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Recovery isn’t without its setbacks. While I’ve managed to successfully recover from mental illness (more or less), my recovery from substance abuse has been riddled with slips. I was clean for a long time – that is, until my recent encounter with opiates.

I’ve made some poor decisions over the course of my addiction, and I’ve disappointed those closest to me far too many times.  It couldn’t have been easy to watch me throw my life away for a buzz. But if I’ve relapsed once, what’s to stop me from relapsing again? I think of my friends and family and how they would react to my impulsiveness. They would be hurt. They would be scared. They would be devastated. Inflicting pain on my loved ones is a big price to pay for a good time I’ll never remember.

Life is about learning from our mistakes, and I wonder if I’ve truly changed for the better. I can’t put up with another relapse. My thirtieth birthday is coming up and I’m tired of being put through the wringer.  I want my 30’s to represent a decade of personal growth, accomplishment and fulfillment. My worst fear is being thirty-five and living like a wildly uninhibited partygoer, piss drunk and doped up. That’s not for me.

I’m well into my recovery. I exercise regularly, I try to eat well, and I avoid (for the most part) my known triggers: liquor stores, the parking lot where I would meet my dealer, unhealthy social connections, and get-togethers with drug and alcohol users. But there’s only so much I can avoid. Substance use is the norm for many here in North America. Am I supposed to become a recluse, sober, but missing out on the good things in life? Temptation lurks around every corner. So what am I to do?

I think the answer lies in finding a good support network. I have reliable and supportive friends and family members. Some understand my situation, others do not. But, overall, my friends and family want what’s best for me. So I’m pretty blessed.

I’ve become particularly close with one friend. Although we’ve only recently met, this young woman understands my predicament better than anyone I know. She’s become the cornerstone of my recovery and I owe her, big time. I often wish I could express how much she means to me, but I can never find the appropriate words to describe my gratitude for her unwavering support, her kindness, and her remarkable depth of good character.  She is truly invaluable to me. Through her unconditional acceptance of my shortcomings, I have rediscovered the value of true friendship.  She’s played a pivotal role in redefining the way I view life, and as a result, I’m excited for what lies ahead.

So, long story short, I have a lot to lose. I have a lot worth fighting for. Sure, slips will happen. That’s the natural trajectory of recovery. Ups and downs. But hopefully, the downs are short-lived. I guess all I can do is go with the flow and keep on keepin’ on (to quote a rather catchy song by First Aid Kit).

This is my final post. So I’d like to end with some words of wisdom. Keep going. Your resiliency may surprise you. Just when you think you’ve had enough, and the bleakness becomes unbearable, look within and realize, you have what it takes to get through whatever challenges you face. Remember, it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Perhaps you have yet to discover your calling, and perhaps you’re struggling to get your life in order. That’s okay. Hell, I’m not yet satisfied with my life. I’m always searching for something bigger and better, something that will bring me happiness, once and for all. It’s exhausting work. I suppose I often forget how important it is to live in the moment. I think too much, and spend too much time pondering the imponderables. I forget to enjoy the journey. To quote Albert Camus, “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.

PS- Many of you may feel hopelessly overburdened with challenges. You may have burning questions for which there are no answers. You may feel as if you’ll never get your life straightened out.

The young woman mentioned above, my friend, once told me: those who have their lives figured out, well, they never had much to figure out in the first place.

So take comfort in knowing the depth of your anguish is equal to the depth of your character.

Good luck, and thank you!

Andrew Woods

About Andrew Woods

Having been diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder and OCD at the age of seventeen (while attending the University of Victoria), my struggle with mental illness has been a full spectrum experience. I have made much progress since my last hospitalization (three and a half years ago). I returned to university, eventually earning a degree in Economics and a diploma in Business Administration. Today, I have aspirations of following a career in writing and communications. Currently, I spend my time as a mental health volunteer, working as a mental health navigator, exhibitor and communications support volunteer.

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