James Taylor: ‘A big part of my story is recovery from addiction’

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopfeatures/11679104/James-Taylor-A-big-part-of-my-story-is-recovery-from-addiction.html

At the age of 67, James Taylor has made his 16th album, his first in 13 years.

‘One thing that addiction does is, it freezes you. You don’t develop '

‘One thing that addiction does is, it freezes you. You don’t develop’  Photo: Timothy White

8:00AM BST 20 Jun 2015

…Yet, away from the stage, his personal circumstances were a train wreck even before he was famous. He was a heroin addict and a psychiatric patient in his teens, and his narcotic dependency fuelled the ultimate failure of perhaps America’s favourite celebrity music marriage of the 1970s, Taylor’s to Carly Simon. He did not finally get sober until his mid-30s, when he started the reinvention that makes that untamed past impossible to recognise now.


Taylor at home in New York with his then wife, Carly Simon, 1971 (JIM MCCRARY/REDFERNS)

All of which makes the lyric of Today Today Today, the opening song on Before This World, his 16th album of new songs, the first in 13 years, starkly relevant. It has him assessing his role in the musical firmament as an older man, with a palpable sense of wonder.

‘Somehow I haven’t died,’ he sings.

‘One of the things you learn as you get older is that you’re just the same’

James Taylor

Nevertheless, when we chat at length in his hotel room, Taylor – whom I first interviewed more than 20 years ago, and who remains hugely engaging company – admits that he still knows the version of himself who almost did not make it here: the man whose friend and fellow sybarite John Belushi let it be known that he was worried for him, a comment put into sharp relief by Belushi’s own fatal overdose soon afterwards in 1982.

That was the wake-up call Taylor needed. In his 1985 song That’s Why I’m Here, written following Belushi’s death, he sang, ‘John’s gone, found dead, he dies high, he’s brown bread. Later said to have drowned in his bed. After the laughter, the wave of dread, it hits us like a ton of lead.’


Taylor at the Democratic National Convention, 2012 (RALF-FINN HESTOFT/CORBIS)

‘A big part of my story is recovery from addiction,’ he says now, matter-of-factly. ‘One thing that addiction does is, it freezes you. You don’t develop, you don’t learn the skills by trial and error of having experiences and learning from them, and finding out what it is you want, and how to go about getting it, by relating with other people. You short-circuit all of that stuff and just go for the button that says this feels good over and over again. So you can wake up, as I did, at the age of 36, feeling like you’re still 17. One of the things you learn as you get older is that you’re just the same.’
Before This World by James Taylor (Concord/Decca) is out now

Letter from my future self

Quill pen

Letter from my future self

Dear Binki

I want you to think about how you manage your behaviour, social life, and personal decisions so that you achieve the positive outcomes (contentment) you desire.

Everyone has positive and negative feelings about themselves and others, and I would like you to spend time on more accurately identifying your emotions as they arise, and being able to separate out the ones that are useful to you, that get things done and resolved, and those that simply perpetuate situations which are not helpful to you. I want you to be more in tune with how you think and feel and know when you are being self-destructive, and be able to do something to offset that. Acting in an irrational manner and being counter-productive to what you really want can be nipped in the bud if you spend more time managing your feelings at particularly stressful times.

I would like you to develop a wider vocabulary to describe how you are feeling, rather than ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and be more specific in your word choices, so you get a deeper insight into exactly what is going on when the anxiety strikes, what is causing it and then what you need to do about it. Rather than think, ‘I am feeling terrible’, be able to say specifically what that ‘terrible’ means, and work through how it can be alleviated.

I like the fact that you are curious about what is going on around you and I want you to develop that curiosity and continue to write about it and explore how it feels to be in others’ shoes. I like the fact that you are open to change and able to think on your feet, and that you understand that to avoid change is to avoid potentially life changing opportunities.  Having a plan to deal with change is also a good idea, but don’t let it become anxiety about change, because change can be healthy and welcome. So when you feel anxiety about change developing, again do some work to specifically identify your true feelings and what is going on behind what is essentially fear.

I am so happy you are starting to understand more about your strengths and weaknesses, now you are free of the numbing potion.  You are starting to learn what people and situations push your buttons, either to help you succeed and motivate you, or which drag you down, or which send you into hyperspace.  As you learn more about yourself I want you to use your knowledge to help you succeed and stop behaviours happening that used to hold you back because they were ultimately self-destructive.

