Every single person who is starting their journey should feel seen and loved the way I got to feel.
When I started my recovery process at nineteen, I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going, or how to do it. I couldn’t iron my own pants for court, let alone make decisions about the rest of my life. I felt overwhelmed frequently and remember searching for guidance from just about everyone who crossed my path.
I was fortunate enough to have some strong, brilliant women placed in my life at nearly every crossroads. Some would grace my journey for short periods of time. Others were day-ones, sitting next to me in my long-term residential programs. These women seemed to see right into me. They saw all of me, not just the shame-ridden reflection I often saw staring back at me in those early days.
When I felt inadequate, incapable, or scared, the reassurance from these figures helped me to step forward through those feelings,and not run away from them. Each time I experienced that step forward, a piece of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love would root itself a bit deeper. A woman in one of my programs, Alicia, who made the biggest difference for me.
My mother passed away from cancer nine months into my recovery process. At that time, I was still transitioning from incarceration to a therapeutic community, then into residential care. I was nineteen, grief-ridden, and desperate for my life to finally get better. I had a ton of moments when I was ready to quit the whole recovery thing people were beaming about. I didn’t get it. My life sucked and I couldn’t cope with it in the way I knew how to. Drug court was overwhelming. Therapy was overwhelming. The emotional pain was overwhelming. Trying to be a responsible adult was impossible, yet that’s what everyone expected of me. All the powers that be who were in complete control of my fate at the time demanded this adult person to present themselves and I had never even met that person. How could I be her?
Alicia didn’t expect those things from me. She got me. She listened to me. She empathized with me. She never told me what I needed to do, but shared what was working for her—or wasn’t. She didn’t focus on all the things I had done, but spoke frequently about the endless things I was capable of doing.
Alicia was one of the few people I could let those reinforced walls down around and feel accepted, safe. She was quick to acknowledge my addictive behaviors when they’d show up but in a matter-of-fact, kind of way. They were merely a part of a life I was used to living, but they weren’t going to be necessary in this new life I was cultivating. I felt less overwhelmed by the things I was being demanded to change by others, and found myself feeling hopeful about the person I might get to become. Hope was a foreign feeling to me, but it was infectious.
Alicia wasn’t a counselor. She didn’t use therapeutic techniques. She wasn’t a person in power using fear to trigger behavior change. She was another person on the same journey I was on, she just had insider information about the process. Alicia was my peer. She was a recovery coach before there were recovery coaches. She was one of the women who saw me, believed in me, and was kind. Her faith in me molded the entire course of my recovery journey. Her support and compassion ignited my own self-care.
It’s been ten years since those early months in my recovery. I’ve gotten to grow up in recovery and today it’s become me. I live a life of wellness, self-love, and freedom.
Peers have so much power to uplift each other in their recovery process. My experience has made me passionate about the evolving field of recovery coaching and peer services.
Every single one of us should have that kind of support as we take each step forward into our lives in recovery.