What does real recovery require?


Fighting substance abuse isn’t easy; many people have opinions towards substances and addicts, but few offer any real solutions.  One thing that I really don’t think helps is solely looking at substances.  While I do think that we have to understand substances of abuse, I have said and will always say that building a recovery identity is a far better approach that really doesn’t have anything to do with drugs, but does have everything to do with health.  Really, from my perspective, we can all stand to build our own “recovery identity,” even if we don’t use any drugs or alcohol.

No one is perfect.  Even if someone is high-functioning, he can still find ways to become healthier.  To me, a recovery identity is a set of roles through which a person can strive to become the best version of himself.  Obviously, abusing drugs and alcohol doesn’t allow anyone to be much more than a slave to the substance; however, I think self-reflection about a person’s best version of himself is the first step to becoming that version.  I strongly believe that if a person learns to seek all that is strong and good and beautiful, then in time he will have no need to use substances.

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look at all means of treating substances.  We should.  If someone is addicted to opiates, for example, we should look at building treatment resources that may involve Suboxone or Methadone, if appropriate.  But if we ONLY look at the opiate abuse, then we don’t really do much to eradicate the triggers within a person that result from his responses to his life’s circumstances.    I think that we have to teach people, ALL PEOPLE, whether addicted or not, to see the good that’s all around us, even if for a brief moments.

One exercise I try to do as often as possible, is take a walk with my camera and if something strikes me as good or strong or beautiful, I take a picture of it and then write about why caught my eye and what it means.  Really, all of life carries meaning and the photographs in this post demonstrated just how much real perfection exists without a whole lot of intervention.  I don’t retouch photographs because I just don’t see the point.  I try to capture the raw relationship that I had in the moment that the subject caught my eye. For example, the roses were redder than any stupid filter could make them and that I saw them in the meditation garden at the Basilica St. Francis made them even more meaningful.  I was able to dive into the flowers and actually feel their relationship with the sun and the ground.

What caught my eye about the cross was not that it was atop the San Miguel Chapel, but the sky was as blue as anything I’ve seen.  It provided a great backdrop – and since my alma mater’s colors are blue and white, I was reminded of a time when nothing defined me but the needs of the day.  I was struck with feelings of potential and possibility, even in the face of all that directions in which I am pulled.


So, while I don’t use drugs or alcohol at all, I still try to build a recovery identity through which I try to recovery a sense of innocence. I’ve seen things and heard stories from people that suggest a dark world.  But as long as I am reminded of that which is good, I can hope for a world when beauty and strength are EVEN MORE present than any darkness.  It’s a simple exercise, but for me, it works.  If we all could spare a few moments a week where we appreciate the meaning in beauty, then maybe we won’t NEED to numb our pain with substances.