You have not always been a good judge of character and in the past this has led you into poor decisions, based on what you wanted people to be rather than what they were, or were doing.  You are learning to ‘read’ people more accurately and to be decisive about who you spend your time with, and there is less mystery around people for you.  I want you to keep developing this reading of people, this nose, and make it work for you not against you. Be open minded, but have your boundaries in place.  You are getting better at setting boundaries; you just need to work on being more in control of your emotions when you state these boundaries.

Many times you have got yourself offended by things people have done and said and then a spiral of behaviours develop in yourself and others, which are not helpful to you.  I want you to spend less time being offended by others, because it is a waste of your energy, and to further develop your self-confidence and open mindedness, so you can move on quickly from situations without them escalating emotionally.  You are getting much better at keeping negative emotions out of discussions than you used to be, and I want you to continue your work on this.  I also want you to consciously use humour to draw a line, and to know when to use humour to diffuse. You are becoming more difficult to offend and I want this process to continue.

Becoming better at emotion control is a central aim for you.  Learning more about delaying self-gratification and not acting impulsively to gratify are key aims for you to work on.  Developing strategies for making yourself wait, think and identify your true emotions is going to pay dividends in terms of your health and wellbeing. Being able to delay gratification will improve your levels of anxiety, guilt, shame, and even the depression which creeps up on you from time to time. This can also involve learning to say no more often, whether to yourself, or to others.  Using ‘I don’t think’, ‘I’m not certain’, ‘I will have to think about it’, are all get out clauses which you should work on eliminating when a straightforward no is in order.

You make mistakes, just like everyone else.  Show me a person who hasn’t made mistakes…I want you to focus on forgiving yourself for your mistakes, even though you must learn from them.  Mistakes are very handy as learning tools, but stop dwelling on them and ruminating about what ifs.  They are done, so move on, and change how you do things next time.  Mistakes are chances to self-improve and be a better person. You fall down, you get up and keep on walking forward.

I enjoy the fact that you like to work on behalf of others, I like that about you and want it to continue.  It gives me deep satisfaction you are able to help, without thinking of anything in return.  I like the fact that you remember stuff about people and it gives them and you pleasure to know you have listened and understood.  I like the fact that building relationships and being responsive is important to you and you are good at it.  Keep up the good work.  However I also think that you need to give yourself time to be alone even when you feel obligated to be with others.

Sometimes you have a tendency to hold grudges.  You sometimes think of your decision to hold grudges as strength but actually it is a stress response and will do you no good.  Thinking about grudges generates stress responses of fight or flight, and the survival mode that was so much a feature of your past life – those rolling stone days are over.  Holding on makes you poorly and has to stop.  Let go of the grudge and forgive and move on. Work on this consciously when you feel the stress rising. Identify the specific emotions, understand why they are happening, and deal with them.

It is hard to be kind and generous when dealing with frustrating and difficult people, no denying that!  It is even more important in these circumstances to be in control of your feelings.  Rational thought and behaviour is the most effective way to neutralise a toxic person.  I want you to practise not letting your own emotions fuel chaos.  Think carefully about others’ points of view, even if you don’t agree, and try to find common ground rather than going off the deep end or joining in an emotion fuelled discussion.  Remember rational. Take people with a grain of salt, as they say, and just because they continue their behaviour, it doesn’t mean you have to follow or participate.

One of the things you are struggling with is the need to feel perfect.  To know that everything is as it should be.  Life is never going to be like that.  Not having the state of perfection will always make you feel like you are fighting off failure, and in the end that can make you want to give up.  You do what you do in the best way you can and as long as you are trying, you have nothing to reproach yourself for.  I want you to stop lamenting what you have not achieved and focus more actively on what you have.  Repeat this process often.  Think of what you are going to achieve and how exciting that will be.  Move forward with your new knowledge.

You have already found that gratitude is a hugely inspiring and liberating emotion. Practising gratitude actively is a new skill you have learned since getting sober. It makes you feel better to remember all the good stuff and be happy for that.  Keep doing this!

I want you to consider switching off.  This doesn’t mean running away, but it does mean spending less time tuned in.  When you are available all the time and constantly checking to see if you are needed, your stress levels never get a chance to dip.  I want you to make a conscious effort to spend less time online and allow the flow to happen without you.  It will anyway.  You are dispensable, trust me on that.  Write your stories, explore your ideas, draw your pictures, work in your garden, and give the internet, email, and your phone, less of your time. You have known you have an addiction to social media for some time, and I want you to address this, for your own wellbeing. The caffeine habit runs alongside the internet habit, and that needs to be addressed too.  Life will feel easier as a result.

