The recovery journey with someone who’s been in your shoes

The road to recovery from drugs or alcohol addiction can be a lonely one. Motivation comes and goes, and some days are better than others. Those lucky enough may have supportive friends and family who want to help. But unless they’ve been on this journey themselves, it’s difficult to truly understand what recovery is like. For someone recovering from any type of addiction, this isolating feeling can make sobriety seem far out of reach. The reality is, there are a lot of people who “get it” and have walked in those shoes. Chelsea McGill is one of them. McGill is a peer support specialist at New Directions Behavioral Health. Her job is to mentor and advocate for members who seek or are currently in treatment for substance use disorders. And what makes her even more qualified to do so is that she’s on a recovery journey of her own. Starting at 12 years old, McGill was in and out of treatment for drug and alcohol use. No matter what she tried, she couldn’t quit. “I truly believed I was going to stop every day. I can’t even count the times I said, ‘I’m changing everything tomorrow.’” What really changed everything for her was her son. She’d lost custody of him, and when her son’s father passed away at only 23 years old, she knew this time she’d do it right. “That was the turning point.” McGill says that it’s also often the case with those she supports now; a person comes to a fork in the road, and that’s the one day that changes their life. When she was finally able to achieve sobriety, she was 27. Her son was two at the time. “I’ve been in recovery for about seven years now,” said McGill. “I was doing this type of work long before I had the title. In the recovery community, I got to know and help a lot of people just by talking to them about my journey.” Now with New Directions, she meets members at meetings, coffee shops or at their doctor’s appointments. She’s just a phone call away anytime someone needs emotional support. McGill says that the difference peer support makes is the shared experience. Someone who can prove recovery is possible, even when it seems impossible. She also says that as much as family members want and try to help, sometimes they’re too close to it. “My mom tried to help me for 15 years, but I never heard a word she said.” Today McGill shares her story with others in New Directions’ peer support program and gives hope that there are better days ahead.