Not all heroes wear capes.

Springtime symbolizes rebirth and renewal. It also symbolizes the act of getting to work with the act of living. In the spring, the world wakes up and gets to work. Plants bloom, babies are born. We begin to climb out of our seasonal depression and into the sunlight where we find hope. Hope that life will go on after the hard season of winter, that the slate is wiped clean and we are all young and fresh once more.

I think of recovery in this way; a renewal and a time to do inner work. A time to find hope after the hard season of substance use disorder. But our clients are also reborn into a different world than other people. I don’t mean that they are interdimensional- no, but their experiences and recovery have shaped their perceptions so that they can choose to see the world in a different way.

People develop superpowers while struggling with addiction. They come to us highly skilled in creativity, debate, and yes, manipulation and deceit. I am often amazed at the abilities of our clients to both do good and wreak havoc. And when they get into good treatment and have the mindset and desire for recovery? That is when they learn my favorite superpower- empathy.

You see, there can be no empathy without love. And love that is healthy and robust begins with the self. Treatment and therapy help clients begin to heal in body and spirit. And as a part of that, they learn to love themselves and they learn to have empathy for themselves. Once that happens, they become interdimensional.

                Just kidding. But when you’ve walked through hell and been lucky enough to make it out on the other side, you have the ability to see things in a different light. You can see people in a different light. I had a client who graduated from drug court recently after lots of setbacks and struggles. It took him years to complete the program. He’s a superhero now, and I told him so. He can look at a person struggling with substance use, or a person living on the street, or just anyone who has made terrible choices and had to accept hard consequences and see them as a human person. He now has the ability to choose to extend his humanity to a person who may be lacking it right now. Sure, we all have this ability- but now this client knows just how much it can mean to a person to simply be seen as a person. He understands now that recovery isn’t linear, and people don’t always follow the same path in the same time.

                When clients get into recovery they learn what it’s like to climb back to the world from a deep pit. The road is not easy, and not all make it. There are moments of progress and regression, and sobriety and relapse. It takes bravery and grit, and sometimes some luck too. Our clients know what its like to be doing your very honest best and still come up short. And keep trying. Our clients know what it’s like to feel hopeless and down and to have no clear path forward. They know what it’s like to have no one believe in you, no one see your value or your worth.

                Our clients can see humanity where others will not. They can see and understand the pull and shame of addiction and relapse. They know that people fall- that they themselves may again fall- but they know that people can get back up and try again and that eventually, they might just make it.

And that is their superpower.

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