Sleep has been an issue for you for some time and without doubt this is linked to all of the above.  When you operate with constant sleep deprivation, you have less chance of being clear headed and being able to control your emotions.  So I want you to really focus on what makes quality sleep and work out some goals for achieving better sleep.  I also want you to make time for resting, where your diary is clear and you simply rest. You are getting quite good at meditating and I want you to develop this skill because you feel so much better for it afterwards.

One of your greatest enemies is the negative self-talk which has the power to stop you in your tracks and bring you down. It is so important to remember this type of behaviour is based on emotion, not fact.  The scenarios you panic about almost never happen! I want you to focus on your panic thoughts when they happen and talk yourself free, even if you have to stop certain commitments and activities at the time to do this.  Don’t just dismiss the thoughts in the hope that they go away…bring them up for examination and sort them out, rather than allowing rumination to develop.

Being reliant on what other people say to you and about you is never going to bring you the contentment you are seeking.  Where this is the case you will always be at the mercy of others’ feelings and opinions.  That is a very stressful and hurtful place to be, much of the time.  It brings an adrenalin high to be told something wonderful by someone else, of course, but that feeling can be as addictive as alcohol, and to depend on the comments of others is going to leave you stuck.  It is time to stop striving for the top spot in the approval stakes.  It is time to find your inner strength and rely on what you think of yourself, not depend on the words of others. Kind words are a bonus, but not your reason for getting up in the morning.

I will write to you again in another six months Binki, but in the meantime, look after yourself, and I mean that in all the ways mentioned above.

From the beginning…

I first posted this on Soberistas in February, I left the site the following day and I haven’t felt up to writing the next part yet. I will do soon I hope.

This is going to be a long story so I apologise in advance…it may seem totally irrelevant in parts but I’ve had all this in my head for so long I need to get it out…if you do try to read, I apologise for the way I write it…its just going down as it comes to mind. Some parts may not make sense I think and I am sure the chronological order of everything may not be perfect.

My mum was born into a dysfunction family…her father left when she was only a baby and my Irish grandmother was left a single mother of three young children, in the late 40’s this was frowned upon an as such my mother grew up as a social outcast, I remember her telling me she never felt she fitted in and was always thought of as odd, they were very poor and the church helped them out often. Throughout my mothers childhood my grandmother drank, at a constant level. My mother had two older brothers who my grandmother struggled to keep under control, when they got to their teens they both went into the film industry and started earning a lot of money. They bought a sports car and used to go to parties and casinos in London, this was in the late 50s…they partied hard and drank a lot. On the way home one morning my eldest uncle lost control and crashed the car, killing his brother. He was arrested and was charged, the court case was long and drawn out, but he avoided prison. This propelled my grandmother into a severe depression and her drinking increased, my mother found her with her head in the gas oven a number of times.
Around this time, my mother went into nursing…she left home and moved to the training hospital in central London, this gave her the opportunity to just be who she wanted, she told me she loved to go to parties but rarely drank.
When she completed her training she carried on working at the hospital…she met my dad in 69/70 he was 10 years older than her and seemed very grown up. They married in the early 70’s and my mother was unaware of his chronic alcoholism at this stage. He worked, he was well liked, he never drank at parties. But the house was held up by his empty litre whiskey bottles…apparently they were everywhere in every possible space. I was born in 75 my sister in 76…my dad was a doting father, but the pressure of living with an alcoholic was too much for my mother…they separated on a number of occasions as well as my dad trying various in and out patient treatments. Finally in the early 80’s they parted company…my dad moved to another town and we moved too. We lost contact with him for a few years as his drinking continued, but finally my mother found him in a mental hospital, we visited him there on a few occasions and when he left he moved to a halfway house then a small flat.
So, as for me…I always felt like I was different, I never fitted in and was a bit odd. Having to keep family secrets is a lot to bear for a child. I was also very bright…my mother was obsessed with taking me to places to get my IQ tested! At 3 I had the reading age of a 12 yr old…but I hated school with a passion. I was always in trouble for being obstinate. I went to a convent school with French nuns and they were wicked…I was regularly caned and had my mouth washed out with soap on a number of occasions. I don’t remember anything happy or fun about these years, my mother was a hard woman and I didn’t like her. We spent weekends with my dad and he always had a bottle of ‘coke’ with him…that was out of bounds for us!! The weekends with my dad were full of fun, I realise now that my mum had the usual family stuff to deal with and had to keep a roof over our head and pay school fees all on her own, so my dad got the easy bit of just providing us with lots of good times!
I think it was probably when I was about 8 that I remember my mum starting to go out drinking with her friends…the overwhelming smell of her perfume, Opium turns my stomach now. My grandma was with us a lot during these years and we spent the whole of the summer holidays with her, miles from home as my mother worked full time. I wouldn’t see my dad for the whole of the holidays. During my primary school years I saw child psychiatrists regularly…I had a problem with not talking, I could just shut myself off. I remember the head teacher shouting at me…she really lost it, I expect I was a very frustrating child! I wet the bed every single night till I was 11, soaked from head to toe, I remember shivery nights being stripped off and put back to bed three or four times. I spent a lot of time in hospital having all sorts of investigative operations. Phew think that’s enough for now.

