I was living a lie and my secret was destroying me. To the external world I was happy, successful and accomplished. For decades I pursued image, career, money, sex, acceptance, and control. I was blind to the consequences. The REAL me was disappearing, eventually lost in the darkness of substance use and sexual acting out.
Shame kept me silent.
Hopelessness became my walls.
Denial became my cell.
Despair became my jailer.
Alan’s Recovery Journey
One certainly never plans on becoming an addict or developing addictive, unhealthy coping behaviours. I grew up in a household filled with love. With a gentle but alcoholic father. With a hardworking mother with a heart condition. With poverty. I sought to fit in at school but never did. I was never good at sports. I excelled in academics, but that kept me even more isolated. At the age of 14, when my mother died, I became the caretaker of the home, my father, and my brothers. This responsibility at an early age served me well in my future careers, helping me gain a reputation as someone who was capable of fixing things and getting the job done. I was one of the first in my extended family to graduate from university, and I advanced quickly in my career in the financial industry, loving what I did. I moved from there into debt counselling, post-secondary teaching, and administration. I volunteered in the community. I had built a fulfilling and purposeful life, yet something was still missing.
As I look back on my life and career I recognize that my need for control and perfectionism often limited my ability to achieve more. I constantly sought external validation, always needing the next challenge. I often felt like an imposter in my roles, constantly worried about being exposed. Comparison to others was deeply ingrained, fuelling more resentment and even jealousy. I grew to have one set of rules for myself and another set for others. Judgement, both self and external, was always present.
Thanks to a family intervention, I admitted that I had a problem and needed help. It was simultaneously a relief and one of the most frightening moments of my life. I chose to enter treatment for both sexual compulsivity and substance use. From this point I have had to examine my own personal truth regarding all aspects of my life. I have required the support of many people and programs, and have found a recovery community that makes sense. I have taken many steps and integrated many tools in my life in order to move forward. I have learned recovery is more than sobriety, though, for me, sobriety is a necessary foundation of my recovery. What started as “getting better” has led to a transformational journey that continues to amaze me. I can unequivocally state that this is the hardest challenge I have taken on in my life, yet it’s also the most rewarding and fulfilling. Living into my truth and my values takes continuous honesty, effort, discomfort and courage. Having individuals walk beside me as coaches and mentors has been essential. I have learned to build on my strengths. I look with curiosity at my past, my shortcomings, and the barriers which limit me. I set goals, take steps, and receive assistance, helping me to sustain momentum. I have learned to let go of the outcomes and focus on the journey. Accepting this process has itself been a process! Recovery offers me no guarantees, however it has granted me a new re-imagined life that never ceases to amaze me.
Since coming into recovery, I have been able to leverage my skills, career and lived experience to help others. I have participated in 12-step programs, completed SMART facilitator training, and been exposed to Dharma recovery. Mediation, mindfulness, spiritual centering, group and individual therapy, coaching and King of Hearts men’s group have all enhanced my own recovery capital. I completed the Canadian Mental Health Association’s School of Peer Support and became a peer support practitioner, peer trainer, recovery trainer, and facilitator. I currently serve as a volunteer Peer Navigator with Prospect Human Services. I have facilitated numerous recovery courses on a variety of self-awareness and skill-building topics. I have sponsored, mentored, and coached several individuals in recovery, supporting self-determination and multiple pathways to recovery. I have developed and/or facilitated workplace peer training for Calgary Housing and STARS Air Ambulance. I advocate for recovery and participate in community recovery events. In 2018 I was introduced to the concept of Building Recovery Capital, a strengths-based way of supporting and connecting those in recovery to the resources and communities that enhance long term recovery from addiction. I facilitate training for those wishing to become recovery coaches.
Bringing oneself fully into life is a journey. Coaching can offer a foundation in doing so.