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The Day I Realised What My Alcoholism Gave Me

There are two days that will be the best in your life - the day you were born and the day you realise what you were born to do. It's a quotation that sends shivers down my spine. You see I have realised what I am here for and it's a mission far greater than I ever would have imagined – and I am far more passionate about it than I can ever explain.

When I first got sober after being an alcoholic all my adult life (some might point to even earlier clues), of course I wanted to work in the field. How great, I thought, I could become an addictions counsellor or similar and help other people who are struggling with addiction. It was a nice thought, and I did go into the addiction field – as an aftercare project co-ordinator. And it was great and I loved my job helping others. But to be honest, it didn't set me on fire. I loved helping people get back into normal life, but there seemed to be something missing.

I was never convinced either by the people who said I could use my experience of addiction to help others – well, sure, but why did any of us have to go through that horrible mess of an experience anyway? It didn't make sense. Until I realised what I was actually born to do, and the moment I realised it, quite frankly nothing in heaven or on earth could stop me.

I have come to a place where I am now actually grateful for my addiction, for I now see that all the things it has given me far outweigh the awfulness of it. And this is coming from someone who went most of the way down with addiction. I wasn't a heavy drinker or someone who went a bit wild – I am someone who has reached very dark and deep places with my addiction and am lucky to be alive today.

So I realised my mission – it is not to pick up the pieces, give sympathy and help recovering addicts to write a CV. All those things are awesome, but that's not my mission. My mission is to empower recovering addicts to feel the same way that I do. To help them take the pieces of their life and create something amazing out of them. To make them believe in themselves, become proud of what they have achieved, stop selling themselves short and create an amazing life, too.

And through recovering addicts being proud of themselves and achieving amazing things, I hope to help turn society's stigmatisation of addicts on its head. I hope that addicts become recognised for the awesome people they are for overcoming their problems and having the courage to take that forward and go all the way. I hope people stop seeing addicts as horrible, disgusting, selfish people and start realising that they are ill. And I hope that we can start promoting a celebration of recovery and recognising the strength it takes to do that.

It's funny, people think alcoholics and drug addicts have a lack of willpower – ironically, we don't. We are among the most determined people in the world – we just need to learn how to recognise that in ourselves and use it for the greater good. That's what I was born to do.

by Beth Burgess, Therapist and author of The Recovery Formula, The Happy Addict, and What Is Self-Esteem?

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