Why Addicts Become Addicted to Helping Others

For almost one century, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has used the power of sober addicts’ stories to help others. AA makes it clear that “sobriety depends on connecting with other alcoholics.” While professional counseling has its place in recovery, one addict helping another has proven significant success for those seeking a sober life of happiness and fulfillment. However, this helping relationship can pose a problem for the person with an inclination toward addiction as they can become addicted to helping others. 

The Sanctuary Recovery Foundation was founded by those who found sobriety and want to help others do the same. Contact us for more information about the support provided in our sober living homes.

Why Do People Develop Addictions?

Addiction is a complicated disorder that can cause people to harm themselves by drinking alcohol, taking drugs, overeating cookies, or shopping. Although, like other chronic conditions such as diabetes that can respond to treatment, addictions differ in their complex cause. Addictions result from the interaction of several factors, including psychological, social, neurological, and genetic. 

Although everyone develops their addiction differently, as one or more of these contributing factors may dominate, substance and behavioral addictions seem to have one thing in common. They all elevate the brain’s production of a chemical known as dopamine. This powerful chemical causes feelings of pleasure in the brain’s reward center. Shopping and heroin have the same potential to reward you with pleasurable feelings. 

What Is Addiction Replacement?

Abusing a substance to the level of addiction causes neurological changes that create chemical cravings in the brain. These cravings make recovery challenging and can make the recovering addict vulnerable to other means of fulfilling the desire for feelings of pleasure. It is not unusual for recovering addicts to transfer their drug and alcohol behaviors to activities such as shopping, running, work, or helping other people. These and other behaviors can replace drugs and alcohol as the source of dopamine release in the brain for feelings of pleasure. 

Replacing Substance Addiction With Helping Addiction

Experts in human behavior acknowledge the potential for anyone to develop an addiction to helping other people. However, they warn that certain professions, such as coaches, counselors, and consultants, are especially vulnerable. These professions are vulnerable for the same reason as the recovering addict: chemicals. Neuroscience has discovered that helping people causes the release of these three “happiness” chemicals:

  • Dopamine. Besides causing feelings of pleasure, dopamine causes you to feel satisfied and motivated.
  • Oxytocin. This chemical has many essential functions and can create warm, fuzzy feelings. Our feelings of connection to other people are influenced by oxytocin.
  • Serotonin. This complex hormone creates intense feelings of happiness and well-being. 

We need healthy ways to stimulate the release of these chemicals to live productive, happy, and fulfilling lives. However, it is also important to recognize when we rely on unhealthy behaviors for these desirable effects. Helping others is an important aspect of addiction recovery, but it can cause harm if it becomes a new addiction.

Preventing Becoming Addicted To Helping Others

As you progress in your recovery, you will likely want to help others begin and succeed on their path to sobriety. The Sanctuary Foundation’s success has been due to recovering addicts’ willingness to help others. Here are some warning signs you may be developing an addiction to helping others:

  • You feel anxious when you are not helping someone.
  • You find yourself giving advice to people without their request.
  • You seek praise for your help.
  • You feel threatened or insecure if your help is rejected.
  • You feel defensive if the person you help gets help from someone else.

These signs may indicate the need for you to reevaluate your relationships and your motivation for helping others. It is critical to prevent an addiction to helping others from becoming the source of your self-esteem and value as a person.

Sanctuary Recovery Foundation

At The Sanctuary Recovery Foundation, we know what you’re going through. We offer a sober living environment in the Charleston, South Carolina areas to help you succeed on your journey to recovery. Contact us today for more information to get started.