When I first found recovery, I was taught to refer to myself as an addict. This is common practice among those in the pathway of recovery that I used to begin my journey. After a few years in recovery, I began to learn about recovery advocacy and the importance of referring to myself as a “person in recovery” rather than an “addict.” Each time I said that I felt a little uncomfortable, because the natural follow-up to that phrase would be to then say what exactly I was in recovery from; this was a complex concept for me. Substance use disorder was one thing I was recovering from, yes—but I also experienced depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Along with a difficult childhood, these disorders all caused harm in my life and prevented me from reaching my potential (or even thinking that I had potential).
Then one day, I was in an all-recovery meeting and heard someone say they were in recovery from self-destruction. The moment I heard that, I immediately identified with it.
I grew up in a family that was not healthy; our substance use disorder runs generations deep. For me, the unfortunate result of that was that I was not given access to the tools needed to be happy and healthy. My achievements were never recognized; I vividly remember my mom always throwing away any trophies I earned through winning competitions. The only feedback I received was negative and hurtful, so it was natural that I didn’t have a positive view of myself. Accepting compliments was uncomfortable and difficult for me—sometimes, I still have difficulty accepting compliments. Seeing potential in myself was completely out of the question. I lived the first 40 years of my life without being able to accept success. I was constantly self-sabotaging out of fear of success. I also spent those years “playing the victim” and blaming my family for everything that went wrong.
And then I found recovery. I realized that those tools for achieving my personal potential for health and happiness hadn’t been given to me because my mother, too, was denied them throughout her own childhood. I found people who understood me instead of dismissing me. I found people who supported me, women who came to court with me to help me find the courage to tell the judge that my husband was physically harming me. I found an environment that allowed me to grow: people that supported me when I wanted to self-sabotage, people who showed me how to embrace success. Through my recovery process, I learned that yes, I do have potential. I met people who encouraged me to reach ever higher in pursuit of my goals.
It was only through this process and the growth I experienced that I was able to learn to be a parent to my own children. Through recovery and this supportive community, I learned what unconditional love meant: how to give it as well as how to accept it. Once there, I learned how to chase my dreams without guilt. I began to understand that it was OK to have dreams and that I could realize them. I stopped playing the victim, took control, and held myself accountable for my life. I gained freedom from the pain and damage that once ruled my life.
Today, I am no longer living in self-destruction. I have a purpose and am filled with gratitude for what my recovery journey has given me. Today, I live in hope.