We often focus on the problem of addiction more than the results of successful recovery. True, sobriety is a wonderful transformation characteristic of the beauty of humanity. However, the challenge of achieving long-term sobriety can seem unbelievable to those who suffer from addiction.
Addiction is a masterful enemy, one that is cunning, baffling, and all-powerful. One who seduces those affected by instilling in them denial of the problem or pessimism about overcoming it. Addiction wants to isolate its victims, push away those who love them, hide addictive behaviors, and, often, die trying to protect the addiction.
How many achieve victory over addiction? I don’t think anyone truly knows. Most of us know people who have either died as a result of addiction, those who are still suffering, and those who are working through a rigorous, wonderful recovery program. This post is the first in a series that will focus on the third group.
The first characteristic I want to focus on is leadership. I believe it takes a leader to have the courage to make a stand. In recovery, this stand includes refraining from drugs and alcohol or other compulsive behaviors that negatively impact work, sex, eating, etc. It also means committing to working on a plan of recovery.
I recently went to see the movie Undefeated, which was a wonderful and uplifting documentary about how one man took the lead to make a difference. His leadership created a place for more heroic people to step up and help him in his efforts. The story followed a white volunteer high school football coach, Bill Courtney, whose leadership took an underprivileged minority high school football team from defeat and chaos to becoming a respectful winning team.
The most powerful part of the film was when Bill talked about how his childhood influenced his life and what he wanted to do to make a difference. Our past influences our present and future. One theme of the movie is how Bill’s leadership not only affected the current status of the kids involved, but how his influence changed the course of the lives of others. For instance, one main character was Montrail “Money” Brown. He was an intelligent, caring young man who almost gave up on a positive future when he was injured during his senior year. Courtney’s leadership and support helped Brown, who would not only return to play at the end of season, but more importantly, received a full college scholarship from a private citizen who was moved by Brown’s courage and story.
The other theme I picked up was about how playing a sport doesn’t necessarily create character, but a person’s character influences his or her sports activities and involvement. In sports and in stressful situations, I believe our character is magnified. In sobriety and in recovery, our character is also magnified, thus the positive must be cultivated to produce the desired results.
Leadership doesn’t always mean standing in front of everyone and everything. A leader is sometimes one who believes in personal values and is willing to take risks based on them. By taking a leadership role to help others achieve sobriety, I acquired many other leadership positions, including becoming CEO of a company with 250 employees all devoted to recovery from addiction. I was raised in a town of 2500 people, and I had no idea I would lead a company that would be 10% of my hometown population. I also didn’t imagine our organization would provide treatment for more people each year than the population of my hometown.