Reflections…

 

This is a post from when I was at about 60 days. I can remember it clearly as It was the first time I had had any real cravings…It is weird that I am re reading it today as I have been craving oblivion a bit today…the monotony of life gets to me sometimes, I do love the peace and calm I have now sober, but those feelings do creep up on me now and again. The difference is I have all the tools in place to deal with these feelings now…or failing them, bed and sleep!

 

 

What a weekend…

I feel exhausted.

Friday I had an appointment about my back, I have been waiting months for this and kind of trying to ignore it too. The news wasn’t great, as I have tried all the conventional methods it seems an operation is my only option and worse still I can not do any exercise…apart from swimming or yoga. I hate swimming!

Saturday was a long stressful day, I volunteered to help serving teas and coffees at an event my children were taking part in. I spent 8 hours serving, my brain was fried and all I wanted to do was have a huge glass of cold wine and switch my brain off. I came home and laid on the bed still in my coat for an hour. Thinking about that glass of wine and how I’d feel such relief downing it. I laid there and imagined that wine.

I came down and told my husband I could murder a glass of wine, he was shocked…then he kind of said I’d done so well, maybe a glass wouldn’t hurt. Oh those words…

Take me back 60ish days and I would have been praying for those words, that opportunity, any excuse to give in.

I’ve felt so depressed today, I have been beating myself up all day. It’s stupid, I am such a perfectionist and have felt like I have been doing so well, no cravings blah blah blah. But it all means nothing, this has hit me like a train.

I can not take anything for granted. I have to work hard and not get complacent. I have an appointment with a recovery service tomorrow, I am so scared but I don’t think just me on my own will cut it long term I need to throw all I can get at it.

I have to do this and I don’t want to be hanging on by my fingernails.

 

Looking back.

This is a diary entry from back in september 2014, I had 21 days alcohol free.

I am a perfectionist and a bit of a control freak…These have been the things that in on one hand have kept me drinking for so long and on the other hand have helped me to stop.

Over my many years of alcoholism I have managed to maintain outward appearances, I’m not sure if anyone would even know. As I moved into my thirties and married and had children my drinking became focused in the home, I have a business, I was part of school committees, I volunteer, I bake, I exercise hard blah blah blah.

I worked so hard to keep all the balls up in the air, telling myself I can’t possibly be that bad when I’m doing all this stuff! Yeah right.

I have often used my parents as bench marks for my alcoholism…I’ve not been done for drink driving, so I am not as bad as them, I’ve not been to court, I’ve not been to prison, but it doesn’t matter what they have or haven’t done. I was fooling myself, I am the same…but I am determined not to have the same endings as them.

So, I am focusing my energy on staying sober…it’s my new ‘project’ I realise I can not just ‘stop drinking’ it has to be deeper than that.

Self care!! I have given up the school committee stuff, I have changed the focus of my gym training away from heavy weightlifting to Pilates and kettle bells, I am trying to relax more about the housework and cooking every meal from scratch.

I have been treating myself everyday… face masks, flowers, magazines, dark chocolate, a new nail polish, lovely bottles of elderflower drinks. Using the money I would have spent on wine, spirits and crisps which I worked out to not far off a twenty quid a day!

I have immersed myself in reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts.

I have already found so much out about myself…and it’s only day 21.

