Failure doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It can also be viewed as a stepping-stone to success, be it personal or professional. In school, for example, failing a test shows us what we don’t know and what we need to study. Sure, the grade is bad, but the opportunity to learn is alive! The need to be right all the time is debilitating – it prevents us from being teachable and from learning new things. Interestingly, failure is what allows us to grow. If you never allow yourself to fail, you limit your ability to expand beyond your safety zone.
When I was growing up, I was told repeatedly that I would be a failure. I thought those words were a death sentence but I know now that is far from the truth. Those words are actually something I used as the impetus to succeed and overcome difficulty. As I got older, got sober, and expanded my comfort zone, I learned something: failure was tantamount to opportunity. It was something that could be used to try again with vim and vigor. I learned that it’s ok to be wrong and it’s ok to fail.
Thomas Edison failed 1000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb.
J.K. Rowling suffered from depression, poverty, and countless struggles before her success with the Harry Potter series.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high-school basketball team but went on to be one of the greatest basketball players in the world.
Elvis Presley was fired after one performance at the Grand Ol Opry, and told he should “go back to driving a truck.”
Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
All of these people were regular folks chasing a dream. They experienced failure and setbacks, but they kept trying. When we enter recovery, we are scared and often convinced of our failure. We are scared to succeed, scared to fail, scared to change, and scared to try again, but we have to keep trying. Take that fear and kick it in the pants. You can do anything you set your mind to, you just have to try and try again.
I’ll leave you with this bit from Star Trek. Captain Kirk was so afraid of failure, he rigged the computer program during the Kobayashi Maru – a no-win exercise to see how people dealt with failure. Rigging a win isn’t a real win and defies the real lesson we need to learn: failure is part of finding success.
Developing positive, healthy relationships are the one of the cornerstones in our recovery process. One’s earnings or the size of one’s bank account doesn’t define success in recovery, though that doesn’t stop us from placing the expectations of monetary success upon ourselves. It’s not unusual to get sober and equate success in recovery with what we have, whom we date, where we live, what we drive, et cetera. In time, however, it is our cultivation of healthy relationships with those around us that are the true markers of success. Think about it this way: if the things we have define the quality of our lives, what happens if our accumulation of stuff is abated? Are we left empty and bereft of joy? I think not. Instead, we must find a way to enjoy the skin we’re in, sans outside pleasures and impermanent pleasure
When we fixate on accumulating stuff rather than cultivating strong, supportive relationships with those around us, we may find we’re not as happy as we want to be. The more we ignore that which causes us pain, and the more we attempt to fill ourselves with stuff, the more uncomfortable we’re apt to become. We tend to place undo importance on what we have during our lives but speak primarily about the quality of relationships with family and friends at the end of our lives. When we face our mortality, the issue of “stuff” isn’t high on the list of important topicsOne of the most important relationships we learn to cultivate early on in recovery is with a sponsor. The only guideline we have is to find someone who “has what we want.” That doesn’t refer to the kind of car they drive; it refers to the quality of their program, if they’ve worked the steps, and if they are spiritually sound. Unfortunately, we often times are influenced by someone’s outsides rather than what’s important for our insides. The moral of the story is this: cultivate your relationships with others the way you would nurture a burgeoning garden or pot of coffee. You know I know how important coffee is in recovery!
SAMHSA recently provided mental-health professionals a working definition of recovery:
“A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”
The impetus behind this definition was to create something that reflects the “common elements of the recovery experience for those with mental disorders and/or substance use disorders.” While this is certainly a more clinical definition of what recovery is, it remains a valuable foundational reference for professionals working in the mental health and substance abuse fields.
Involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility;
Is based on respect; and
Emerges from hope.
SAMSHA also identifies four major domains that support recovery:
Health: overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way;
Home: a stable and safe place to live that supports recovery;
Purpose: meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society; and
Community: relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.
As we work with families, guiding young adults through the process of recovery, all of these references are embedded in the treatment plans we outline and the activities and groups we facilitate. Part of the recovery process helps distill the unhelpful belief that we are damaged goods and unworthy of a healthy life of recovery. It clears the clouded perception that drugs and alcohol nullify one’s discomfort and provides a bird’s eye view into the benefits and bounty of clean living. It is truly liberating not to hide behind the veils of mental illness and/or addiction. The process of recovery guides us toward the potentiality of that liberation and frees us from the bondage of self.
