How Finding My Passion Has Helped Me Stay Sober for 8 Years
Addiction is a life wasted. Sobriety is that life reversed, turned around. Not a quote, my words.
My name is Andy and the last eight and a half years of my life have been sober ones. It hasn’t been easy, to say the least, like a constantly moving roller-coaster, sometimes up and sometimes down. However, I’m here, I’m sober and I’m staying.
One of the therapists in my Idaho rehab center once told me I had been given a second chance that many don’t get. It was an opportunity to live a life I truly wanted to live. That thought has stayed with me ever since. While I was still in rehab, I would lay awake at night and imagine such a life, doing the things I truly wanted to do.
As I got stronger, I felt like a young kid again, who the teacher has called up to the front of the classroom. I’m standing in front of an empty blackboard, the whole class is watching, and the teacher just passes me the chalk, saying, “Write or draw whatever you want, Andy. Show everyone who you will be when you grow up. It’s your choice. It’s all good.”
Moving back home gave me the structure I needed to pursue the ideas and interests that were starting to surface. As those things began to happen for me, proudly through my hard work and perseverance, I began to experience a new feeling, that of passion. This passion has remained constant through the last 9 years, continually growing into what has become my driving force, my impetus for living this sober life of mine.
It’s that passion I wish to share with you. What follows is a list, if you like – my framework for staying focused and staying clean. It’s a list of my true passions, what makes today’s sober Andy tick. They took a while to fully rise up from the remnants of who I used to be, but they are now an integral part of me and my life.
Studying – Digital Marketing
The simple act of learning something new (and being able to remember it all) is one of the joys of living in a sober way. As my life started to take its new shape, I hit the books big-time, encouraged in every step by my parents, especially my Mom. I was that kid back in class again.
The books I hit, studied, dissected even, were ones on technology – digital marketing, building websites, growing internet presence, how Google works – you name it. If it had, the word digital in the title, it was on my “to read” list. The floor of my bedroom was carpeted in them. My first passion was born.
Now, and because of that desire to educate myself, I run a great digital marketing agency here in Medellín, Colombia. I employ people who have become friends, and, even though we’re relatively small but continually growing, my clients are spread all over the globe. It’s my work, it’s essential to my ongoing recovery, and it’s something I can take pride and satisfaction in.
Staying Active – Basketball
A healthy body and a healthy mind, that’s the key to a healthy soul. My work keeps me on my toes intellectually, and my love of basketball keeps me centered physically. Ever since I could throw a ball at the hoop, it’s been there, and when I play now, I do so with the same excitement as I had as a kid in our Californian home’s driveway, going one-on-one with my brother.
You can’t underestimate the importance of staying fit. Add in the fact that being active, pushing your body physically, drives away any unwanted feelings and emotions, like anger, stress, and disappointment (relapse triggers to most addicts in recovery) and I simply couldn’t live without my basketball practice, keeping me fit and keeping me sane.
An Art – Guitar
Like basketball, music has always been there in my life, through good times and bad. Music, like the drugs I became addicted to, was a method of escape from all those things I couldn’t cope with, and a method of simply trying to make myself feel better. Unlike the drugs, that were doing untold harm to my body, music was and still is a positive influence.
To that end, I decided to attempt to learn to play the guitar. Even from those early days of practicing basic chords, I knew I was never going to be selling out massive music venues, hitting the billboard charts or getting signed up by a world famous record label. Like most addicts in recovery, it was about pleasing myself, doing something for me. Before long, with a healthy dose of dedication to my new art, I got pretty good and I’m happy with that.
Sat on the balcony of my house here, at the end of a busy day, strumming away at my guitar and enjoying the music I’m creating is my relaxing passion, more of a flame from a candle than an adrenalin-inducing forest fire. It’s a passion nonetheless.
A Hobby – Travel
Colombia is one of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet – deserts, snow-capped mountains, dense jungles, sun-drenched beaches – you name it, it’s got it. Moving around the country of my birth and taking in its natural beauty is a wonderful and often breathtaking opportunity. You rarely find me home at the weekend, that’s for sure.
Colombia is a beautiful, changing place, and my city of Medellín is probably its best example of how clear and rational planning can transform its very heart. Social integration is the primary factor of any new venture for the city, and, for me, it symbolizes my journey, from a reckless drug addict to a valuable member of its society. Traveling around this country’s many landscapes is, for me, a clear insight into how are you can only alter so much. The rest you need to accept.
A Passion – Volunteering
Sobriety brings new ways of thinking when the addiction has been laid bare for what it is. Freeing myself from the power of the drugs in my system, and the way they messed with my judgment, ideas that seemed too big and beyond my ability before became possible and within my grasp. With a plan to make it work, anything suddenly becomes achievable.
When I returned to Colombia, I was struck by the disparity between those that have and those that don’t. Poverty is clear for anyone to see; a short trip to the downtown area is proof of that. Because of what I saw, there and in the pueblos that surround the city, I became moved to do my part, however small that may be.
Volunteering is now not only a passion, it’s a real way of socially improving the lives around me that are as desperate as the addicted Andy was nine years ago when he checked into rehab for the last time. Call it “giving back,” call it what you will, it’s a part of my ongoing recovery that benefits others as well as myself. Another passionate way for me to keep my focus. It’s a “win – win,” situation.
All These Things…
What’s written above is not meant to be a blueprint for your recovery. It’s not me telling you, “Do this and you’ll be fine.” It’s about making you think about those things that you care for, those things that you’re good at, and those things that you truly want in your life. You may not have found them yet and that’s cool, not a problem. The problem may come, however, if you stop looking.
Finding your passions in life is one of the most important parts of any addiction recovery. Like that therapist said all those years ago, it’s your second chance. For me, that meant discovering those things that made me, Andy, tick – as a person, as an intellectual mind, and as my true character, not one confused and unsure by drug abuse.
My advice? Never stop looking. Life is passion if you want it to be. I was listening to a British band the other day – The Killers and the words of one song struck me out of the blue – “When everyone’s lost, the battle is won, with all these things that I’ve done.” I know how being lost feels. Sobriety has given me the chance, my second chance, to do those things I truly wanted, and to keep doing them.
What are your passions? What are those things that are an integral part of your recovery, or the recovery you hope one day to have? Please feel free to share in a comment below. Take care and keep looking.
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