Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigator’s national conference in Orlando, FL. A few months ago I was able to share my story on a smaller scale at the Maryland training before bringing it before this group.
(If you’re new here, head over to my About page for a little more background)
I want to briefly go over the conference itself and then talk a little more broadly about my feelings surrounding the experience.
NADDI is a group of law enforcement officers, healthcare professionals, and representatives of various regulatory agencies who come together to help develop and implement strategies and solutions to the problem of prescription drug diversion. In this context, drug diversion refers to any criminal act involving a prescription drug.
I was one of two people selected to attest to the personal side of addiction by sharing my story. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I arrived on Tuesday and spent most of my time rehearsing my speech. It was one that I’ve given before, but never without bringing a written copy with me on stage. Since this was a much larger presentation, I wanted to make sure that I had it memorized and ready to go.
After checking in, I did take a quick Uber to the local mall since I don’t have many adult clothes and needed a shirt to wear. #fitnessinstructorproblems
I was scheduled to speak at 10 am, so I spent Tuesday night practicing and went to bed early so that I could wake up and do it all over again.
I headed to the convention center which was attached to the hotel, but not before I took pictures of myself in the mirror so that I had proof that sometimes I wear real clothes.
I walked into a room that looked like this:
I have spoken to large crowds before and thankfully every time I do it gets easier. This was the first time I was off script and I think I did a good job putting a face to an issue that challenges the conception that many people have of addicts and addiction in general.
Following the presentations, we were treated to an awesome lunch (don’t worry, chicken came after this salad):
Before the second half of the day started up, I grabbed a quick picture with members of the St. Mary’s County Police Dept who were responsible for arranging this amazing opportunity.
In speaking to this crowd of people invested in finding solutions to the growing prescription drug problem across the nation, I took some time to reflect on the journey I have taken these past 5 and a half years.
I grew up not knowing what my purpose was. I followed a linear progression of school, more school, and what would have been a professional career in the healthcare industry. I didn’t know why I was doing these things or what the end game was; I just knew it would allow me to survive.
Now, every time that I share my story, every time that I open more eyes to breaking the stigma of addiction, and every time that I share those messages with you here on this blog, I am reminded what my purpose is. Despite everything that I have gone through, my life feels more substantial and whole than it ever did when I was just going through the motions.
I’ve learned that adversity is a powerful thing. Some of the strongest people I know have come from backgrounds where they overcame difficult times and situations. I was constantly reminded by the comments that followed my presentation that there’s an entirely different, much darker path I could have chosen when I reached that bottom.
Adversity requires that you dig deep to find your inner strength. There are people who find it and come out on the other side and there are those that never quite go far enough. You are given two decisions when life shows up (and believe me, it will show up): you can push through and keep walking or you can buckle under the weight of those hardships.
Although the idea of adversity has a negative connotation, the act of overcoming it yields a number of positive results. Each one of us has had a difficult time at some point in our lives and I want you to take some time today to think about what those times meant for you. What did you learn? How did you grow? Talk about those times. They are what makes you who you are and there is someone somewhere who can benefit from hearing how you made it through the same situation they may be struggling with.
What you may see as weaknesses are actually your strengths. Speak to them. People are listening.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.
- What are some struggles that you have overcome?
- How has adversity made you a stronger person?