Oh and something that keeps my mind on this sober future is re reading about the middle stages of alcoholism…exactly where I was and it frightens the hell out of me.

 

 

sobriety quotes from celebrities

from alcoholic.org

Sobriety Quotes from Celebrities

Whether you are a celebrity or an ordinary person, drug abuse or alcoholism can affect you. There are many people who have abused drugs or alcohol in the past, and their sobriety quotes can be extremely important to those who are undergoing rehab.

  • Alcohol Abuse

    “The lesson is that you can still make mistakes and be forgiven.”

    Robert Downey Jr. is a well-known actor whose movies such as Iron Man, Tropic Thunder and Sherlock Holmes have graced many DVD collections. Despite his initial successes with Less Than Zero and Natural Born Killers, he started to take and abuse drugs. Between 1996 and 2002, he was regularly arrested on drugs charges. When asked about his addiction, he said, “It’s like I have a loaded gun in my mouth, and I like the taste of metal.” However, he also acknowledged that he has found success after his addiction through the support of his family, friends and colleagues in the film industry. He said, “The lesson is that you can still make mistakes and be forgiven.”

  • Ringo Starrwas the drummer of the phenomenally successful
    Alcohol Abuse

    “That’s all drugs and alcohol do; they cut off your emotions in the end.”

    Beatles, and for a period of around 20 years, he took a wide variety of drugs and drank a lot of alcohol. “I didn’t work or do anything,” he once said. “I wouldn’t go out, because you’d have to be in the car for 40 minutes without a drink.” However, he realized that, “That’s all drugs and alcohol do; they cut off your emotions in the end.” As a result, he started getting sober, and he now enjoys a successful career where he tours with his band.

  • Alcohol Abuse

    “Getting sober was one of the three pivotal events in my life…”

    Gary Oldman is an acclaimed British actor who rose to fame as part of the so-called Brit Pack, a group consisting of British actors who came to prominence during the 1980s. However, the death of his father lead to him drinking too much, and he found himself addicted. He wrote, “I drank for about 25 years getting over the loss of my father, and I took the anger out on myself. I did a good job at beating myself up sometimes.” However, Gary realized he had a serious problem, and he took the step of joining Alcoholics Anonymous and getting sober. He later said, “Getting sober was one of the three pivotal events in my life, along with becoming an actor and having a child. Of the three, finding my sobriety was the hardest thing.” However, he is now a teetotaler, and his recent films have been box office hits.

  • Rob Lowe is another actor who ended up as an alcoholic.
    Alcohol Abuse

    “Sobriety was the greatest gift I ever gave myself.”

    His career has had its ups and downs, and he is currently enjoying a long line of successful TV shows. He gained notoriety due to his recklessness and hedonistic lifestyle, particularly when he was caught in bed with a 16-year-old girl. However, he turned his life around and said, “Sobriety was the greatest gift I ever gave myself. I don’t put it on a platform. I don’t campaign about it. It’s just something that works for me. It enabled me to really connect with another human being-my wife, Sheryl-which I was never able to do before.”

  • Alcohol Abuse

    “My identity shifted when I got into recovery.”

    Eric Clapton is a legendary guitarist who drank and injected and smoked heroin. He eventually quit both in 1982 after his manager and friends intervened. He wrote this about sobriety: “My identity shifted when I got into recovery. That’s who I am now, and it actually gives me greater pleasure to have that identity than to be a musician or anything else, because it keeps me in a manageable size. When I’m down on the ground with my disease-which I’m happy to have-it gets me in tune. It gives me a spiritual anchor. Don’t ask me to explain.” He founded a recovery center in Antigua called Crossroads, which aims to help people with drug addictions.

  • Buzz Aldrinbecame famous as one of the first astronauts to walk on
    Alcohol Abuse

    “It’s been one of the greatest challenges that ever came along in my life; it was one of the more difficult things to do.”

    the moon. However, prior to the mission, he had been a pilot, and he was unprepared for the media storm that was about to hit him. After the Apollo 11 mission, his life became one of speaking engagements, publicity and the spotlight. His life became less structured and he found himself unused to the freedom offered by superstardom. He realized he had a problem and he went to a recovery clinic to be treated. He openly praises these organizations, saying: “I think recovery organizations are essential. I still participate in that because I enjoy the sharing that takes place and the friendship.” Having been sober for over three decades, Buzz still remembers his battle with alcohol: “It’s been one of the greatest challenges that ever came along in my life; it was one of the more difficult things to do.”

