For many of us in recovery from a substance use disorder, we often cite our devastating experience with substance misuse as the catalyst for self-discovery and the facilitator of our own personal awakening. We frequently refer to our experience with substance use disorder as a beautiful blessing borne from a horrific curse. Even those of us who would not identify as spiritual or religious can be found regularly expressing this concept in terms of simply stating that we were catapulted into becoming better human beings. Somehow, being touched by substance use disorder turned out to be an experience that led us to seek out who we really are and how we can continuously improve the ways in which we show up in the world. Consequently, not only do we experience an enhanced way of living ourselves but the world around us is exposed to all of the benefits that this enhanced way of living brings. We become better partners, siblings, parents and children. We become more engaged and productive members of our workplaces, communities, cities and towns. We show up as change agents in the world as we take our own personal transformative experience and use it to transform the world around us.
Some say that the human tendency to attach meaning to life events is more of a primitive brain response developed for our species survival than a spiritually significant signpost in our search for who we really are. Others say that the inclination to find meaning in life is by no means a mere biological function of humanity and that it instead may be the most important act we undertake as human beings.
As I’ve grown over the years, I’ve concluded that both schools of thought can co-exist as correct. I’ve married the two concepts by considering that perhaps my very survival is hinged on my ability to seek out who I really am and where I am meant to be in this world. I’ve decided that the profound sense of purpose and fulfillment resulting from finding meaning in life events is in fact a positive thing and a magnificent motivator. I’ve recognized that finding meaning in life events greatly enhances my experience of life and therefore makes the search for meaning a philosophy for living that is worthwhile to employ. My life is far richer when I pay attention to the signposts and follow the path to which they point, regardless of the origin of my ability to recognize them and the source of my drive to follow them. Interestingly enough, I have also found that how I show up in the world for others is significantly enhanced when I follow the road laid out by attaching meaning to life events. It is fair to conclude that not only is my own experience of life enriched by finding meaning but that how others experience me in their lives is enriched as well.
My experience with substance use disorder, and my ability to have access to what I needed to initiate and sustain my recovery, is a life event from which I find much meaning. There are countless ways that I have been transformed as a result of this experience, and there are just as many ways that the world around me has been transformed as well. The ripple impact of one person being able to find recovery and go on to live an enhanced life is immeasurable. The wave of positive change that one transformed human being can bring into the world is endless.
Whether it is a silly biological tick of the brain that leads me to find meaning or a deeply spiritual alignment with something greater than myself, all I know is this: my ability to find recovery from a substance use disorder has transformed me into a better human being that has in turned transformed the world around me. When I think of the endless wave of positive change that one individual finding recovery can cause to swell up, I can’t help but think of what the world would look like if we had more of these waves unleashed to cascade through our homes, communities, cities, states, countries and the world. I can’t help but search for the signposts that point toward the floodgates.
The world needs the transformation that recovery brings.