A common complaint that people have when they first start writing a recovery story is that they do not know how to begin. It’s helpful to follow a structure. A well-crafted recovery story can be written using these questions as a framework.
- What were some of the early indications that you were beginning to have difficulties?
- Describe yourself and your situation when you were at your worst.
- What helped you move from where you were to where you are now?
- How did you accomplish this? What did you do? What did others do to help you?
- What have you had to overcome to get where you are today?
- What have you learned about yourself and your recovery?
- What are some of the strengths you have developed and used?
- What types of supports have you developed and used?
- What are some of the things you do to remain on your path to wellness and recovery?
Facilitating the Story Creation with a Client
Here are some guidelines or considerations for the peer specialists who are assisting the person they are serving in sharing lived experience.
- Start with listening. Encourage the client to share experiences and feelings.
- Ask him or her to avoid dramatizing or romanticizing their suffering or distress in order to give the positive ending more impact.
- Share your personal recovery path as a possibility for the peer, not a mandate.
- Instill hope. Help the client to see that recovery is within their reach.
- Be sensitive to cultural issues. Avoid using stereotypes or presuming your experience will be universally understood. When necessary, explain how you understood or interpreted challenges that you encountered.
- Seek connection, not admiration.
- Be sensitive to the client’s capacity to take in and cope with details in the story. Adjust to the situation.
- Be affirming. Express confidence that the client can succeed in the same way that you have.
- Use discretion. In sharing your own recovery experience, be careful not to share information about other people who may have shared your recovery journey.
- Ask yourself, is the recovery story you are relating in your past or from the past? Ideally, your recovery story should include what is going well in your current life.
- Are the details you are sharing relevant and relatable to the individual(s)? Are you are helping?
- Are the brief snippets you are sharing about your personal recovery story focused on tragedy or transformation? The positive, transformative experiences you have had should have a key place in your recovery story.
- Make your story a resource that your client can use as they need to, not a lesson that they must learn.
Some people take longer than others to write their story, but when it is finished the individual will understand themselves much better. It will also give them a real sense of closure on issues from the past that once troubled them. Hopefully, having a better understanding about the past will make it easier for them to choose a direction in the future.