There will be difficult times, beautiful times, times where you think you might not make it or times that you might feel invincible. This is life, and recovery allows us to weather life’s rollercoaster ride in a healthier way. Recovery teaches us resilience. It teaches us that we can fall down, dust ourselves off and get back up again. It shows us that we are human, fallible, imperfect, and magnificent. Recovery teaches us that we are enough.
When being of service becomes a source of obligation and stress, you’re not really being of service to anyone. If anything, you are causing harm to yourself and denigrating the purpose of service work. The steps are in order for a reason, right? Learning to love ourselves before we can wholeheartedly love others has to become part of the cornerstone of our recovery. We do the steps and “leave no stone unturned,” looking at our actions, the actions of others, our responses to them, how they effect us, how we react, and so on. We uncover and discover as much as we can, including some things that catch us by surprise. When we are brand new, the familiar adage, “fake it till you make it,” can certainly be applicable especially when you simply need to get out of yourself by being of service. At the same time, if you find that you have dedicated yourself to helping others and “faking it” to the extent that you, yourself, are being neglected, it’s time to pause.
As much as we ran away from ourselves via drugs, alcohol, food, sex, video games, social media, we can also do the same thing in recovery by overextending ourselves in our service work. We can do too much and place ourselves at great risk for doing too little for ourselves. At some point, we have to stop and feel the feelings of whatever it is we are trying to escape. We are, as they say, “as sick as our secrets.” Within each of us in recovery potentially lies the hurt child seeking solace, safety, love, and protection. As we begin to be of service to ourselves, we can be of service to that side of us that is hurting and hiding in the darkness. We can ultimately learn to be gentle with ourselves , which will allow us to be gentle with others.
How do we do this?
Ask for help.
Get a sponsor
Find a therapist
Create a network of other people in recovery with whom you can relate, be honest, and have sustained emotional safety. (Fellowship)
Set healthy Boundaries.
Physical and emotional: Think about boundaries as a “property line.” Read what Positively Positive has to say about this. It’s fantastic.
Creating healthy boundaries will help you set guidelines for people around you that tell them what is acceptable to you and what is not. There are physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, both different but both invaluable to self-esteem building and self-care. You don’t have to agree with everyone or have him or her agree with you to be liked.
Do the work
Work the steps.
Start a journal.
Go to meetings
Do the deep, therapeutic work provided by your therapist.
Being of service is our ultimate goal. We need to be able to give back what has been so freely given to us. That is step 12, after all. In the process, however, we must maintain healthy boundaries and a sense of self-care. Remember, it’s ok not to be ok sometimes, however it’s not ok if we put on our trainers and run from our feelings. Allow someone to be of service to you. You deserve it just as much as the next person.
Chloe Huerta is one of our amazing alumni who came back and joined the Visions’ team. In 2010, Chloe brought her engaging personality and compassion to our residential facility as a Program Aide; Chloe has since become the Assistant Manager for NeXT, our Gender-Specific Extended Care program and is working toward her CAADAC. Chloe always makes me smile whenever I see her. She’s funny, incredibly positive, willing to learn, always filled with gratitude and is a remarkable young woman. She has made it her mission to give back to the community that helped her find her way during her youth. We are tremendously grateful to have someone like Chloe as part of our team. Her relatability, understanding, and kindness are an integral part of who she is and what she brings to the Visions family. Thank you so much for all you do, Chloe! Read on for the amazing staff comments about you and your awesomesauce:
“She is a miracle. A completely different human being than the girl I first met here in treatment. Incredibly proud of her and amazed at the level of joy, compassion and optimism this young woman displays and shares with our residents.” – Roger L’Hereault
“Chloe Huerta is an amazing example of fun in recovery and not taking life too seriously! Chloe always has a positive attitude and keeps the clients excited about their new life. Chloe is one of the most caring people I know – her genuine personality is recognized by clients and staff alike. Chloe is able to hold boundaries, express needs, and hold others accountable yet is also able to have respect from clients. She’s amazing.” – Ashley Bolen
“Chloe is a rock star! I had the pleasure of working with Chloe when we first opened up the Extended Care house and together we managed to make it work! I think the best part about her, other than her upbeat bubbly attitude, is her ability to roll with the punches and take things as the come. (There was a lot of that the first year!) She has strong passion for helping people and I feel she truly cares about the young teens we work with. It’s a pleasure to work with her and she brings a lot of fun to the table too!” – Jennifer Garrett
Chloe! You have come such a very long way, and we are so proud of your journey! Chloe is a Visions’ alumni who came to work for us as an overnight PA. She moved to days and was eventually promoted to Assistant Manager of the Extended Care program. She has helped so many girls with their early stages of recovery because she truly relates to their struggles and issues. Chloe is in school for her counseling certificate and is one of our brightest stars. We are grateful for her work ethic and her ability to show up “no matter what.” We love us some Chloe!!! — Amanda and Chris Shumow
No staff blog would be the same without our 10 questions. As I thought, Chloe doesn’t disappoint:
1: What is your Starbucks order?
