Finding Peace in Service

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What does peace look like?

When you’re trying to support someone in active addiction, it’s a question that’s impossible to answer. There is no peace, either for the addict or the loved one trying desperately to help. There is more than enough pain, sorrow, frustration, and anger. But peace? That’s nowhere to be found.

There is also little happiness or joy, especially when you have a front-row seat to the suffering endured and caused by an addict. Some days, the cycle appears endless, with nothing but more misery everywhere you turn.

Which is why you have to get out.

Wouldn’t that be lovely? An escape from the horrors of addiction? Who wouldn’t jump at the chance? But how do you “get out” of an impossible situation?

You don’t, at least not entirely. But you can “get out” temporarily, and sometimes the best medicine for treating your own pain is to try and relieve someone else’s.

When dealing with a loved one’s addiction, the mental strain is constant, interrupting conscious and unconscious thought, along with sleep—the only real respite, provided it’s dreamless. The idea of entering into someone else’s troubles—taking on even more sadness, may seem counter-productive at best.

But here’s the thing: Addiction takes away our power. Everyone’s power, actually—addict as well as family and friends. Being of service is a way to take it back. It’s also a way to distract your mind from your own challenges and problems.

Life offers a never-ending wheel of misfortune. People are forced to manage crises that leave them feeling out of control—grasping for a lifeline when there seems to be none in sight.

So it is with addiction. For those dealing with a loved one’s substance abuse, there is often no way out of the struggle, at least within a particular moment. Successful addiction management is a long, arduous process that can create a sense of hopelessness.

While it may not be possible to relieve your own sense of struggle regarding addiction, being a sign of help and hope to someone dealing with a challenge different from your own can help you restore hope to everyone. Take back your power by thinking about and helping someone else. Volunteer at a food bank. Clean up a local park. Visit animals at a rescue shelter.

The world of addiction is isolating and frightening. But while you may not be able to completely relieve your own burden, you can get out of your own head long enough to help someone else, adding hope and restoring at least some control and peace to your life.

Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon.