Much of my time and energy in life goes toward creating opportunities for and supporting others around finding recovery from a substance use disorder. It is by far the thing I am most passionate about, and that passion is most certainly driven by my own personal lived experiences of loss and life surrounding addiction and recovery.
Regardless of how many people I may have touched over the years – whether though macro level advocacy, writing and professional work or micro level direct service work and community-based volunteer efforts – it has always remained painfully the same that those I wish to be of service to most of all are often the ones I cannot seem to reach.
“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”
I would identify myself as neither prophet nor Christian, however this saying from the Bible has always rang true for me when it comes to what I am speaking of here. When it comes to my ability to support those closest to me in finding recovery, my experience has been that those individuals are pretty much the ones I am least able to effectively support. One would think that with my knowledge, connections, expertise and experience, I would surely be able to serve as an instrument of service to those closest to me in this world. Sadly, that just has not been the case, or at least not to the extent that I wish I could be of service. And while it pains me deeply when any human being is suffering, it of course brings a whole different type of pain when it is somebody I am closely connected to and have had the gift of more intimately experiencing their humanity.
For those of us share the same passion and same work around supporting others with finding recovery, chances are high that we will all encounter this difficult situation. I wish I could write that it gets easier, however that has unfortunately not been my experience. It hurts me tremendously each and every time.
For those of us who have dedicated our lives to making wellness and recovery possible for all, chances are high that there is somebody who can be drawn to mind when pondering if there is a ‘the one’ we wish we could have guided into recovery almost more than anybody. I wish I could write that the pain of not having been able to do so subsides, or that ‘the one’ will always make into recovery eventually. Sadly, this too has also not been my experience.
What has been my experience is the following: it downright sucks when those we are deeply connected to are struggling and we are pretty much powerless in doing a whole lot to change that. It downright sucks even more when we are deeply connected to that particular struggle based on our own lived experiences of it. For me, if there are two things more than anything that have aided me in navigating successfully through these painful occurrences, it is self-awareness and self-care.
Self-awareness is key to my understanding what emotional attachments are present that have nothing to do with the particular individual I am wishing I could support. Asking myself questions such as “what is this bringing up for me about my experience of losing my Mom to addiction?” and “what am I attaching from my experiences of my own struggle with addiction and finding recovery?” are both personally helpful in raising self-awareness. Typically, there are a number of emotional attachments from my own past experiences that are at play and something about becoming self-aware of them is neutralizing and allows those feelings to subside.
Self-care is also key in that it is important I take care of myself when experiencing pain – both the pain of the present situation of powerlessness and the pain held in the emotional attachments that got triggered by it. For me, spending time by a body of water, reading or listening to something I find inspirational, participating in therapy and spending time with people who lift me up are just some of the strategies that are part of my self-care package. It is important that we all have our own individualized package of self-care strategies to help us get through the pain of not being able to serve those we most wish we could serve.
At the end of the day, all we can do is our best – whether it is with those we are closest to in the world or those whom we just met or may not even know personally. We can still demonstrate compassion and concern, we can still reach out and try, we can still be a safe space and source of comfort when needed, we can still hold out hope if that person is alive and we can still find ways to transform our pain into a light for the world when that person is no longer with us. While not being able to effectively guide everybody into recovery can be excruciatingly painful, most especially when it is somebody we are deeply connected to, self-awareness and self-care can go a long way in preserving our passion and keeping us around for the long haul. If anything, these experiences can most certainly serve as a reminder that we are in fact desperately needed to be around for the long haul.