Iced Dirty Chai or Iced Green Tea (no water)
2: Sand or Sea? Why?
I’m afraid of sea creatures but I love being in the ocean
3: Favorite literary character?
4: Are you following your dreams?
I have a lot of dreams but I’m on the path to following my current dreams.
5: What is your greatest joy?
Spending time with my younger brother
6: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
Floranopolis, Brazil. It’s supposed to be beautiful, I am obsessed with the culture and a few of my friends live there.
7: If you could have dinner with anyone (alive or dead), who would it be and why?
8: Cake or pie?
Cake–pie is for Thanksgiving.
9: Dogs or Cats?
I’m all about the pups!
10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?
I’ve always wanted to give back to the people who saved my life. I looked up to the tech, counselors, and therapists when I was a resident and I hoped to help someone at such an important time in their life.
Smoking cigarettes in adolescence has always been considered a pathway to coolness, or a way to fit in. For a time, smoking began to be considered passé, but amongst teens in recovery, it still holds the mythical status of cool and is often key to fitting in. So much so, kids who want to quit or who don’t really want to smoke may even start smoking E-cigarettes in an attempt to reach the same level of cool. (It is just vapor, right?). I digress. For girls who smoke, there may be another reason behind the nasty habit: presumed thinness, or a path to thinness. Some assume that smoking is also the answer to hunger pains and subconsciously satisfy (albeit temporarily) the desire for food.
But what about someone struggling with an eating disorder who is not in the safe, healing environment of a treatment facility? What if they are on their own, doing the dance of recovery solely through meetings and fellowship? Will they notice their use of cigarettes to stifle hunger pains? More than likely, they will not. I remember being new and bragging that I was surviving on a diet of coffee and cigarettes, ever chasing the goal of “perfection.” At the same time, I also had a raging eating disorder, consuming my thinking and vision. I was clueless. It took me years to learn to recognize that smoking was a key to assisting me in my process of acquiring thinness. In fact, one of the fears when I quit smoking was the presumed assurance of weight gain.
As always, one of the first steps to recovery is asking for help. This is not a feat that comes naturally to an addict or alcoholic. We are accustomed to “doing it all ourselves.” Still, going to meetings, getting a sponsor, finding a therapist, all of these things can help us begin the healing process. Beginning the process of digging deeply and getting to the root cause of whatever is causing you to harm yourself with addiction, starvation or binging, or binging and purging is crucial. We cannot recover alone, nor can we stop the insanity of our addictions without asking for help.
Scott Davenport started working as a Program Aide in 2010. His dedication and willingness to learn has led him to become a Residential Counselor, the position he holds now. As such, Scott is working more directly with the clients, and bringing his cool sense of calm energy into everything he does. Scott has this wonderful ability to connect with the clients on a very real level, especially since he was once a client himself. His innate gentleness and kindness make him easy to talk to and extremely relatable. Scott is an extremely consistent and dedicated member of the Visions team—he’ll show up for anything he’s asked to do, and is always intent on doing what’s right for the clients.
One of the things I really appreciate and respect about Scott is how thoughtful he is in regard to what he says and how he mindfully interacts with those around him. He doesn’t say anything unless it necessary or true, making him someone worth listening to. Because of that quality, Scott is a really skilled listener. In the time I’ve known Scott, I can tell you that he is one of those people who means what he says and says what he means. He is kind and gentle but understands the need to hold firm boundaries with the clients. The kids in our programs are lucky to have him in their lives and so are we.
