During my senior year in high school, addiction isolated me from my friends, family, hobbies and everything else valuable in my life.
Fortunately, in April 2011, I found a new way to live, thanks to my supportive parents and local recovery community.
I attribute the gift of starting my recovery journey almost entirely to my family. My parents were neither completely detached nor too overbearing. So often I hear about the extremes of helicopter parents or parents who weren’t present at all. The key in my path to recovery was having my parents be somewhere in the middle.
That “middle” is different for everybody, of course, and I’m eternally grateful that my parents found what that middle was for me. My parents realized I needed structure, but not a structure they were too controlling over.. They knew I needed to have fun in recovery, but to have it be with the right people in the right places. They knew how important school was to me and my recovery, but that I would need some help to get through it. Nothing was black and white; they always helped find the gray area.
My parents separated when I was in the eighth grade. That very week, I got kicked out of the small school in Wilmington, DE, where I thought I would graduate. It was nothing drug- or alcohol-related, but rather a series of unfortunate events that culminated in the decision to have me leave the school.
That trauma was enough of a catalyst to lead me to substance use, even though addiction didn’t take over until my sophomore and junior years of high school. Through every step of my life, I never once doubted that my family would be there to support me no matter what happened.
Early recovery was ugly. Although I was completely abstinent from all drugs and alcohol for the first time in years, it didn’t feel like recovery: I got into toxic relationships, lived an unhealthy lifestyle and was suicidal on the night of my nine-month sobriety anniversary.
I’ve never found a perfect definition of recovery, but I do strongly believe in the four dimensions that support a life in recovery, as outlined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
- Health: Overcoming or managing one’s disease and symptoms — for example, abstaining from alcohol, non-prescribed medications and other substances— and, for everyone in recovery, making informed, healthy choices that support one’s physical and emotional well-being.
- Home: Having a stable and safe place to live.
- Purpose: Conducting meaningful daily activities, such as a job, volunteering, family caretaking or creative endeavors, and having the independence, income and resources to participate in society.
- Community: Having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love and hope.
These dimensions resonated with me because I saw the incredible impact each of them had in my life. For my personal path to recovery, my family gave me a little bit of all four dimensions. They helped me make healthy choices and get well. They provided me with a roof over my head and a place that felt like home. They helped me rediscover a purpose in life, no matter how small or how often it changed. They helped me feel supported and helped me gain the confidence to establish and develop relationships with others in my community. My family didn’t just save my life — they gave me a life.
This post was originally published in 2017 and has been refreshed and republished.