I Am Not Defined By My Past: My Recovery Story

Jen Sugermeyer
The author, Jen, sitting on a park bench, smiling

My addictions almost took my life.  After 23 years of struggling with substance use disorders, I was so beaten down and tired of the madness that I started to think through scenarios that would end it all.  I was afraid to live. I was afraid of death, but I wanted to die. I felt paralyzed and owned by a force that I couldn’t get my arms wrapped around. 

Finally, I found myself smacked in the face by the recovery stick. It turned my entire world flipped upside down. But understanding what recovery actually meant, and the power it gave me, did not happen overnight.

In the beginning of my recovery, and throughout my addiction, I was ashamed of who I was and the person I had become. I believed addiction was a weakness in my character.  I thought I was held back from opportunities, and I would never be good enough for certain situations.  

Recovery taught me that I couldn’t have been more wrong about all that.

As I progressed in my recovery, I realized that I am not defined by my past. Instead, I found that every negative thought I had had about myself was actually a component that made me into the incredible person I am today! I realized that I had the strength of an ox. After being torn apart for so many years, I found that nothing new could tear me down. I never knew true happiness until I bounced back from the most challenging experience of my life: My addiction. I became more than enough for every situation. I started to see myself as a valuable asset in all situations.

Before recovery, I never knew how strong I actually was, and how much I could help strengthen others through telling my story. I never knew how incredibly amazing I was, and it was inside of me the whole time—I just needed to learn to love myself. And I found that in my recovery.

If it weren’t for my experiences, horrible as they may have been at times, I don’t believe I would have discovered the strength, beauty, and positive outlook I have on life today.  My past strengthened me for the incredible journey I started when I finally entered into recovery.  

Recovery is not just the absence of an addiction. It’s recovering and rediscovering the person inside—and for me, that has been the most empowering and incredible part of this journey! It’s all about the chance to rediscover who you are. It’s about taking all of those pieces in your life that appeared to be shattered and bring them together again. It’s about making yourself shatterproof.

Jen Sugermeyer is a Shatterproof Ambassador based in Texas.