My name is Brooke M. Feldman and I identify as a person in long-term recovery. What this means for me is that for close to 12 years, I have not turned to alcohol or other drugs as a coping mechanism for living life. Instead, as the result of having access to the resources and supports I’ve needed when I’ve needed them and for how long I’ve needed them, I have been able to overcome a debilitating substance use disorder and significant mental health challenges. Recovery has allowed me to live a meaningful and fulfilling life as a contributing part of the world around me. Recovery has also allowed me to stop the intergenerational transmission of addiction that not only claimed my mother’s life when I was just 12 years old but that also left me without a mother long before she died.
There was a time when my greatest hope and aspirations centered around my own funeral. In my darkest days, what would bring me comfort from the pain was to fantasize about my funeral and what all of the people in attendance would have to say about me. I’d think about my family and friends discussing how much potential I had, what a shame it was that I had been dealt such a bad hand of cards and what a loss my death was for the world. My greatest hope at that time was for people to remember me as a victim who had departed this world without bringing into it all of the potential I had inside me to bare.
Having spent my adolescent years in and out of institutions and the juvenile justice system, I didn’t have much hope for anything better. Even some of the professionals involved in my care and my own family members at times struggled to have hope for me. I recall at my lowest point in adolescence being handcuffed and shackled and thinking that life was really not going to amount to anything more than this.
Recovery, on the other hand, has transformed my life and my thinking to be quite the opposite. Just like every other human being walking on this earth, I was born with gifts inside of me that can benefit the entire world when given a chance to be brought out. All I needed was that chance, and I was lucky enough to be given that chance. I was lucky enough to have doors open for me when I knocked for help, I was lucky enough to be born with the skin color that is sadly more suitable for grace and redemption in this country versus discrimination and judgment. I was lucky enough to have the resources and supports I needed available in my community. The thing is though, recovery should never be about luck. It should never be about who you know who can pull strings or what resources you have access to. It should never be about the color of your skin or in which community you live.
Today, my life is largely about making sure that recovery is not about luck and that people do not leave this world without having had the chance to bring their gifts out from inside of them. Much of my efforts go to ensuring that recovery and wellness is available to all individuals and families with equity and efficacy. No longer do I wish to leave this life with all of the gifts and treasures I have inside left there to die. If I think about what my legacy will be, I don’t find comfort in people talking about all of the things I could have done with my life – I find comfort in thinking about all of the things I have been able to accomplish in my life. Recovery has allowed me to walk the path of actualizing my potential and living the life I was always meant to live. The most amazing part of it all? Not only is my life better beyond measure but so too are the lives of everybody around me. Recovery didn’t just give me a better life – it made the world around me better as well.