Leading a Meaningful Life in Recovery

In this article, I will share some of my personal experiences with recovery immersion, trauma resolution, and creative expression as a way of leading a meaningful life. At the end of the article I will outline four clear steps you can take and support others to take creating your unique version of a meaningful life in recovery.

Recovery Immersion

With an ongoing commitment to being a life-long learner and to better serve my leadership development and coaching clients, in 2019, I chose to dive into the Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA) 12-step program. I resonated immediately with the 14 traits of the Laundry List. I started to see how the dysfunctional traits seemed to show up everywhere. I started wondering if anyone who has a family has experienced some sort of dysfunctional behavior and communication patterns. With a commitment to leadership development in organizations, I also started to wonder, what is the impact of these traits in the work place. Sure enough, there is a Workplace Laundry List clearly revealing 24 traits in organizations. No wonder why people are complaining about their experiences working in large organizations. Underneath all the productivity lies hidden behavior and communication patterns that show up in employee interactions and leadership.

I immediately purchased the ACA literature and devoured the readings, attended local and phone meetings, shared my personal experiences with fellow ACA travelers and others, and I am working the I learned I don’t have to do life on my own, I have access to a higher power and to other people committed to upgrading their behavior. I learned by looking at how the 14-traits showed up and developed in my life and continued to persist hidden in my life in many of my interactions. I felt the power of letting go and forgiveness in my body as I noticed a tightness in my shoulders release. I learned how to respond rather than only react. I’m learning how to be responsible for my actions and how to make amends where I unconsciously may have harmed others. I started experiencing what the ACA Solutions stated: “This is a spiritual program based on action coming from love.” I also found the ACA Promises come to fruition with two of my favorites being: “4. Our ability to share intimacy will grow inside us.” and “9. Healthy boundaries and limits will become easier for us to set.” I began to learn how I can practice new healthy behaviors and be of greater service to my clients and everyone in my life in community.

The more I am in service with and to others the less I am in my head and the more aligned I am in my higher self.

Trauma Resolution and Community Based Healing

As I reflect back on 2019, I also see the many gifts I’ve learned serving on the leadership team for the intensive weekend for men with addiction in recovery founded by Dr. Bob Beare called held in Smithville, Texas at

I could relate to the common patterns These unreleased emotions show up as lingering pain and resurface when triggered when trauma wound patterns are reignited and replayed in relationships at home, in community, and in the workplace.

No matter where I go there I am.

Many of the participants arrived with their heads down expressing deep shame and guilt and some with their heads high expressing a strong and aggressive pride or machismo. Commonly, these heads down and heads up are covering up years of unexpressed grief and sadness or unreleased anger. Through support from the Brave Heart Experience leadership team, the participants are provided with a safe container to look, perhaps, for the first time in the Deep Waters in a safe way to touch a part of them they have repressed, hid, or denied that their brilliant inner child used to survive. Through the guided processes, the men go through an experiential heroes journey learning about the roots of trauma and come out often standing tall with eyes lit up stating a sense of freedom, capacity to love and to be love, a lightness and joy, and an excitement for life and to dive even deeper in their life of recovery.

Leadership is the product of our interactions

After completing the Brave Heart Experience, the participants are invited to one of the best leadership trainings as staff on future Brave Heart Experience weekends. These men with newfound freedom are now welcomed as peers in this model of community-based healing. The men humbly serve with a desire for the next group of participants to get their own sense of freedom and joy they discovered going through the process. The staff not only serve by supporting the Brave Heart Experience processes, but they also have structured time to deepen their work and to find releases in other areas of their life supporting them to serve the participants to go wherever they choose to go. The men who choose to staff the Brave Heart Experience often express a sense of gratitude, peace, joy, and a continued excitement to live a life of recovery in community.

I found myself in awe during one of the 10 Brave Heart Experiences I served on when Dr. Bob Beare supported me to take a deeper look at one of my patterns.

Bob: “Ryan, I notice when I ask you a question, you look up and to the left and when you do that, I feel a sense of being disconnected from you and I feel sad. Do you notice that?”

Me: Looking up and to the left, I say, “Wow, I just did it!”

Shortly after, I dove deep into a process that led me to look at an old hidden wound. I found myself lying on the floor crying deeply years of tears I had never released. I heard sounds coming from me I had never heard my body make.

At one point the wailing stopped and I became still and rose curiously. I felt light and a sense of knowing me in my body in a new way distinct from others. I rediscovered a new healthy boundary. I committed at that moment to look down intentionally in my body for the truth rather than to look up and to the left for some theory in the clouds. After that experience, I realized the most grounded and present I’ve felt in my life is when meditating, looking at horizon ocean sunsets, and sitting around a firepit. The pattern in all three of these experiences is my eyes were looking down and I was grounded in my body.

The more I accept in me, the more I can accept in you and everyone else.

Creative Expression the Value of Coaching in Recovery

How can we support people in recovery to create a healthy life aligned with their higher power?

The International Coach Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Coaching is half awareness and half action focused on the goals and vision of the client. With confidentiality the coach listens to the client as they reveal hidden blocks, creating openings to new actions and possibilities, leading to creating a life by design, and creating new results based on new desirable behavior patterns aligned with their unfolding vision.

One of my creative expressions is leadership and life coaching. As a result of doing my work in recovery immersion and trauma resolution, a referred leadership coaching client showed up who supports a unique community of residents with traumas and addictions.

I noticed the greater depth I was able to go to with this client as well as more presence allowing me to better serve this client and indirectly this unique community.

This client reported a greater awareness of the importance of self-care and self-love which contributed to being more present, to having an increased sense of compassion and grace, to modeling new leadership behaviors, and to better serving the community.

“Leaders who model vulnerability and expose their emotions vs. an over-emphasis on regulation create an environment where . . . differences can be accepted and even appreciated” (Beare, 2016, p. 11).

Difference is what we have in common.

Four Steps to Creating a Meaningful Life in Recovery

Step 1

Do the deep work of Recovery Immersion through working a 12-step program.

Step 2

Go through an intensive program like the Brave Heart Experience to focus on relapse prevention through Trauma Resolution.

Step 3

Get a coach to focus on your unique Creative Expression and to create a meaningful life in recovery.

Step 4

Continue to work the 12-step program with a sponsor and become a sponsor in your 12-step program, continue to release old trauma patterns in a safe community-based healing environment with the support of a counselor, continue to create a meaningful life in recovery with the support of a coach.

Ryan J. Schoenbeck, Ph.D. can be contacted through his website at https://GenerosityLeadership.com

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