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Gifts and Lessons in Recovery from Addiction

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

I lost a friend last week to a drug overdose. Unfortunately, this type of loss is not extremely uncommon. I've been in recovery for 21 years and there have been many tragic losses along the way. Whether these deaths are related to illness, addiction, overdose, accident, or suicide, it is always very painful. For friends and family, there are often many unanswered questions and a deep grief related to what could've been. 

When I entered Recovery in March 2001, it felt like a dark cloud was lifted. I believe it was the first time that I actually had a sense of hope that I could truly change my life. Prior to this time, I was in and out of recovery for many years because I REFUSED to follow the life-saving suggestions. Imagine the insanity of being given a recipe to save your life and picking and choosing what parts of the recipe to follow. I could write paragraphs about all the things I did wrong, but I do believe my time is better spent talking about the incredible gifts offered in recovery and the lessons learned.

There are many people who judge those dependent on substances. I understand, and for me those opinions paled in comparison to the disdain I carried for myself. Freedom from addiction and practicing the principles behind the steps created the context for me to begin the process of releasing my self-loathing. I have been attending a 12-step fellowship for over nineteen years because it works. It has given me a tribe of people that are also on a clear path focused on creating a compelling future. Twelve step fellowships are one of the few places in the world where people are working to become better people. I am not saying it is the only way, but it has been proven time and time again. I was dying and I needed a loving place known for creating results with those willing to take the suggestions. 

I wish I had the ability to take the joy, peace, hope, and love afforded me through recovery and place it inside the soul of a hopeless addict. I believe if they were able to feel what is possible, they would make a different decision. In my addiction, I used for many years to be numb. I experienced childhood trauma and I believe these events set the stage for me to become an addict. The reasons are not as important as the power they carried over me for many years. I continued to retraumatize myself with drug use over something that happened long ago. It was as if what happened never stopped because I allowed it to continue to destroy my life. I discovered freedom when I shared my experience, strength, and hope with others so they wouldn’t have to die. By freeing myself I paved the way for other’s freedom. My hope is everyone struggling with substance abuse comes to the realization they can save and change lives with as little as one day in recovery. 

There are too many gifts to mention here so I will highlight a few. I entered recovery two days before my son turned one, and raising a child surrounded by a tribe of people committed to personal transformation is beyond powerful. I was able to return to school to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner to help people struggling with substance use disorders and mental health concerns. I say this not to brag, but to speak into the possibility from someone who was refused admission to grad school multiple times secondary to an unimpressive undergrad GPA. Recovery has afforded me limitless opportunities, a deep gratitude for being alive, the most incredible relationships with friends and family, the ability to help countless people and the humility to ask for help when needed. 

There are too many lessons to include them all here. It is my hope these words make it to someone who is struggling with addiction. I have learned that forgiveness is possible, your past can save the lives of others, finding and living your purpose is badass, people do change, surrounding yourself with people that feed your soul is a must, you are stronger than you think, laughter and joy are byproducts of living an authentic life, you get to live the life you desire, your predecessors have already created the space for your  healing in recovery, and growth and contribution are the foundation for an outstanding life. YOU CAN DO IT and you are WORTHY, ALWAYS. 

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