To Be An Advocate

I suppose a lot of things are intimidating in the beginning. I remember my first class I needed to take to start gaining my certifications to help in the recovery world. They went around the room and each student had to introduce themselves to the class. Each person had a title. They all had credentials. Some in attendance had been in the clinical world for a long time, some of them held master degrees, and me, well, —I was just me, intimidated by literally everyone in the room.

Everyone in the room had the benefit of a college education. I saw this as intimidating. They all head experience too, which was also intimidating. I felt my old nerves come back which haunted me from classroom settings in my past. I struggled to see me as good enough or smart enough to become the kind of specialist I wanted to be. I struggled to find balance, especially when the weight of my thoughts and insecurity kept tipping my scales off balance. I quit every time I walked in that classroom. I quit every time I felt less than the others or less educated and small.

It was hard for me to see what I could possibly bring to the table, aside from me, of course, and I was never sure of that was good enough.
I remember sitting in this room and cursing at the others in my mind. I hated them heartily and completely. I hated the way I felt and I hated feeling the old fears of inadequacy while sitting in a classroom setting.

Truth is I remember my very first interaction as an advocate of recovery. Education meant nothing here. I was bedside next to a person that nearly died.
It didn’t matter if there were letters after my name to signify my education. All that mattered is I was there. I was not to judge or to treat and diagnose. Instead, I was there as an advocate to help translate an idea of redemption.
And redemption in a case like this is huge, by the way. In case such as this, the idea of being redeemed is an impossibility. But to be shown an ounce of warmth in an otherwise cold moment, to be shown love and respect, to be given a sense of dignity is a step towards hope

It may be a strange surprise to others when I explain that I have social anxiety. I am like millions of others that live with depression. I have gauges in my mind that seem out of calibration, —what I mean is my readings are not always accurate but thinking is not always an accurate thing. Neither is feeling. The reason this is strange is because I do public speaking and motivational presentations.  And here it is that I explain I speak publicly, but yet at the same time, I have my own list of public phobias.

These things intimidate me. I become angry too, but I do not hide my angry or react to it. Instead, I expose this. I expose my weakness and I allow the raw emotion to bleed through. I scream and I cry. I yell and I tell the crowd exactly what I am afraid of. I hit the subjects from a different angle, which enables a sense of emotion to the room, and that’s when the crowds begin listening.

I stood before a room of kids, petrified as ever, intimidated, and perhaps less educated than them. And I say this only from a scholastic level. Yes, they were educated. Yes, they studied. But me, I lived, and this is exactly what I was called in to discuss: Life.

The problem was not (and is not) my level of education. Instead, the problem was me and my thinking. The problem was my belief system and me wondering if I was “Good enough” for what I was doing.

I had to change my thinking. I had to change my thought process. When I thought this way, I was susceptible to the dilemmas in my head, and therefore; I reacted to them. Instead of compete and overcome, I nurtured my fears by giving into my character defects.
In some cases, I can see how this is where I sabotaged opportunities simply because I felt uncomfortable. More importantly, I sabotaged opportunities because feeling “Less than,” or like an impostor is a painful process that fuels the excuse machine, in which case, when this happens it is easy to act out or act in an unbecoming behavior. When doubt hits, behavior has a way of becoming a reaction.

This is what it means when someone just can’t get out of their own way. I understand this because this has been me, several times throughout my life, and in all honesty, I still struggle.

In the case of self vs self, there is only one winner. And since this fight is internal, I had to decide which side of me wanted to win.

Years ago, I considered the idea of going back to school but the idea was not only intimidating but it was expensive as well. In a million years, I never thought this would be me, speaking in schools and doing public presentations. And no, this doesn’t mean that I am better now or that I have improved. I still work through life and I still have my hang ups. I have my flaws and if I am not careful, it becomes easy to give in to them.

This means that I have come to the understanding that in most cases, being me is not just good enough, it’s the best thing I could possibly do.

I have been screaming to find my identity since I was a young boy. I have tried to fit in different molds. I have tried to be so many different things. I suppose, however, the hardest thing to be was the most obvious and easiest thing to do; to be me, to be myself, to be real, and to let them see exactly who I am.

I received a message from someone that refused a treatment plan that I was involved with. I met this person in an emergency room setting after a nearly tragic response to an overdose. The family was there. The emotion was intense. We talked for a while, the client and me.

“You’re a nice guy,” he said. “And thanks for coming down here, but I don’t want to sign up with anyone.”
“I just want to get out of here,” said the client.

The message was simple. The client explained that everyone came in and talked but no one really listened. “You listened,” explained the client. “You weren’t trying to be anything fancy.”

“You were just being you,” said the client.

I can see how people lose themselves to their own thought. We seldom see our value. We seldom believe within our heart that deep down, we exude something, which can be exhilarating or lifesaving to someone else.

The client is clean and sober now with an improved family life. All it took was someone to listen and interact. It wasn’t about an education or having the right answers. In this case, being me was the best choice possible.

In my life, I have people that I choose to keep close to my heart. They inspire me. They push me to be better. They motivate me. Put simply, they love me, and when they look at me; I can see this without question. And I can say I am blessed to have this in my life. In a million years, I never thought I could be this to anyone else.

Truth is anyone can be an advocate for change, health, and wellness.

All you have to do is be you, be real, listen, and care.

The rest will work itself out.



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