In recovery, Ivana discovered that she’s allowed to treat herself and others with kindness and gentleness.
This month, Ivana Grahovac celebrates 14 years in recovery from heroin use. For Ivana, wellness and sobriety go hand in hand. She shared her personal story and how she changed her life in recovery with Facing Addiction With NCADD.
For Ivana, early recovery was “chaotic at times, and brimming over with hope at other times.” The initial phases of withdrawal from a long period of active substance use taxed her physical, mental, and emotional health. Ivana also struggled with an eating disorder; the combined compulsions of binging, starving, and substance use had serious consequences.
Ivana said active addiction, combined with an eating disorder, was “incredibly painful, dark. It was like I was living in a tunnel with no way out. Terrifying things would occur as a result of the compulsion and obsession to use drugs.” She was able to get help by going to a treatment program and aftercare. She also used therapy and got involved in a 12-Step community. She quickly learned that the effects of substance use disorder weren’t limited to her body. She had a lot of work to do to repair the damage of her illness. She said, “I never thought I would be able to overcome the trauma of what went along with addiction.”
To heal from the trauma of her illness, Ivana started doing yoga. She learned how to cope with emotions like anxiety, fear, depression,and shame in addition to getting help for that trauma. Most importantly for her, she learned helpful ways to overcome cravings and urges. She said, “I never thought those would ever go away but they did!”
As difficult as early recovery was, Ivana stuck with it. She said, “I never, ever came close to quitting the path I was on. I received incredible support, strength, and love from my family, who never gave up on me either—even though my addiction wanted them to, back in the dark days.”
Now, Ivana has a career that she loves, helping people and communities overcome addiction. She also earned her graduate degree and started the “Students for Recovery” program at University of Michigan. Later, she got to run the Center for Students in Recovery at University of Texas at Austin: this program was shared throughout the entire UT system.
Fighting for recovery means finding ways to be an ally, and putting someone’s dignity first. Ivana says, “The way the addiction manifests in the life of someone with substance use disorder is not who they are at their core. Reaffirm to them over and over that you are so sorry they are battling this right now in their life, and you know the real ‘them’ is in there, fighting their hardest. Remind them that you love them so much and will never give up on them, and that you know they have the resilience to overcome whatever is happening in the midst of their fight for recovery. And make sure you build a support system of cheerleaders for yourself and practice self-care to stay strong throughout your loved one’s process of seeking recovery.”
In recovery, Ivana discovered that she’s allowed to treat herself and others with kindness and gentleness. The greatest blessing in her life is her community: an amazing support system of the most positive, compassionate, inspiring people she knows. Recovery means growth, and Ivana is excited for what the next year brings for herself and her community—and how she’ll and grow together with them.