There is nothing like the story of our lives. With unique twists and turns, your story is unique to you and you only. Nobody else on this Earth has the same combination of people, experiences, thoughts, achievements, challenges, and upbringing. That’s what makes your story important – the lessons you’ve learned matter, and that’s why so many people in recovery eventually want to help others by sharing their story. Researcher Brene Brown, from the University of Houston, once described the act of storytelling so beautifully. She stated, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”
Our story let’s others know where we’ve been and where we are now – it gives hope for others so that they can visualize what their future could be like, and it inspires people to take similar steps towards recovery. It also reinforces the hard work we’ve been doing towards our own recovery – a study published in 2016 in the journal American Philosophy Quarterly noted that the stories we create about our lives do the following for us:
- They serve as an attempt for us to better understand the events we’ve gone through.
- They depict our intentions and beliefs surrounding our lives.
- They help us change false or negative beliefs that we have about ourselves.
The act of sharing your story is a spiritual one, as you’re helping others to better themselves, and you’re also strengthening your understanding of yourself, too. If you’ve decided to take on this selfless, powerful pursuit, it’s time to construct a story that will really speak to the hearts of others.
You want to decide exactly how much depth you want to incorporate into your story. Do you feel that giving a broad, sweeping description of life events you’ve experienced could help others get an understanding of what you’ve been through, or would you prefer to talk more deeply about specific situations? From the study above, the authors called this “thin” or “thick” narrative – and it’s completely up to you to decide. We all have moments in our lives that we consider to be pivotal points – the time when we realized we needed help, the time someone held our hand while we detoxed or prayed or cried, the time when we fell so hard that we didn’t know if we’d get back up again, and more. These are the moments that you want to share with others.
Second, you want to structure your story by what seems to feel best to you – most people prefer to tell their stories chronologically, since this gives a timeline of events from what you went through when addiction entered your life to now as you live a life of recovery. This type of organization will help people follow along and get a better understanding of your life. You may even find it beneficial to create an outline.
You really want to use descriptive words to help your listeners visualize parts of your story. Here are some examples:
- “Tears were streaming down my face that day, and that’s when I had a revelation that it was time to change.”
- “I felt myself sinking, and I couldn’t stop the whirlwind that had become my life. I was trapped in this never-ending cycle.”
- “I’ve worked so hard in my recovery, and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments. I’m here. I made it. Every single day that I wake up, I tell myself that I’m not giving up.”
When it comes to recovery, you want to really emphasize the struggles you’ve gone through as well as the path you’ve taken, and how it’s gotten you to where you are today. You want to show people that it’s possible to build a healthier, happier life – it just takes time, support, and genuine effort.
The Biggest Takeaways
Consider what messages you really want people to take away from your story. If you’re having trouble with this, ask yourself what your own biggest lessons have been:
- Have you learned that sobriety gives you more memories, more time with family, and adds more fulfillment to your life than abusing substances ever did?
- Have you come to understand that your connection with God, or another Higher Power, is one of the most important relationships you could ever have?
- Would you say that the biggest lesson you’ve learned thus far is to keep pushing towards recovery, and to never give up?
The big “takeaway” lessons are what should be guiding your story, so that it’s apparent what has come from your journey thus far.
You may also want to talk about the perspective that you used to have before you sought recovery, and how you view yourself, others, and your life now. This is a key point that could really hit home for people – everyone has felt stuck, low, or depressed at some point or another, and your story could show them a way out of that.
In a study published in Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, researchers spoke with several people in recovery from addiction, personal stories were shared. Here is an example of perspective that one participant gave: “We forget…we forget even a month ago how bad alcohol had affected us, how we get sick, how we become homeless, how we lose all the money….”
Lastly, be proud of how far you’ve come! Recovery is such a courageous journey, with so many obstacles to overcome. You’re incredibly strong, and you need to take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back for not only improving yourself and your life, but also in helping to inspire others to do the same.
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-campus, we are made up of 2 twelve-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.
Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.