This has been the best year of my life.
Exactly 14 years ago this month I emerged frightened and ashamed from a substance use disorder and mental health treatment event. Barely one month in recovery, my only hope was to remain stable — to stay well. Wellness to me at the time simply meant staying out of trouble — no longer hurting family and friends — maybe even learning not to hate myself as much. I had the same low expectation of recovery that many of my peers shared.
Six years into my recovery, I decided that I wanted to help others find freedom and wellness professionally. To get near the field, I landed a job as a security guard at an opioid treatment program and enrolled in community college to study addiction counseling. That was only eight years ago.
Last October, I became Executive Director of Addiction Professionals of North Carolina — an achievement that definitely was not on my radar when I was carrying my treatment discharge papers in a manila folder back in November 2004.
I met with my new board of directors for the first time at our 2017 Fall Conference. I found myself sitting next to this fellow pictured with me. I couldn’t remember his name, but I would never forget his face. He was my treatment counselor. The last time I had seen him, I was barely hopeful to make it to the end of the day tightly gripping my fledgling recovery. Now, I was his Executive Director. How about those apples? At the following Spring Conference, I had the honor of giving Mat Sandifer APNC’s prestigious Art of Counseling Award. You can’t make this stuff up.
As the brilliant recovery researcher Alexandre Laudet once wrote, “Life keeps getting better as recovery progresses.” It is with bittersweet joy and gratitude that I share with you my next amazing chapter. The national education and advocacy organization Faces & Voices of Recovery has asked me to join their time as their new National Field Director. After much consultation with The Creator and my family and friends, I decided to seize this amazing opportunity to influence attitudes and behaviors and change hearts and minds across the country. My soul is soaring with gratitude, but I will miss working with the most amazing group of passionate and purpose-driven humans I have ever known.
Everyone you encounter experiencing substance use disorder and mental health challenges has the potential to get well — then to get better than well. However, I didn’t get this well because I wanted it more than others — or because I worked harder than others — or because I am special. I am Donald McDonald because I had immediate access to adequate and appropriate treatment, robust recovery support services in my community, and the unrestrained opportunity to chase my dreams. I was afforded these opportunities through dumb luck and privilege. Don’t leave recovery to luck. Demand what you and your families deserve.
Together, we eliminate the stigma of mental and substance use disorders!
Together, we demand what we deserve!
Together, we are stronger!
Donald McDonald, MSW