Finding freedom from my addiction to substances has been one of the most important successes of my life. I am proud of every new day that takes me further from the last time I used. In the rooms, success if most prominently measured by recognizing how long members have been clean. And believe me, earning a new chip or keytag was a (and still is) a huge motivator to remain abstinent.

However, in order to stay passionate about recovery, it has had to become more about what I’m running toward than what I’m running from. When I was using, fear was never enough to get me to change. So, in recovery, fear is not going to be enough to keep me motivated to continue the daily work necessary to remain growing.

I was told early on that, “self-esteem is built by performing estimable acts.” By striving daily toward a big goal, I can see incremental progress in how I show up for myself and those around me. My relationship with myself has undergone a fundamental shift. In addiction, as well as early recovery, I looked at the world as a place filled with red tape and lost opportunities that weren’t possible for an addict like me. Recovery opens countless doors so and the world becomes a place to explore and experience, rather than an overwhelming, scary place.

I believe that the most fundamental component of beginning to think beyond mere abstinence has been the people I choose to surround myself with. Collegiate Recovery Programs, in particular, provide a sense of belonging with other recovering people that are striving to improve socially, as well as academically. When you have a peer’s example of how to walk through something as difficult as navigating college sober, you begin to believe that you can do it too. This creates an environment of accountability, mutual support, and striving for excellence. Fundamentally, once sense of belief in self begins to grow and we develop self-esteem and healthy pride, maybe for this first time in our lives.

When I entered college, I was just hoping I wouldn’t fail my classes. Years later, with a straight-A transcript and a Master’s degree, I no longer doubt my ability to be successful. Hard work was vital, but having people that believed in me and a peer group to support me in that experience perhaps more so. Success and happiness are infectious. In the rooms they say, “Hang out with the winners.” Winners are those that show up for life and we can choose to be winners every day.

Nico Doorn M.Ed., LCDCi

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