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Guest Post: Wake up and Smell the Recovery

Devin Fox has been selected as a 2013 ONDCP Advocate for Action for his efforts to empower young people in recovery. Read Devin’s story of recovery, advocacy, and empowerment—in his own words.

I'm Devin Fox, and I am a person in long-term recovery. I'm a young person, a gay man, an activist, an advocate, a son, a brother, an employee, an executive director, a social worker, and–most importantly–a human being. To me, being in recovery means being free from drugs and alcohol. In November 2012, I celebrated 4 years of continuous recovery, with all of its ups, downs, and even boring days.

I strive each day to live to my greatest potential and to reach for a life focused on being the best that I can be. My life was not always so solution-focused however. Although my story is not entirely unique, it’s unusual enough to make me feel special.

Those who have known me for a while know I have been an activist and an advocate since grade school. I have an innate ability to gauge a roomful of people's concerns and then clearly articulate those concerns to the most likely person, persons, or system that can bring about some type of effective change. This ability has enabled me to help support young people in recovery as together we seek to make our voice heard in a Nation caught in the grips of a mentality that revolves around the problem of addiction. Instead of this fixation on addiction as the problem, it is time to focus on the solution of a person’s own identified recovery and how we as a whole can support that effort.

Like many others, I suppose, I often feel as if I am focused on how to live only one "life" at a time. The mixing of roles and worlds into one individual can be tricky and most certainly frustrating. As I continue to progress in my recovery, I am discovering and learning to accept my own complexity – the multiple sides of my personality that make me who I am.

On one side is Devin the advocate, a well-informed, well-groomed, well-maintained machine. Devin the advocate lives for the "cause." This Devin can move with ease through crowds because his intentions are almost always well-meaning and his actions thoughtful and appropriate.

Devin the person-in-recovery is just about everything except a machine. This includes the good (which I will gladly disclose here), the bad (I'll think about it), and the ugly (please!). You see, Devin-in-recovery can hide behind Devin-the-advocate. My asset of being an effective advocate and activist has the potential to overrule the necessity to focus on a personal life of wellness and recovery. This awareness of how closely my assets and my defects are connected helps me live in the moment and be the most effective agent for change that I can be.

My life often becomes chaotic and overcome with the pressures of work, business meetings, and conference calls. In a sense, it’s not much different from the seminars, recitations, and homework I left at Rutgers last spring. When I become unbalanced and afraid, I grasp onto my "causes." I cling to their truth and take it as my own. I revel in the injustice and emerge with chest puffed, cape billowing, and the ugly sword of truth unsheathed. The wonderful outcome is that today my “cause” has become my personal mission in life.

I find joy in helping others and fulfillment in spreading a message of hope to any who will listen or will join me in experiencing it. For me, young people in recovery finding a voice in a world that has been deaf to our input is more than a “cause.” This movement is not something I hide behind. I stand proudly beside it and acknowledge it belongs to me, you, and everyone who wants it. This movement is life. This movement is recovery. This movement is the solution.

This is my truth. It is just a small piece of the multi-faceted human being that I am, and a snapshot of how recovery shapes my life and my work. The steps that I take on a daily basis to help me heal and grow into the best man that I can be are simple, and they often rest on my decision to show up for my life one day at a time. The result of my choosing a new way of thinking, and therefore a new way of life, is a freedom that cannot be felt or fully understood by simply reading about it in this blog. To those in recovery and struggling against the tyranny of addiction to alcohol or other drugs, I say this: Go experience this freedom yourself. Embrace it, own it, and then share it. Our personal recovery stories are our asset today not our defect.