Before & After: The Experience of Recovery

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A lot of recovery survivors talk about their “befores” and “afters.” This is because the difference between substance abuse and sobriety is like night and day. While it seems obvious, there really is an incredible difference for the person who is living through these changes.

When recovery survivors experience the greatness of a sober life, everything is new again. Once this greatness is felt, the desire to keep this feeling grows stronger. They want to maintain it and keep it forever.

For the person who can’t see their way out of addiction, this freedom seems impossible, uncool, or, worse, too difficult because of the potential for failure. But this is all part of the mental game substance abuse plays with the mind. All it takes is a small crack in the armor for hope to plant a seed.

Once planted, this seed grows into a chance at reclaiming a life worth living. The best seeds are planted by those with similar stories. It’s easier to relate to someone who understands what it’s like to be at a breaking point or to feel so hopeless in the fight for sobriety. Hearing their stories helps them understand that even under the worst circumstances, someone can get help and, through that, find the strength to battle their addiction. Consider the before and after stories of these two survivors who found light in the darkness.

Keisha, a mother and the owner of her own business, started using marijuana as an adolescent and later fell into a lifestyle of drugs. Keisha is now a proud and prepared addiction treatment graduate of Indiana’s Choices Recovery.

Before: “I started using pot when I was about 12, and then it slowly escalated into more by the time I was 15 and 16. I started pretty much doing everything. … [Before starting rehab] I didn’t want to go because I didn’t know how to take off work and I didn’t want to miss out on my kid, but I knew that with what I was doing at the time I was only going to end up losing it all.”

After: I’ve gone through a lot of my traumas and a lot of things that my childhood caused, and I’ve slowly gained acceptance and understanding and I don’t carry the baggage anymore. [I’m excited to] just be happy for once instead of always trying to do something to please everyone else. I’m ready to do it for myself and do what makes [me] happy.”

Alonzo, married with children, was addicted to cocaine and alcohol. Alonzo recently graduated from an addiction treatment facility with a new outlook on life.

Before: I was clean for about three years and working pretty hard. Next thing you know, I stopped talking to my sponsor and stopped going to meetings and stopped being held accountable. Overworked, staying late. Normally at the bar is where most of the contractors would meet, so we would drink and snort cocaine and make bad decisions.”

After: Just being in contact with my emotions, understanding what to do in the situation of being bored, and understanding what to do in a situation when anxiety kicks in. How to not look over into the future, but just actually just live for that day. And by me living just for that day, it kind of sets everything right into that day, the time that I do have.”

These two fighters are shining examples of what it’s like to hit rock bottom and still find your way back to who you really are. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, just know that there is always the possibility of an “after” out there — you just have to reach for it.


Constance Ray started Recovery Well with the goal of creating a safe place for people to share how addiction has affected them, whether they are combating it themselves or watching someone they care about work to overcome it. The goal is to share stories of hope from survivors who know that the fight against addiction is one worth having, because no matter how it affects you, life can get better.