Fighting addiction: help others and help yourself!

Try Helping Someone ElseAlcoholics Anonymous is founded on the concept of one addict helping another. This emphasis on service is not based on religious dogma or speculation, but rather decades of experience with what works in addiction recovery. Until recently, science has focused on discovering new medications to treat addiction. Few researchers have subjected the 12-Step principles, which have helped millions of people achieve long-term recovery, to rigorous study. As a result, many core principles of 12-Step recovery have been marginalized as “unscientific.”

Fortunately, we are on the precipice of a new era in addiction research – one that is determined to learn from the success of AA/NA and find out why 12-Step recovery has been effective for so many addicts.

Service Key to Long-Term Recovery

A new study by Maria Pagano, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, sheds light on the science behind the directive to “carry the message to others” in Step 12. Using data from Project MATCH, Dr. Pagano found that recovering alcoholics who help others:

• Reduced alcohol use

• Increased consideration for others

• Did more Step work

• Attended more meetings

This latest study adds to a body of research Dr. Pagano has been instrumental in building over the past decade. In a 2004 study, she found that 40 percent of the alcoholics who helped other alcoholics during their recovery successfully avoided drinking in the 12 months following treatment, whereas only 22 percent of those that did not help others stayed sober. In a 2009 study, Dr. Pagano showed that 94 percent of alcoholics who helped other alcoholics during the 15-month study period continued to do so as part of their ongoing recovery. These helpers experienced the added benefit of lower levels of depression. Interestingly, research shows the benefits of service accrue to adolescents as well as adults.

The Helper Therapy Principle and How it Works

The helper therapy principle, embodied by AA/NA, holds that when a person helps another person suffering from a similar condition, they also help themselves. How? In large part, by minimizing selfishness and entitlement and restoring the capacity for empathy that was overtaken by addiction. Beyond making the addict feel good, helping others combats egocentrism and self-absorption, which are common perpetuators of addiction.

“Being interested in others keeps you more connected to your program and pulls you out of the vicious cycle of extreme self-preoccupation that is a posited root of addiction,” says Dr. Pagano.

Service also guards against isolation, providing the addict with a broader sense of purpose and belonging. Fellowship with other addicts, both veterans and those new to recovery, reminds the recovering addict how far they’ve come (and how easy it is to fall back into old patterns). These bonds create a certain sense of responsibility to stay sober as a role model to others.

Altruism is empowering. Some have even referred to a “helper’s high,” the feeling of warmth and gratitude felt by those who do for others. After months or years of feeling useless and ashamed, the addict discovers that they can make a positive difference. Giving back builds the addict’s confidence to set and accomplish goals. Perhaps it is this feeling of self-efficacy, combined with staying occupied in healthy pursuits, that reduces cravings for drugs and alcohol.

Endless Ways to Serve

Many recovering addicts are willing and able to serve, but don’t know where to start. Will any kind of service do? Dr. Pagano is trying to answer this question in ongoing research. While helping other addicts may be the strongest medicine, it appears that helping anyone, whether inside or outside of AA/NA, is beneficial for long-term recovery. Here are a few ways to give back:

• Share stories of your personal experience in recovery with other addicts, whether in AA/NA, at a treatment center or informally

• Commit to doing meeting chores (such as making coffee or setting up for a meeting) or a specific service position within AA/NA

• Call members to remind them about meetings

• Welcome newcomers

• Become a sponsor

• Volunteer in a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or other community service activity

• Help a friend, neighbor or family member in distress

Just as you don’t have to serve others to be part of AA/NA, you don’t have to be part of AA/NA to serve. Anyone can do it, at any stage of recovery, and the benefits start to accrue immediately. Service doesn’t cost anything and the options are endless; there is always someone in need.

Helping others is key to living a long, happy life, not only for addicts trying to hold onto their sobriety but also anyone interested in living a better life. If you’ve had any exposure to 12-Step recovery, you probably don’t need a study to tell you that it’s wise to get out of your head and get busy helping others. But for those who need scientific evidence to get mobilized, here you have it.

David Sack, M.D., is board certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. He is CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, a network of addiction treatment centers that includes Promises Treatment Centers in California, The Ranch outside Nashville,The Recovery Place in Florida, Malibu Vista, Spirit Lodge, and Right Step. You can follow Dr. Sack on Twitter @drdavidsack.