The Big Picture
Sharing your experience and learned knowledge is essential to each Peer Individual for facilitating:
- Role modeling
- Self Advocacy
- Recovery potential for recovering Peers
Experiential Knowledge and the ability to effectively relate our experiences is one of the distinguishing features of the Peer based movement. Telling your story helps adult peers discover and develop their own strengths and resiliencies while it inspires and gives them hope when confronted by the challenges of their own struggles. Your personal narrative is also instrumental in helping parents understand the emotional and personal issues that their child under 17 may be experiencing. Finally, it serves as a way to help the community understand what their Peer Individuals are going through in a way that fosters ambassadorship rather than fear, stigma and antagonism.
What we Do
We will need to garner some practical skills and experience in order to present our narrative effectively. To do so we will need to:
- Evaluate our own message
- Assess the value of what we choose to include
- Learn how to tell a Recovery Story
- Get practice in telling our personal narrative
- Get advice and feedback about it from our Peers.
Our Journey of Achievement
Anyone who has confronted the challenges of recovery and earned a record of maintenance level success has championed the Hero’s Journey well. This is something of great and unique value that represents an opportunity to inspire hope in others and for building trustworthy relationships.
On the other hand there is still a fair degree of stigma both felt and directed towards those in recovery from substance use and mental health issues, so the decision to share about this is not a trivial issue. That is why learning which parts to share and how they might be received is an important part of the process.
Opportunities to relate do seem to come up frequently in today’s world but only specific parts of our own journey are likely to be appropriate for sharing. Since our main objective is to help others to move toward the goal of their own recovery, it is not just about ‘coming out’. We really want to project a positive self-image about recovery.
The main focus on your sharing should be to help others with their own personal:
- Resiliency Self Advocacy
The biggest mistake we make when we share is to focus too much on ourselves. Try to keep in mind that it is really about them. If you tell a horror story, or dwell on negatives, etc., you are likely to send the wrong message. Being overzealous about sharing right away can be a draw-back too. Try to let the other person guide the conversation and attune how much you share to what questions they are asking. As the trust around the relationship grows, people will ask for more personal information.
Here are some helpful tips when it comes to sharing:
- Use clear, simple language
- Try not to digress
- Keep the focus on them and less about you
- Focus more on what has helped you in recovery
- Focus less on the hardships and ‘gory details’
- Add just enough about the struggles to let people get an idea of what you’ve experienced
- Bolster your message with inspirational thoughts and a message of hope whenever possible
- After each brief description of adversity, follow up with instances of successful recovery and the promise of hope for better health and wellbeing.
Ambassador of Hope and Recovery
Any time you tell your story of recovery or share your personal journey, the spotlight will fall upon you. People exhibit a great curiosity in the affairs of others and you can easily affect unwarranted scrutiny from the community and at work. Be aware that stigma is real and maintain selectivity about what and where you share as well as with whom.
You will be representing not only yourself but all people affected by substance use and mental health challenges. You are championing the Peer Recovery cause and must learn to be skilled and diplomatic in your approach.
What to Include
What elements of your experience should you include? Generally, the most fruitful aspects are as follows:
- Courage, tenacity, and perseverance
- Self Advocacy
- Better Life (both now and for the future)