Guest writer for Wake Up World
Friends and family are often unable to reach their loved ones who are struggling with addiction or depression. So what’s the key to inspiring someone to take control and change the course of their life? The mutual experience of sharing their journey with others who are struggling.
If you’ve struggled with alcoholism, trauma, severe depression or thoughts of suicide, you know too well the feelings of being utterly alone. Even if you have family and friends who love you, spiraling into the depths of depression, alcohol abuse, and suicide make you blind to your own value. It can leave you feeling as though your loved ones would be better off without you around.
Going through such a journey and emerging a stronger, more resilient person allows us an opportunity to share that journey. Sharing your story can be one of the most meaningful things you can do, not only for your own recovery, but for the benefits of others.
Sharing your journey helps you connect with your community. The setup of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting has been dramatized on television so many times: One individual is selected to stand up and speak, beginning their statement with, “Hi, my name is Joe, and I’m an alcoholic.” The format is very recognizable. The intent behind this is the first step in the conventional ‘12-step’ program to recovery, which is admitting that you have an issue (in this case, an addiction) and that you have lost your power to it.
Whatever you are working through, this kind of reality-check is an important first step. But it also serves another critical purpose – introducing yourself to a community that can support you throughout your recovery. Welcomes are often warm and encouraging for those who may be attending their first meeting or are just beginning their journey to recovery. People sharing their personal journeys can connect attendees with each other, and raise awareness that they are truly not alone. This mutual sharing of stories cultivates an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. It’s this effect that often makes support meetings feel like a safe haven for those suffering with addiction or mental illness.
Your personal story enables you to support and inspire others. For those who have been through the process of healing or recovery, the story that follows often inspires others who are just beginning their own journeys. For an alcoholic who has suffered from severe depression or thoughts of suicide, hearing stories from those who have walked this difficult path and emerged on the other side is often the inspiration — and reality check — they need to keep going.
Of course, you can share your story beyond a setting like an AA meeting. Many people who have suffered from mental illness, suicidal feelings, alcoholism or drug abuse, and their family members, have started blogs, some of which have grown to become virtual recovery/support communities. Whether in an online setting or an in-person meeting or support group, peers in recovery take comfort in knowing that they will be met with understanding and compassion.
Sharing your personal story could save lives. Sharing your story through a blog or a stand-alone article can be as therapeutic for you as it is inspiring for others going through similar circumstances. An alcoholic or someone contemplating suicide may read your story and be inspired to seek help, realizing that recovery is truly possible. When someone is near rock-bottom, or in the deepest depression, they may be unlikely to venture out to seek help or even pick up the phone. But because the Internet enables anyone to connect with and share information with anyone around the world, it’s now possible to seek out options for help anonymously.
A powerful story of recovery can be a lifeline for someone about to make a terrible and drastic choice. Your words could be the single influencing factor that makes them change their mind – even for one day. That could be the day during which that person decides to reach out for help. They may decide to call a helpline for immediate assistance, or admit to a loved one that they are struggling with alcoholism, depression, or thoughts of suicide. The power to save lives through sharing your personal journey is immeasurable.
Improving your feelings of self-worth and recognizing your value. There are many benefits to your peers in recovery groups and people with whom you share similar struggles, but sharing your personal journey benefits you, the storyteller as well. The recovery journey is often a long road as well as a pivotal life period. Sharing this with others helps to give meaning and context to what you’re going through. Your journey may have the ability to impact and influence others to make a change for the better, while also helping you remain grounded and offering you perspective on the nature and importance of continuing your ongoing recovery.
Telling your recovery story can also help you find your voice. As Jay Boll, Editor in Chief at Resources to Recover, explains, “Writing about a difficult period in your life can help you organize the chaos of past events in the structure of a story with a beginning, middle and end, and a moral you can learn from. It allows you to think about the events of your life and express them in a way that makes sense to other people and ultimately to you yourself.”
Above all, your story is important. Being able to connect with other people who are experiencing similar struggles, can inspire and encourage them to take action to change their lives — a valuable gift. That’s why friends and loved ones are often unable to reach their loved ones who are struggling with addiction or depression – the mutual experience is the key to inspire someone to change course.
It may seem uncomfortable at first to share your personal recovery journey. However, once you realize the power that your experience has given you to transform lives, it’s a gift that you cannot leave untapped.
About the author:
Jennifer Scott knows how difficult it can be to live with anxiety and depression. She has experienced both since she was in her teens. Today, she writes about the ups and downs of her mental illness on SpiritFinder.org. The blog serves as both a source of information for people with mental illness and a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can come together to discuss their experiences.