Giving Back – The Cornerstone of Recovery

Recovery from an addiction is truly the most meaningful and beautiful state of life. As someone in long-term recovery from an addiction to drugs, I wish I never knew drugs. I wish I never picked up drugs in the first place, but since I did, since I made that mistake, since I nearly destroyed my life, I am forever grateful to be in Recovery.

There is more discussion about Recovery right now than in any time in American history. We are without a doubt in the midst of the greatest public health crisis this country has ever known. We are truly at critical mass, and it is getting even worse, but there are millions of people that are actually rising above their addiction. With drug overdoses and overdose deaths becoming an all too familiar part of our lives, there are some people in recovery deciding to no longer remain anonymous and are speaking out about it. The discussion of Recovery is more commonplace. That’s a good thing. It needs to be talked about even more. We all need to discuss how it can be embraced by everyone as we smash the stigma of addiction. In this higher-than-ever level of Recovery-speak, I see such varied views on this important subject.

In studying and working in this field, and in talking to thousands of people over the past 3 years while filming three documentaries on this issue, I often hear very different views on Recovery. Some people are open-minded about differing views; some are strictly described as the panacea phenomenon for staying clean. Some believe in a life of meetings. Some believe meetings aren’t necessary. Some people in the rooms are against medication-assisted treatment and refuse to grant clean-time to those being treated. Others feel that smoking marijuana or taking benzodiazepines can be the remedy for opiate addiction and yet still believe they are in Recovery. It’s a very divisive issue just like addiction itself. For the life of me, I can’t understand why this country is so divided, working in silos to solve our shared drug and alcohol problem. Unfortunately, I find that Recovery is the same way and we should change this. We need to come together for the good of all those still suffering, and embrace recovery no matter which path we each took to get there.

I love to talk and listen to people of differing views, even opposite views. I crave associations with people that are different than me much more so than like-minded people because I can learn more from people with differing views. Ironically, one thing that I have learned is that almost 100% of everyone in Recovery agrees with the Spiritual nature of it. I focus a great deal of time and attention on Recovery and the Recovery movement, not only because I am gratefully in it, but because of the importance I feel it presents to all those suffering from addiction. I too understand the spiritual nature of recovery. I believe that those of us in Recovery have a duty, no less an obligation, to talk openly about it so that those that need it can understand how beautiful it is. That is what most reflects our spirit.

The two pillars of that spiritual nature are growth and contribution. Recovery’s permanence is not guaranteed once we arrive at its doorstep. We must grow in our recovery in order to keep it. Growth in life is inevitable if we want to move forward to be successful. Growth in recovery is just as important and doesn’t just stop at any ‘clean-time plateaus’. I believe that “Growth is a need of our spirit and without it, Recovery can’t be sustained”.

The second pillar of Recovery’s spiritual nature is contribution. Contribution to others is the other need of our spirit. Contribution beyond ourselves – giving back as it is so often referred – is a pillar of recovery. I believe it is actually the cornerstone. It’s often said you can only keep what you have by giving it away. I believe this wholeheartedly. Ironically, it became less and less important in our addiction but it becomes more and more important in our recovery. In fact, it’s more important than anything else. One of my mentors, Zig Ziglar often told us, “You get everything in life you want if you help enough other people to get what they want.” This is so apropos in recovery. Spiritually, our recovery grows when we give it away – and to me – contributing to others is how we can give it away. Service to others, service to community, service to recovery as a whole.

Recovery is a gift, a gift beyond measure, and in some ways I feel Recovery is something I don’t deserve but have to earn. To whom much is given, much is required and service to others is the way I earn my Recovery. Service to others will fuel our growth and Recovery becomes that gift which we earn. Even Scripture stated, “Give unto others and it shall be given unto you”. It’s all an investment and the return on our investment is Long Term Recovery in a life we were destined to live. Watching people give back to their families, to their circles, to their communities inspires me to do more. Service to others enhances my growth, and it becomes not only the pillar of my recovery but the cornerstone of my life.

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