to exchange gifts, gift-giving can easily become a source of stress. 

And when you’re in addiction recovery, the last thing you need is added stress. What can you do to help yourself manage holiday stress and get some perspective? We suggest giving back

What’s giving back? Simply put, giving back means volunteering your time and effort to help others. It’s based on the idea that you’ve been given much by others to help and support your journey toward sobriety. And while it’s wonderful to give something to those specific people who helped you in your recovery, “giving back” also means “paying it forward.” In other words, when you give back, you help and support those who haven’t necessarily done anything to help you–they’re just in a position like you once were, struggling and in need. 

Giving Back Versus Giving Holiday Gifts

At the risk of stating the obvious, let’s look at some of the ways giving back is different than giving holiday gifts. 

  1. You know the person needs the gift you’re giving. Giving something to someone who truly needs it is much more rewarding and meaningful than giving Uncle Joe a sweater he’ll probably never wear. 
  2. You may not get a warm “thank-you,” but if you do get a “thank you,” it won’t be fake. When someone is struggling, they may not have the capacity to express gratitude for your help. That’s okay. Better no “thank-you” than one you suspect is fake (the kind, for example, you might get from your friend who is not as much a fan of cow-themed gifts as you think she is).
  3. It’s more likely to relieve stress than add to it. When you give someone a holiday gift, you might feel worried about what they’ll think of it, whether you spent as much as they spent on you, etc. Stressful! Giving back gets you out of your own head for a minute, and that’s always a good thing.
  4. It makes you feel good about yourself. You’ve brought relief and joy to someone rather than causing someone stress (which is what you may have done when you were in active addiction). 
  5. It keeps you focused on your recovery. This is especially true if you’re giving back in the recovery community. 
  6. It gives you a sense of purpose and reminds you of all you have to be grateful for. Addiction can wear away at self-esteem, so one thing you’ll want to do in recovery is build up your confidence. Volunteering helps you do this. You’ll feel like you’re doing something, finally, that matters. And you’ll be so grateful that you have the capacity to do it. 

Ways to Give Back

It’s pretty easy to come up with ways to give back. If you’re in a recovery support group, your group members probably talk about giving back and share stories of how they’ve done so. Speaking of which, recovery meetings are a good place to start giving back. You can help set up and tear down the meeting, provide transportation for those who need it, and, once you’re feeling strong in your sobriety, sponsor someone new to recovery. 

Outside of the recovery community, volunteer opportunities abound. Websites like offer an easy way to search for opportunities in your community. Food pantries often need volunteers, especially around the holidays. Or, you could just look around your neighborhood. Offer to mow lawns or rake leaves or do grocery store runs for those who are homebound or ill. Offer childcare to friends or family who could use a break. 

Volunteering doesn’t have to feel like drudgery. Look for an opportunity that matches your interests and skill set. That will make it more likely that you’ll stick with it. 

Alternatives to Holiday Gifts

Just a quick note here to say that if giving holiday gifts feels daunting this year, either because of your financial situation or energy level, you’re allowed to opt out. You can start by having a heart-to-heart with your family, explaining your situation and saying that you’ll be expressing your love for them in other ways this year. To that end, here are some ideas: 

  • Suggest a group “giving back” activity
  • Give coupons for services you can provide throughout the year
  • Host a dinner party for friends and family
  • Suggest a gift exchange with a price limit
  • Take everyone to see a movie 

Year-Round Help at St. Gregory

If you are struggling with addiction, peace and gratitude might seem miles and miles away. But there is hope. Here in Bayard, Iowa, St. Gregory Recovery Center can help you find your way again. With medical detox followed by therapy that focuses on helping you understand and manage powerful emotions in a healthy way, you’ll discover your own inner strength and come to trust it. For more information about our programs, reach out today. We are open every day, all day, holidays and weekends included. 

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