From Addiction to Passion - Finding Purpose in Recovery
When I knew my drinking and using was out of control and I could sense the end was near, one of the most terrifying parts about putting down the booze was that I was going to have to face myself. Alcohol had worked for so long to numb out all of the fear – the fear of failure, fear of not being loved, fear of my guilt and shame being exposed to the world. I knew if I got sober, I was going to have to actually look at what I wanted to do with my life, and that was one of the scariest thoughts I could imagine.
If you’re familiar with my story, you’ll know I was in law school in London while I was rapidly declining into alcoholism. I was so miserable – I hated law and I hated being there and I didn’t know what to do with that. So, I drank. A lot. I was terrified that if I left, people would think I couldn’t hack it, or that I wasn’t good enough. I had to just stick it out. This was the path I chose, and I had no other options. I was so far down the wrong path.
The addiction completely took over and any semblance of “keeping it together” was long gone. I moved back to Toronto and had my moment where I knew the jig was up.
All I could do in early recovery was focus on my recovery. If I didn’t stay sober, I wouldn’t have a life or career or relationships anyways, so there was no room to put anything else first. I had the privilege to do just that and not have to get a job right away, which I know is not an opportunity everyone has. I was told continuously to just focus on the day, do the next right thing, stay sober and the rest will sort itself out. I was simultaneously skeptical while believing what people were telling me. They seemed to have stayed sober somehow so maybe their lives really did get a lot better in recovery. So, I went with it.
After a few months, I started working in business development for a start-up company, to have some stability and responsibility. I had neither when I was using, so having a schedule and some parameters were good for me. I started to explore some possible hobbies and interests, too. I started painting again, took guitar lessons, joined a volleyball league, and took a writing course – all things I really loved to do when I was younger. I spent so much time drinking that I was going to need other healthy things to fill my time up with. These opportunities helped me figure out where my passions lay and gave me the chance to explore some areas I never knew were of interest to me. The more I got to know myself, the more I could tap into my passion and purpose.
In that time period my spirituality was developing, and I really wanted to learn more about spirituality and psychology, together. I decided to go back to school for Spiritual Psychotherapy, and it opened my world wide open. Sponsorship in the twelve-step fellowship taught me that I loved to be of service to others, and that helping people was a passion of mine. I started reading everything I could on addiction, spirituality, psychology and coaching, and eventually did my Master’s in Health Coaching. I now have a thriving Recovery Coaching practice and am putting my pain to purpose.
Learning and growing became passions of mine. I always loved to travel but wasted so many trips in bars and hungover. I have travelled so much in recovery and I have been present for all of it. I guess you could say I have transferred my addiction from alcohol to my passions, and I am totally cool with that. So much energy was spent putting all of my passion into partying, that it’s one of the most beautiful gifts of recovery to put all of my energy back into myself and what I love.
Passion doesn’t come in just one form. You can find sparks of joy in every area of life. Sobriety gives us the opportunity to be awake to the beauty outside of us and tap into the awareness of our passion within us. I know it can seem terrifying to begin exploring yourself or recovery or "what you're going to do with your life". I promise you that the fear of letting go and diving in is a lot harder to hold onto than actually diving in. Freedom is on the other side. Purpose is on the other side.
Getting sober is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It’s true. The thing is, because you will already have done the hardest thing you can imagine, putting yourself out there to try new things doesn’t seem as scary. The mask of alcohol is gone, and when we learn how to trust ourselves, love ourselves and know that we are worthy of having a full and beautiful life, (some of the MANY gifts of recovery), we are more able to authentically explore what we love. Putting your art into the world doesn’t seem so scary, as you’ve tackled a lot of fears around what other people might think of you. Writing a book is terrifying, and you know that you have done such hard things that however people take it, you can handle it. Opening that restaurant isn't even on the table for you right now? Just wait. It will be.
I truly do not believe we will ever fail when we are following our passion and purpose. Period. When we try to live life the way we think we “should” be living it, or for other people and what they want, or to maintain an image, that’s where we get ourselves into trouble. Aligning with our passion and purpose comes from removing the blocks of addiction and accessing our authentic selves.
Try one new thing that you’ve always wanted to try. See where it goes. You’ve already done the thing you never thought you could ever do – get sober – so why not live this second chance in life to the fullest?