As addicts and alcoholics, we were masters of neglect.
We did not care for our sanity, our bodies, our spirits, our friends and loved ones; we did not care for the world around us and instead, chose to turn our backs on life in favor of a slow and often shameful deterioration as human beings. As we fell deeper into our addictions, any former semblance of kindness and gentleness was replaced by harshness, by deviance. We treated ourselves with little, if any, respect and in turn, we treated others in the same regard.
Sober College’s Community Outreach Program gives clients the opportunity to begin to remedy the damage we may have done by encouraging participation in a plethora of volunteer activities. “Heal the Bay” is an activity in which clients are taken to a local beach to clean up the litter left by others.
For many people (myself included) being on the beach brings a sense of serenity. It provides an escape from the city. It instills a sense of awe at the natural miracles Mother Nature provides us. It gives us a sense of how small we really are in this world. As wave after wave crashes on the sandy shores, the sun can provide a warmth that can be felt in the depths of our spirits, and sometimes, if we allow ourselves to drift into thought, we can suddenly become aware of the human condition.
I realize I may sound a bit trite and cliché, but the beach and nature hold a special place in my heart. I know that’s true for many others as well, so encountering litter and garbage strewn about the sandy beaches of Southern California is a sad sight to behold. The trash has more of an effect than just being an eyesore … plastic can be dangerous for the wildlife … broken glass can be dangerous for children – and adults – walking the beach … and the accumulation of litter can attract vermin and bacteria before its swept away by the waves to be carried far into the oceans via currents and waterways to do more damage.
Given these facts, Heal the Bay holds more value than one might imagine at first glance. While there’s no question that cleaning the beach is important, it’s ultimately about more than just picking up trash.
In our active addictions, it was a chore to clean up after ourselves, let alone another person. However, by picking up other people’s garbage, clients get the chance to practice humility. It gives clients the opportunity to demonstrate respect for the world at large. It gives them the opportunity to come together to accomplish something vital and admirable on the behalf of our environment. And, as beachgoers look on, Sober College clients are leading by example; showing others that the trash and debris people leave behind doesn’t just magically disappear, and that there are still people out there who take action. Through Heal the Bay, Sober College clients get to experience first-hand what the saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” really means. Consequently, and perhaps most importantly, C.O.R.E. activities such as Heal the Bay teach clients that a sense of gratification can come from doing things for others and that we don’t always have to be selfish in order to achieve satisfaction.