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What Writing Has Done for My Recovery

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Author: Justin Mckibben

For a little over a year now I’ve been writing for a publication in the field of recovery from substance abuse, and I’ve been given the awesome opportunity to touch on subjects that have educated, motivated and even reformed me in the respect of addiction, mental health and recovery.

I’ve gotten to write about different treatment tactics and how they impact the lives of those who experience them.

I’ve read heartbreaking stories.

I’ve shared shocking statistics.

I have been blessed enough to interview amazing individuals about their own journeys through addiction into sobriety. Having been sober for some time now, I have been able to look back and see what writing for recovery has meant to me and what it has done for my own sobriety,  and it is safe to say the journey has changed me.

I just felt like maybe now was a good time to share some thoughts on those changes, and use it as a chance to show how in more ways than one we get to keep what we have by giving it away.

  1. Stigma

In writing for recovery I better learned how to really see the stigma of addiction and mental health disorders, even in my own life and how I contribute to it. Research has pried open my eyes to a new perspective, exposing those presumptions and how each effected my opinions on both people and policies, and I have learned how to let go of a lot of it through simply trying to understand it.

We are not all the same, although we all have a lot in common. Not everyone will have experienced what I have, and I may not even come close to experiencing what others may have gone through. None of us addicts, regardless of our upbringing, our drug of choice or our rock-bottom were better than anyone else. We didn’t have to look the same or even act the same to qualify as peers.

I saw how we addicts hurt ourselves and each other, and I finally saw that now was my chance to change my own expectations, perceptions and contributions.

  1. Opinions

Reading, writing and debating over an endless list of topics and controversies has actually forced me to understand a few things about my opinions- such as:

  • They are not always right
  • They should be educated
  • They are subject to change (especially when uneducated or wrong)

When I first wrote an article on harm reduction, I was an adversary of it. I didn’t see how giving an addict access to things like needles and other resources was helping, because to me abstinence was the only way, and anything else was enabling… but today I feel that was close-minded.

By reading more and having open communication the conversation showed me a new appreciation for the inspiring work done by harm reduction programs, and I support those efforts today because these may not be permanent solutions, but these programs save lives and can help revitalize communities.

Sure, clean needles won’t keep an addict clean, but it may keep them alive long enough to get there. But that’s just my opinion.

  1. Politics

Before I got involved in writing for recovery I never really followed the politics and drug policies. A big part of me felt as if the government had no real clue what was really going on out there, and I believed no politicians would ever truly care enough to protect the rights and the futures of addicts.

The truth is there are active advocates and organizations all across the globe (essentially everywhere) committed to helping treat, educate and protect the population suffering with alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health disorders.

Of course in active addiction politics were the farthest thing from important in my eyes.

  1. Awareness

As with politics, writing for recovery has helped me to make honest attempts at getting educated. In reading about the elements of mental health and addiction, about new discoveries in science and technology helping us trudge forward in our understanding of it all, I am constantly reminded that our progressive disease is one we may sometimes think we understand, but other times we realize there is so much we don’t even know we don’t know.

In turn I’ve developed a passion for learning again and for sharing the lessons. I always get excited about these conversations raising more awareness. Every time I see a new movement prompting new action I am filled with a sense of hope. Hope of all we can accomplish if we face the disease of addiction with a willingness to change and grow.

This plays into the idea that many more people support recovering addicts than you would think, which is truly amazing and comforting. I guess what really amazes me is how little I used to care, and how important it has become to me for people to be informed and encouraged to get help.

  1. Relationships

Letting go of stigma, raising awareness and accepting opinions in relationships can make it much easier to be compassionate and supportive. Writing about these changes made me feel compelled to live that way, and our readers have taught me a lot too, so I’m grateful when someone clicks or comments.

Learning to be accepting and speak openly about personal issues or tough and traumatic topics has made my relationships more honest and humble, while research and writing has taught me to focus on being less judgmental and strive to be insightful in all discussions. I don’t always hit the mark, but you guys have taught me to aim higher every time.

  1. Helping Others

When I stepped into the role of a writer, I never would have imagined these articles could reach as many readers as they do. Over the past year+ I have met strangers, who recognized the posts and content, and I have had letters and phone calls from people in Ohio where I grew up telling me about what they read and what it meant to them. That experience alone has overwhelmed my heart.

Helping others is the point. It was always the point, but what some people don’t get to see either is how much this helps me.

Sometimes I’m just here expressing myself, writing about what I think is interesting or important, usually while sharing as much news, general information and innovation as I can to help people who need it.

But I write because these testimonies of truth, my truth and your truth, can be part of a catalyst that can save a life.

I get to write for recovery, and when it helps someone it magnifies the extent that it helps me. Writing gives me hope, and reading feedback and follow-through gives me more. It’s how we can call others to action, keep the conversation of recovery going in our own way, and how we try to get more people asking questions and seeking solutions for the problems which seem too vast or intense for someone alone to answer indefinitely.

So thank you for letting me write, and for reading and sharing. For an addict who has grappled to find their way more times than once, it is amazing to be reminded why it works, and who it helps.

My recovery has been a gift, and it has been a gift to have a job writing about it and reading about the struggles and the success stories of others. I can only hope that as I keep doing this, more people will see the options available that can change their own lives. My recovery began with Palm Partners, and there are so many people here who want to help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135



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