Many people who’ve battled addiction feel as though they’re the only ones who’ve had the challenges they’ve gone through – and sometimes it can feel lonely. In fact, most of us tend to have this perspective because we already feel so left out from all the happiness and glamour that’s portrayed in music videos and on social media – we think to ourselves, “How can anyone else possibly know what I’m going through?” Even when we don’t realize it, it’s this type of thinking that perpetuates further isolation, when truly we all go through pain. 12-Step programs are an excellent part of recovery, a way to bring people together and remind everyone that they’re not alone – and if you get a moment to hear someone else’s stories, you may realize just how similar we all truly are.
Your Story is Important
It Brings People Together Through a Commonality: Emotion
The way you tell your story is extremely important because of the words you use, the way you explain your challenges and how you’ve grown from them, and the path you describe as recovery can uplift people who may feel down or “broken”. One person shared this benefit via the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP); they explained that even if one person is inspired by your story, it’s a success.
Last year, writer Taylor Markee shared via The Odyssey, a website that publishes information related to communities, that even if part of your story “feels” small – it doesn’t feel like worth mentioning – it could probably help someone else who needs a message of hope. Taylor explained that she’d gone through a lot of pain; she stated:
“I used to be ashamed of telling my story. I was afraid that people were going to judge me, or leave…but since I’ve gotten older, I have really been able to see that telling my story is something I should not be ashamed of.”
It was after she received a text message from her roommate that her story was inspirational and that it was a clear indicator that she’d grown – after sharing her story, she concluded that she could help people in ways she never thought possible, just by telling people of her experiences.
It Improves Your Health in Many Ways
Not only does telling your story help others, but it has some mental and spiritual benefits, too:
- 12-Step programs emphasize sharing your story so that other people can find a sense of connection, but also so that individuals can feel strengthened from knowing that they’ve come a long way
- By telling your story, you may gain a new perspective on hard situations that have happened in the past – and this could spark learning and growth
- Greater faith for the future could occur as you witness positive changes take place in other people’s lives that derived from your story
- You may find that you’re able to better make peace with what you’ve gone through
- The values that you’ve set for yourself may be reaffirmed in the telling of your story
- Your sense of self may become stronger, especially in recovery – because you have a meaningful story to tell and other people need to hear it
- And more
12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) ask people in the last step to reach out to others and give back to those who need help. By sharing your story, you’re giving back – and you’re making a difference in people’s lives whether you witness their direct effects or not.
Tips for Telling Your Story
Just thinking about sharing your recovery story can feel a bit intimidating – there are likely so many thoughts, feelings, and events that have taken place over the years, so how are you supposed to fit that into a compelling story that contains a finite beginning and end? First, it can be helpful to think about the stories we’ve been inspired by. What did you like about those stories? What didn’t you like? Typically, the best stories contain the following:
- A clear introduction, story, and conclusion
- A description of how you’ve overcome a particular challenge (or a few)
- An explanation of your thoughts, attitudes, values, feelings or beliefs that contributed to your downfall and/or recovery
- A sense of sincere passion for how far you’ve come
The decision to share your story is an important one. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect what’s most important is that it’s heartfelt.
In telling your story, you may find that there are similarities and differences between yours and others’. Remember that you cannot compare your pain to that of others, nor the response you had to various situations – because everyone’s lives are on different paths. What you can do, however, is to share your story with openness and honesty – and tell it with the goal of inspiring others to pursue recovery, too.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.