Recovery, gratitude and rebirth in the New Year

A new year presents new challenges, new opportunities and for those addicted to drugs or alcohol, a new chance at recovery. As with all endeavors, that long-term goal has to begin with inches instead of miles.

“An example I use with people in recovery is to think about walking up a huge hill. Where do you put your focus?” asks Melissa Garrison, alumni coordinator for Rosecrance Health Network. “You look at where you are. If you look at the top of the hill, it looks too hard. People who run marathons get that. You can’t look too far ahead at the hill you have to climb.”

Garrison, who coordinates alumni groups and recovery-focused workshops for people who have been through Rosecrance treatment programs, says setting goals is important but the goals must be reachable. “Even if you just start with what your goals are for today, prioritize them and make sure they are attainable,” she says.

Change can affect everyone

Garrison notes that goals can be met and true change can occur once patients decide they want to get clean.

“I never in a million years thought I would have a year clean. Treatment saved my life, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” says Jim Smith (not his real name). “I was near death when I walked into detox, but Rosecrance taught me the tools to continue my recovery after I completed the inpatient program.”

Concerning recovery, the top priority is the improved life of the patient, but there is little doubt that family members and friends benefit from their loved one’s rehabilitation as well.

“They not only saved her, they helped two caring parents understand the challenges of addiction,” says a parent whose child entered a Rosecrance recovery program and wishes to remain anonymous. “We are no longer embarrassed to talk about her addiction, largely because we’re so proud of the strides she’s made toward becoming a clean, productive adult.”

Another parent echoed those feelings. “Our daughter is at home, registered for college and has 11 months clean,” says the parent, who also wishes to remain anonymous. It is such a joy to have our daughter back.”

Looking back, looking ahead

Garrison says it’s important for recovering addicts to take stock of the different milestones they achieve along their journey toward recovery.

“It’s good to focus on the last year and think about what we’ve learned,” she says. “One of the things I hear when talking with alumni is the importance of practicing the tenth step of the 12 Step program, which is: ‘Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it,’ which asks those in recovery to acknowledge mistakes they make and to work to make them right. That’s good advice for anyone, and it especially resonates with people in recovery.”

While goals are important, Garrison acknowledges that beating an addiction can still be a day-to-day struggle, especially when life deals you a bad hand. “Being in recovery isn’t a magic solution for life’s troubles. When ‘life happens,’ and everything that can go wrong does go wrong, people in recovery have to find ways of coping beyond using substances,” she says. “There’s nothing that using isn’t going to make even worse. The best advice is to follow the suggestions of the 12 Step program and work your recovery program. Bad things will still happen, but you don’t have to drink or use because of them.”

Smith, who says he was a substance abuser for 27 years before entering the Rosecrance program, is grateful for his new life and he is confident that recovery is possible for others. “If I can get clean, I want people to know that they can get clean, too,” he says.

Rosecrance offers support and educational workshops through its Alumni Program. Rosecrance Alumni Café meets the third Monday of every month at the Rosecrance Harrison Campus, 3815 Harrison Ave., Rockford, IL.  Alumni who live in the western suburbs of Chicago are preparing to launch a Rosecrance Alumni Café in Naperville in the near future. For more information, call Melissa Garrison, alumni coordinator, at 815-387-2537 or email her at