“In recovery they talk about days,” writes Patrick Sallee. “Days are important. I struggled with this maybe more than I struggled with not drinking. For the first six months it served as a reminder of all the harm I caused and all the bad decisions I made. I had many conversations with friends and family about this exact thing. They would say things like, ‘Congratulations, 100 days sober’…never felt great to me. All I heard was ‘Congratulations, it’s been 100 days since you royally [messed] something up.’ I know that wasn’t anyone’s intent, but it is how I saw myself, how I defined the days.”
Sallee speaks to the heart of something which many struggle with in recovery: the feeling of being defined by addiction. Each day marks the time between you and active addiction, every good choice you make stands in contrast to those you made while using, every step forward casting a shadow toward your past. How do you find freedom from addiction when your every move is inextricably tethered to it?
(Re)Discovering Purpose and Passion
Addiction treatment is inherently a time of intense focus on your addiction, examining its origins, its nature, its particularities. This is necessary to reach a full understanding of where your addiction came from, what fed it, and how it manifested, giving you the insight you need to begin the transformation from active addict to recovering addict. But you are not your addiction and true recovery isn’t just about not using anymore—that’s only the start, the prerequisite. True recovery is about the healing of your spirit and uncovering the potentialities that exist within you without the constraints of addiction. It’s not just about closing the door on drugs and alcohol, but about opening the door to a richer, more fulfilling future in which you can most fully give expression to your authentic self.
For Sallee, that realization did not come quickly, nor did it come easily. But six months into sobriety he began to reframe the way he thought about recovery and about himself:
I finally figured out the important reason for counting the days. It isn’t counting the days I’m not the bad guy … it’s counting the days I am the good one. How many days in a row do I choose my daughter’s attention over my cell phone? How many days do I tell people the truth, even when it’s hard? How many days do I show up to work, trying to do more and be better? I fail at these regularly. But I try again tomorrow. And I focus on trying to be that guy instead of avoiding being the other one.
Living A Worthy Life
Morgan Gliedman too knows the value of rising from the ashes of addiction to create a new life worthy of being lived. The daughter of a top New York doctor, her struggle with heroin addiction made headlines across the globe when she and her Harvard-educated boyfriend were arrested in 2013. Recently, Gliedman shared her recovery journey in The Fix, breathing humanity into a narrative too many have heard only in the form of salacious news stories.
After detailing the practical challenges of sobriety, known all too well by those in recovery, she shares what her life looks like now and the sense of purpose she feels as she experiences the gift of life without drugs. “Today my life is a life to be grateful for: the gift of waking up and not having my first thoughts be do I have a bag, do I have money to get a bag, how am I gonna get through today is a gift never to be taken for granted,” she writes. “[A]nd I try to live my life in such a way that is worthy of that gift.”
If You Are Not Your Addiction, Who Will You Be?
At Alta Mira, we believe that cultivating the person you want to be is an indispensable part of addiction treatment. It is not enough to simply say “you are not your addiction”; you have to find what it is that you do want to be. All too often, addiction itself has stripped you of the ability to see yourself beyond drugs, put distance between you and your talents, and crippled your imagination. As such, we must actively guide our clients to discover their full potential, giving them the tools, space, and support to imagine themselves beyond addiction. This is a tremendous opportunity to begin to understand your deepest sense of personal truth and heal in a way that gets to the core of your being.
While the seeds of this idea are planted throughout the treatment process, our Recovery Statement Workshop is a dedicated space to open up the possibilities of the life you can have without drugs or alcohol. By engaging in a process of deep, guided introspection and imagination, you are able to reignite your sense of purpose and passion or find it for the first time. What did you love before you loved drugs? What were you good at? What do you want to be good at? What drives you? How do you want to present yourself to the world? How do you want to show up? What is meaningful and beautiful to you? What do you want to be part of your own self-concept? What are the parts of yourself that you love and how can you nourish them? What are the qualities you want to have and how can you create them?
By considering all the potentialities that lie ahead of you, your talents and strengths, your inspirations and desires, you can craft a vision that encapsulates the truth of your self and serves as a roadmap for your recovery. In doing so, you bring to light a higher understanding of yourself and the shape you want your life to take. It can help you recognize the possibilities that exist beyond the challenges you face and recognize that there is a place for you in the world beyond addiction.
Instead of simply asking “Who are you?” we ask, “Who do you want to be?” The answer to that question can both be a guiding light throughout your recovery and something concrete you turn to in particularly challenging moments to remind yourself that there is a life out there for you outside the confines of addiction—it is within your reach.
Alta Mira offers a comprehensive suite of treatment programs for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addiction. Contact us to learn more about our innovative curriculum and how we can help you or your loved one creating lasting freedom from addiction.
Image Source: Unsplash user Austin Neill