The Biggest Gift...

I feel that I am a survivor of a severe illness. I have survived the terminal disease of addiction. I was 16 years old and already heavenly using illicit drugs. To follow were many years of hardship. Not only hardship for myself, but also for my family. I ended up using the most dangerous and most addictive drugs of all, heroin and cocaine. My addiction led to a life of crime where I was incarcerated off and on for over 15 years.

Throughout my years of addiction, I attempted to get clean and sober many times, to no avail. I went through multiple rehabilitation programs, but was not successful. I remember that of all the counselors I dealt with, the ones that helped me the most were the ones that had been addicts themselves. Knowing the professionals that helped me in my recovery were addicts in recovery, and understood what I was going through, was one of my motivations to become a counseling professional myself. I feel that I have a lot to offer the drug and alcohol addicted population.

I want to share that it has not been easy. Addiction is considered to be a symptom of something else. That "thing" is different for each person. One of the hardest pills to swallow was when my doctors told me that I would be on medications for the rest of my life. Once I accepted that, recovery became a little less challenging for me. I also finally made the decision to stay sober, no matter what. It was not until I looked at continuing my substance use as 'not an option' that I was successful. I began to work a recovery program and learned how to stay clean and sober. That helped me take steps that lead me where I am today. Clinicians call that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It's funny how I did not understand what was going on with me in early recovery and now I am able to put a clinical name to it. Changing the way I thought definitely changed my behaviors, and changing my behaviors definitely changed my thoughts!

In 2007 I got clean and sober for good! As of November 03, 2019, I have been clean and sober in recovery for twelve years. I have changed the negative aspects of my life into positive ones. I have done this with the help of my higher power and my support system, which is my family and close friends. Today, I am able to look in the mirror and love who I see. That is the biggest gift that recovery has given me. When I look in the mirror, I tell myself, what am I going to do today to stay clean and sober? What am I going to do today to help someone who is suffering? What am I going to do today to be a better human being? If someone would have told me that I would someday be living the life I live today, I would have laughed in their face. Everything that I have accomplished throughout the years has been challenging, to say the least. However, the thing that I value the most, is the ability to love myself and the ability to positively touch people's life's along the way.

Although I know I will not become a wealthy person by becoming a counselor; I do know that I will make a difference in someone’s life. I adopted the statement, “Make your mess, your message,” from Robin Roberts. Robin Roberts is a television anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Robin Roberts’ mother told her this after she beat two different cancer diagnoses.

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