- Mental Health
Submitted by: Abby Foster
Ivana G. is a woman in long-term recovery. She found herself addicted to heroin while she was in college and she was convinced that her life was over. She was certain that she wouldn’t survive. Little did she know she would recover and live to become a survivor but advocate for those who are still struggling. This is her story.
I have been completely sober and working on a recovery program since February 15th, 2005. Before that, I had six treatment episodes. The longest I was able to achieve wellness prior to my sobriety date lasted only nine months at the age of 27 before I became completely devoted to my recovery at the age of 28.
I was really held hostage by heroin addiction; it corrupted me. It corrupted my mind, body, and spirit so desperately that I literally couldn’t envision a life without heroin and knew a life with it was not worth living.
My “ah-ha” moment occurred during my sixth attempt at treatment. I realized after a very intense counseling session around recognizing all of my anger after having to live addicted. In that moment, I was able to actually experience the long-suppressed emotions related to being shackled to addiction.
After an exercise around that angry feeling, I went up to my room and broke down crying and felt something inside of me that I hadn’t felt since I was a child– that there was still something innocent and pure and sweet and beautiful inside of me. I kept on using drugs because I thought I had absolutely banished that part of myself forever, and yet there it was, seeking to emerge within me. I realized that I was experiencing a profound renewal at the soul level.
The biggest positive change is that my recovery stopped being this tiny, fledgling little piece of myself that I was trying to protect and grow and sustain by any means necessary. Before, I had to really think about my recovery and focus on it and pay attention to it all day long, all because I wouldn’t let go of it or give it away in a moment of distraction. I finally realized that my recovery had finally become the whole of me. It’s who I am totally inside and out, and it permeates every fiber of my being, and every aspect of my life is woven together with threads of recovery.
You know, I think what I have learned is that there is a constant physical recovery experience that is at the very base of becoming well. If you’re physically sober, that’s great. Then once you’ve nailed that down, then you can start to grow to emotional sobriety. That’s something that I never fully nailed down before, but I strived for it and worked with sponsors and mentors and peers. Then once I’m able to find ways to stabilize in that area, I can grow in my spiritual sobriety and develop my purpose, develop my understanding of who I am today and who I want to be and who I can become through an ongoing process of transformation.
It’s ongoing, and sometimes I have to start from the very beginning because I’ll have new insights as I develop my emotional sobriety and as I develop my spiritual path. I’ll have new insights into what I must have been feeling during my addiction and before my addiction. It’s an opportunity for me to love myself deeper and have greater compassion for the struggles I experienced, so it’s really an incredible, dynamic process that I get to be engaged with every day.
I was once a person who could not stop self-destructing. Now, I get opportunities to make big leaps and do really huge shifts in my life. My soul likes challenges, and I like bringing order out of chaos, instead of the opposite.
I am way too hard on myself, and I get away with beating myself up for not being perfect in lots of areas. I need to get humble and reach out to my support system and be honest with them about what my inner dialogue sounds like, because on some days it doesn’t sound like there is a lot of recovery or compassion going on inside.
Part of my recovery routine is to meditate every morning, and write in the morning and write in the evening. It really helps me to start the day by writing out what do I need to surrender. I ask myself, ‘what are twelve things I’m grateful for? What are three things I’ve discovered, and what are six qualities that I have?’
When I do that on a regular basis, it cleans things up. And, I started to do Kundalini yoga– it’s all about breath, body, and chanting in ways that literally wake you up to energy centers in your body.
I’m most satisfied by my career in the recovery field, being part of the national recovery movement and also being part of local recovery organizations, because they really need to be working hand-in-hand. We need the treatment side to work hand-in-hand with the advocacy side with all the recovery support services and community organizations in the middle. That’s how we can advance this whole momentum together, because we all hold a piece of the puzzle.
To someone who may be currently struggling, I would say to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and be patient and gentle with yourself and give the process time. Surround yourself with people who love you, believe in you, and see you living the most incredible life that you could never imagine but will someday wake up living.