There are many pillars on which successful recovery rests. Radical honesty with another human being is one; a willingness to turn your life over to a higher power as you understand it is another; a willingness to take recovery one day at a time is a third.

Another vital pillar, one that often gets overlooked, is to get involved in your community.

Get Involved in Your Community to Help You Heal

The reality is, before we begin to recover, most of us are extraordinarily self-absorbed. The essence of addiction is preoccupation with self: our pain, our high, our needs. While some of us may have played a good game of active community involvement, until we recover, that public service is often more for show.

Others of us never even bothered to try showing up.

Regardless of our past, the reality is that we are meant to be vital members of our community. It’s not just because after having been takers for so long, it’s time for us to give back. It’s that our own recovery hinges on our feeling needed and useful, and it hinges on our knowing that we are valued participants in society.

Great. But where to start?

Don’t Overlook Religion or Spirituality

The Big Book of AA suggests that if you come from a religious or spiritual background that you’ve abandoned as a result of your addiction, it might be wise to return to that world. That doesn’t mean if you were raised Jewish you need to rejoin a synagogue; just that it can be helpful to return to what was once familiar, this time with the tools of sobriety to support you.

Make the Switch from Solo to Group

If that doesn’t sound like a good idea, or if you had no family religious background, make a list of three healthy things you enjoy (hiking, cooking and reading, perhaps) These can all be solitary activities, but there are many organized community groups that hike, cook or discuss books together.

The bottom line: figure out what healthy, life-affirming things you like doing alone—and commit to doing that thing in a group. Don’t go crazy! Just pick one. One activity; one group.

The point of joining a book club or a hiking group is more than reading or exercise. The people you meet and connect with will open still more doors for you both to be of service and to enjoy a life you may have avoided for years.

Early in my sobriety, I joined a running club and trained for my first marathon. The struggle and the camaraderie were wonderful, and I found a new, healthy high in endorphins. More important than finishing a marathon, though, was acquiring a community of people. I could rely on, open up to and trust.

Whatever our drug of choice, ours is a disease of isolation. Learning to get involved in your community is the answer.