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Beyond the Realm of Comfort

Beyond the Realm of Comfort

During the first few semesters of my college career, I distracted myself from my responsibilities as a daughter, student, and friend. I focused instead on anything that required less mental and emotional investment and allowed me to get out of my own skin, even if only for a couple of hours at a time. Several of my classes piqued my attention, but not as significantly as did living just a couple of miles from the Old Port bar scene. I skated by as a freshman and sophomore, attending classes only when I felt like it and withdrawing from several once I realized I could not both successfully complete a class and spend my weekends the way I wanted.

Prior to enrolling at the University of Southern Maine, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent vigorous treatment. My tendencies to drink to excess and live on my periphery of family life were completely compounded by my anxiety around her sickness. Over the course of these preliminary semesters, my GPA was severely damaged. In the spring of 2013, I studied abroad in Barcelona and came into recovery from substance use while I was there. I can attribute nearly all of my growth since then as a daughter, student, friend, and community member to the clarity that has come with long-term recovery.

“I decided that it was worth stepping out of the stigma-filled shadows right off the bat.”

It has not been a one-woman journey. Mentors, teachers, classmates, and friends have guided me and each of them have shared with me the amazement, joy, pain, and growth that they have felt over the course of their own lives journeys. Not all of them are in recovery, but when we meet each other with open hearts, the barriers of stigma crumble and we connect in amazing ways. Some of the most satisfying growth that I have seen in myself in the past couple of years has been in moments full of vulnerability and openness, and almost always, fear. At first it was scary to finally feel my heart peeking open to the world.

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Having now been on this journey for nearly three years, I am still confronted with opportunities to give in to old, comfortable, destructive patterns. I am – and hopefully always will be – a work in progress. This means that I do not always reach for new and healthy patterns. However, in the times that I do find the courage to step into unknown territory, I am never let down. There is an intense and beautiful freedom that comes with the willingness to move forward, to step even one foot beyond the realm of comfort. One of these steps into the unknown came when I decided to apply to law school. I spent hours, days, weeks poring over my personal statement and struggled with whether or not to disclose one of the most important aspects of my life: recovery. After considering my once abominable GPA (which, surprise surprise, transformed into a solid one once I entered recovery), I decided that it was worth stepping out of the stigma-filled shadows right off the bat. The admissions committee and many of my classmates have been respectful and supportive of the idea of recovery in a heartfelt way. I have found my eyes brimming with tears during multiple classes. Some days, they creep up out of overwhelming stress and anxiety – out of “My brain is at maximum capacity. How am I supposed to stay focused and then read MORE?” Other days, my emotions bubble up when we are assigned readings that include passages like this one, an excerpt from an interview with author/lawyer Scott Turow:

 

“If there is such a thing a happiness, then one of its measures seems to arise from being able to tell yourself that you tried hard to do what mattered to you, that you refused to yield to the remarkably random forces that govern our lives, and instead controlled what you could – your own beliefs and the meaning they provide to your actions … Remember who you are today (or perhaps wanted to be in those long-ago yesterdays). Write your stories. And if you remain loyal to yourself, you are likely to judge that tale a fuller and happier one.”

— Scott Turow

 

This path has drawn me into my studies in a way I had never felt prior to being in recovery. I have found that my personal and professional interests are now significantly intertwined: I aim to build a career in the social justice community, at this point specifically focusing on youth struggling with substances. I am fascinated with the internal and external dynamics that lead some youth, myself included, down this rocky path. Moreover, it only feels right to use my experience to provide guidance – ideally legal and long-lasting guidance – to as many young people as I am able. Recovery has made all of these aspirations true possibilities.


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Bryn Gallagher
Blog Contributor

Life of Purpose Treatment
3848 FAU Boulevard, Suite 100
Boca Raton, FL 33431
Admissions: 1.888.PURPOSE

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