Originality—The Fabric of Authentic Recovery

By Ken Wells - 06/18/2021


Originality is unexplored territory. You get there by carrying a canoe—you can’t take a taxi”— Alan Alda

I read this quote in a daily reflection book called Touchstones.  I think that the essence of a recovery journey is for each person to discover their own originality. Even though there are common threads in recovery for all to connect, inevitably each person must recognize the unrepeatable miracle of the universe they are, different and unique from all others.  Sometimes treatment providers mistake the common threads that connect one addict to another by creating a cookie-cutter approach to recovery—one size fits all.  It can be tricky.  Typically, addicts don’t want to conform and want to do recovery the way they want to do it.  This puffed-up perspective has torpedoed many addicts’ treatment. Paradoxically, you need to surrender doing things your way in order to discover your path in recovery.  This being said, the end result will reveal your original self among those in recovery.  Alda’s reference to the “taxi” of being and doing like everyone else in a 12-step group won’t work.  You will ultimately need to take your own canoe in order to explore the territory of your own originality.

Addicts lose their authentic self in their disease. Craving dominates and their original self shrivels in the heat of addictive demand. Destiny becomes a one-way street to finding the next hit.

Destiny is a pathway that uncovers personal originality. However, destiny is thwarted by race, gender, sexual orientation, identity, and class. Everyone does not have the same opportunity to explore their originality.

In her book, The Politics of Trauma, Staci Haines emphasizes that the possibility and longing for change begins with exploring your wants and desires for fulfillment in life. She encourages each person to create a “declaration” statement that pinpoints what your commitment to life is about. It comes from what you want, long for, and imagine to be.  It challenges you to consider the difference you want to make in your life. It explores what is authentic about you.  It challenges who you want to impact and how you want to love and be loved.  It asks you to consider what you are made of and what is tugging at your heart as your calling.

There are many domains in life that make up your destiny. To uncover originality, you will have to explore the different areas of importance in your life.  In recovery, you are charged to identify your own authentic original self.

All this said, the destiny of many is thwarted by the domination of a few.  This must be addressed through the commitment of a collective declaration shared so that those deprived of equal possibility can pursue their originality and destiny. It would be helpful to examine the impact of communities who have courageously committed to embolden declarations that provide equal support for all to discover their destiny while preserving originality in their commonwealth.

Originality is stifled by messages from significant people during vulnerable times of life.  In recovery, addicts share messages they received from their now-deceased parents which debilitate, sabotage and defeat originality. They share the negative enervating messages received from their parents that were spoken when they were young and vulnerable. These powerful messages dominate and eventually destroy their vision of originality and keeps them mired in destructive addictive behaviors.

Here are a few considerations about finding your originality and fulfilling destiny in your life:

Destiny and originality are not discovered unless you are willing to embrace the mysterious. Survival from addiction is an uncharted, unmapped adventure. Every day presents a variety of feelings to be explored.  Trying to live like someone else will not do for you. You will need to embrace the principles and guidelines for recovery and create your own destiny. The journey within will take you to places of uncertainty, conflict, and even confusion. Only those who are willing to embrace their heart can truly descend to the depths of their life and know themselves. Fear prevents many from taking the journey from the head to the heart. Many people cannot stand the creative tension that is developed when challenged with looking at what is inside the heart. Addicts dread the tension and stress of the unknown. It drives them to act out. Only those who are willing to embrace their heart can truly descend to the depths of their life and truly discover their originality. The goal is to sit with ambiguity, doubt, and despair.  Allow these unwanted feeling experiences to do their healing—their purging work!  Falling short of this process is settling for something shallow. It will take determination and resolve to move through the uncertainty, doubt, and fear of the unknown. What happens for those who stay the course is that you begin to slowly see your originality on the horizon. It is a wonderful harmonious experience to know that your originality and destiny have come from your heart.

Stand for principle and fulfill your purpose. Dag Hammarskjold once said We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours”.  Finding originality equates prospect and purpose.  This discovery often comes through the soil of suffering and struggle. Most recovering addicts can testify to finding originality through their own suffering and struggle.  Many of us find ourselves in situations that we would have never planned or thought. Yet these circumstances become the very framework for our originality to emerge. During these times, it is important to live by your principles in order to fulfill your destiny, which will flower your originality. It’s important to not be dominated by thoughts that you won’t make it. Remain present in the here and now. In truth, it’s all you have and all you need. Originality is about living in the connection of every moment of your life.

Picture yourself creating the reality of your desired future. See yourself moving forward like a steady ocean liner plodding its way across the sea. When you experience doubt, always know that you don’t have to be afraid if you know who it is, and the energy present, that walks beside you. Charting your own path means that sometimes you will be lonely because you are pursuing originality. In one sense, it is true that no one is there because you are the only one who can create your specialness. But if you look around there are others who have gone before you and those who are present in the here and now going through the same experience. Know they are there applauding your courage to be you, prompting you that you are doing it and that you are not alone. When trouble comes, look inside not out. Everything you need to fulfill your originality is inside your heart. You are capable. With courage, stand for principle and fulfill purpose.

Let peace be the end result of your emerging originality. The result of knowing and living with your own originality is peace and calm. Originality creates the freedom to not have to measure up to someone else’s expectations. You become ok just to be you. No longer do you need to compete and compare with others.  Originality becomes a lodestar for identity and purpose. You learn to live true to your original self which yields confidence and peace.  As Thoreau suggests, you begin to advance confidently in the direction and destiny of your originality and you endeavor to live the life that you imagined.  You will meet with peace and serenity throughout your day. You don’t have to worry about how to market yourself in order to be significant.  You let go of all that and simply allow life to flow to you within the confines of your original self.

Originality is the fruit of mature recovery. This energy connects with the energy and vision of others who are discovering their own original authentic self.  As others discover and celebrate their own authenticity it will create a tipping point whereby others will collectively connect their energy with yours and provide a conglomerate healing force. Peace becomes an emerging theme when people find their original authentic self. In the presence of authentic discovery judgment, comparison and control will diminish. The peace that passes the understanding of many comes from the discovery of their own originality that lives inside their heart. It creates the knowledge that your life matters and that every life matters. Deprivation disappears in the presence of discovering your own originality.

Recent Articles

Subscribe and thrive.

Subscribe to receive the latest stories, thought leadership, and growth strategies from PCS therapists.

© Psychological Counseling Services