When I wake up in the morning, which happens around 6 o’clock a.m. these days, I am rarely thankful that I am not sick or hung over. It is not something that crosses my mind, it is just the way things are. All too often, I take for granted that I have so much to be proud of and to work to keep.

My journey has not always been an easy one. I am in recovery, which means that I have had a period when substances ruled my life. I do not intend to go into details about it, but it created a lot of havoc internally and externally. When I entered treatment and got sober, I felt like I had fallen to the bottom of some sort of societal totem pole. The feeling that I had publically made many mistakes and that I was expected to be immature because of them made me content to stay on the bottom.

This feeling of being fundamentally flawed is an unfortunate reality for many people who get sober. While it was important to earn back trust and make amends to those who were affected by my actions, it was not necessary for me to feel like a second-class citizen. For the first couple of months in recovery, I felt I had nothing to offer the world. It wasn’t quite as bad as drinking, but it wasn’t quite the solution I was hoping for. The drinking was gone, but so was my belief in myself.

Through joining a community of peers and engaging in a program of recovery, my self-esteem slowly grew by taking positive action. I began within the walls of the recovery residence in which I live (a place I previously felt shame in). I made an effort to be a leader, to live like I was proud of my new endeavor. I began to realize that I had something to offer to others. Gradually, I felt useful and a part of something bigger than myself. This feeling of usefulness and connection has been integral to successful recovery.

Being a leader can start small. For me, it has looked like being a good employee like and going back to college to complete my degree. Setting goals and undertaking new journeys has been pivotal to keeping recovery inspiring. Working for and accomplishing goals has given me purpose, something I have always searched for.

Recovery is a journey. It’s not always an easy one, but the rewards have surpassed my wildest dreams. While I felt that I was a lowly person when I first began this journey, I have come to realize that I was anything but. I have something to offer and you do too.

– Ross H