Read on for some particularly kind words from some of the Visions team:
“Ah Scotttt! I love Scott! It’s like all of the good things in life got together and said, ‘HERE YA GO! ENJOY!’ He’s a great person to be around and on those days at Visions when everything is chaos, he is just serenity incarnate…to me and Aleks at least.” – Janette Duran
“Scott is one of my favorite heroes. He is a gentle soul, well-liked and respected by the kids and his peers. Also, if you don’t already know this, he is an artist extraordinaire. I have an original Davenport hanging in my studio. Thanks Scott, you are the best.” – Susan “Art Lady” O’Connor
“Scott is definitely the calm in the storm. His kindness combined with his dead-on assessment with what’s going on with the clients makes him great support for both the kids and his co-workers!!” — Katie Mason
“Scott does a great job with the kids, very calm and patient.” – Bill Hoban
“Love the guy; effortless person to work with. I think this is in part due to Scott being a mindful practitioner of the team approach. It’s really an equal two-way street with him or a live-and-let-live-through-mutual cooperation kind of vibe.
A grounded, consistent and calming force he is. Yes, that last sentence sounded like Yoda. He’d dig that, I think.” – Roger L’Heauralt
“Who would have ever thought that the young man seeming not to pay attention when he was a client at IOP would turn into one of Visions’ brightest stars! Scott is such an amazing mentor for our clients. His steady, patient and quiet way adds a feeling of calm to the days that seem so hectic. He has truly grown into an amazing employee, friend and man in the time that we have known him. Scott has stepped up into the large shoes Brian left when he moved to Latigo and has not missed a step. He is always thinking of the clients’ best interests and will show up for any crisis or for a skate!” – Amanda and Chris Shumow
Our staff blogs wouldn’t be the same without some insight from those we’re honoring. Of course we asked Scott to answer our 10 questions, and of course, he answered them with the same thoughtful, mindful qualities we can expect. Read on:
1: Favorite movie of all time?
2: Who is your hero?
3: Last book you read?
Neuromancer by William Gibson
4: If you could have been any person from history, who would it be and why?
MLK – He stood for so many important, great things. He made a profound difference for our country and for humanity without using violence or hate.
5: Best late-night LA haunt?
I don’t have a lot of late nights. Favorite morning place – sitting outside in the sun with a cup of coffee.
6: Do you sing in the shower?
Yes, I always have weird songs stuck in my head first thing when I wake up in the morning.
7: What is your most memorable skateboarding story?
I think I hit my head once but I don’t remember?
8: Describe yourself in 3 words.
Generous, optimistic, honest.
9: What inspires you?
Beautiful places, animals, morning, good people, hard working people, funny things, being outside.
10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?
I love the people I get to work with. Visions seems to have a unique way of helping teenagers without being cutesy or treating them like children, something I really needed and appreciated when I was a client. I was always treated with respect and compassion and was usually guided by positive examples rather than told what to do. It is something that has stuck with me that I would like to give back.
When we come to recovery, one of the toughest realizations is the discovery of family dysfunction and the work it takes to heal those relationships. Sometimes when we heal, our families don’t heal with us. Being the addict or alcoholic or person suffering from mental illness typically makes us the focal point within the dysfunctional family. So when the healing process begins, it’s not uncommon for a family to try and divert their loved one back to their old behaviors or at least to their old emotional responses. It is what’s familiar, after all. It’s what allows the family to take the focus away from what’s happening within the family dynamic and redirect it onto the “problem.”
How often do we drink, use, starve, self-harm, et cetera, in an attempt to “manage” our discomfort and disconnection within our families? It’s not uncommon for these behaviors to be a direct response to a family’s dysfunction. Sometimes a family will continue to batter and abuse, or enable, all of which evidence their own negative interactions. In this case, the dysfunctional paradigm of the unhealthy family dynamic hasn’t changed, even though you may have. In recovery, we begin to set healthy boundaries with those who persistently spew harmful behaviors our way, but no one says creating those boundaries would be easy. It takes consistent and ardent work coupled with attention to our own reactions to our environments to effect real change.
We work with families all the time at Visions. Many, if not most of our families jump on board and get involved in Al-Anon, make efforts to shift their actions and parenting styles, actively go into therapy, and accept help and suggestions from our clinical staff. They honestly do their best to mend the familial fabric and understand that recovery is a family process. Still, there are some whose own dysfunction prevents the acceptance of help and promotes a culture of denial. In those cases, it’s imperative that boundaries are established and self-care is modeled effectively. In doing this, we allow our light to shine through; we allow our healing to flourish; we allow people into our lives that are safe, kind, and supportive. Being in recovery is a process, and within that process, our internal light gets brighter and stronger.
Visions offers family groups, parent groups, and multiple teen groups in our various facilities. These groups support the individual and their needs as well as the family and its needs. The wounds created by addiction and mental health can and do heal. Therapeutic groups provide a safe container for that process to begin. They build trust and encourage peer support, something urgently necessary in treatment and recovery. We really can’t figure this stuff out for ourselves! It takes a community of clinical and peer support, love, and patience, and healthy boundaries.
Addiction and mental health are deeply woven into the fabric of our culture. Rather than stigmatizing those suffering from the confines of their minds and addictions of their bodies, it’s clear we need to provide wider ranges of treatment for recovery. Over the Visions has broadened our treatment base, continued to step away from the prohibitive nature of limited thinking, and are continuing to encompass the whole person in treatment. I just read an article that talked about the use of antiquated treatment methods circa 1950, and I was pleasantly reminded of how forward we are in our treatment programs.
Our mental health track has broadened to include the treatment of trauma, provide DBT for all levels of treatment, and allow for alternative methods of support when the 12-step model isn’t appropriate. Recovery isn’t one-size-fits-all, and we recognize that. Our therapists and staff devise a treatment plan appropriate for each client, supporting their individual needs while also providing them with the treatment they need. We can begin to find solace in therapeutic care, safety in our own bodies, and space in our hearts to heal from the deep wounds of our hurts. We will find that there are answers to the most difficult questions if we are ready and willing to do the work. To give up when things are painful or when the shadows are looming cease being a choice when a skillful clinical and support staff supports you.
Remember, healing is a process, not an easy 28-day fix. Recovery is a life-long practice that we engage in one day at a time, and some days, one moment at a time. Many of us want everything right here, right now, supersized, and fast: the typical “quick fix.” Recovery isn’t like that. Allow yourself the chance to slow down and catch your breath. Allow yourself to let go and accept help. Our brains and bodies can recover and learn to hold space for our trauma and addictions in ways that are safe and kind to us as individuals.
Try this for good measure. Find a group of friends whom you trust and feel safe with; make a pact to text each other “.b” (stop-breathe) when you are feeling overwhelmed or when you want to have a unified moment of mindfulness between you and a friend. By doing something as simple as this, we can create a chain of positive healing instead of polishing the old standby chain of sickness. We can recover.
So you made resolutions to stay sober in the New Year, now what?
Like most of us, you made a bunch of lofty resolutions, some of which may seem daunting and unattainable when looked at with the eyes of reality in the cold of January. Maybe the hangover of the holidays made you realize you need to listen to that inner voice telling you this isn’t how life is supposed to be, and maybe, just maybe you need to get sober. Perhaps you’re thinking, “How am I ever going to be able to live without drugs and alcohol? How can I learn to be comfortable in my own skin?”
Fortunately, the world did not end this past year, instead we have an incredible opportunity to create our own metaphorical “calendar” wherein we can make healthier, saner choices for the years to come. This isn’t a calendar that includes doomsday prophesies and holidays sponsored by a beer company. This is a calendar that celebrates caring for ourselves and healing our relationships. From here on out, we have the chance to make every day a step closer to being the person we are capable of being, potentially making those resolutions become reality.
So, how do we go about doing this? I recently tweeted about an article from the Huffington Post that listed some suggestions for spiritual success as a foundation to our resolutions—the suggestions mirror much of what we talk about in our blog and were nice to see out there in the digital ether. I thought some of them were worth reiterating here because these practices and ideologies are key in supporting our recovery and enriching our sober lives. We have to start somewhere, right? This is how we do it!
Make the decision to care for yourself and get sober. You don’t have to live in misery anymore. Recovery isn’t easy, but it’s not has difficult as carrying the shame and guilt associated with our using behavior.
Seal the deal and make it public. Tell the people who care about you the most. That means people OTHER THAN your using friends.
Find a sober community that supports you: 12-step groups, meditation groups, mental health support, or all of the above!
Practice asking for help: this will save your bum more than you know. It’s amazing when you eventually realize how much easier things are when you don’t have to do them alone!
Remember: no more doomsday prophecies be they spiritual, metaphorical, or literal. We can do this recovery thing…one step at a time!