08/08/2016 02:27 EDT | Updated 08/08/2016 02:59 EDT

If Nothing Ever Changed, There Would Be No Butterflies

Viktor_Gladkov via Getty Images
Beautiful butterfly sitting on the girl hand

I love butterflies.

For me, aside from their incredible beauty, butterflies signify the extraordinary growth that all living things -- including humans -- are able to achieve when we make that choice.

Think about it: a butterfly starts out as a cumbersome caterpillar, crawling slowly along the ground, being stepped on, dissected in biology classes, and then discarded. It is easy to discount the caterpillar.

Yet caterpillars somehow instinctively know that if they don't make a huge change, they will die. As well, if they stay in their self-made cocoons for too long, they will perish; but if they try to emerge too soon, they won't be strong enough to succeed as a fragile butterfly. Our gentle caterpillars seem to know exactly what to do to preserve their self-care and become the very best they can possibly be -- beautiful butterflies -- spreading their wings and flying in whatever direction they please, giving joy to those who behold them.

How can we not learn a lot from butterflies?

My own butterfly moment

When I reached the bottom with my own addiction to pot and prescription drugs almost 30 years ago, I too realized that I had to change my life or I would die -- either by my own hand or inadvertently from an accidental overdose. I knew that I didn't really want to die, but that I couldn't go on living the way I was at that point. I had grown quite tired of being a caterpillar, though I had no idea how to become a butterfly.

My journey of recovery from addiction truly began when I allowed myself to be ready to reach out for help. I remember how difficult that was for me, and I also remember the amazing people who cared enough to assist me. They must have sensed how ready I was to come out of my own self-imposed prison and try something new.

This process has taken years of choosing to remain abstinent from all mind-altering substances, as well as making the commitment to do my inner work so I could finally understand what my addiction was really about. Some days, life felt very bleak and it seemed easier to give up and give in. But somehow that wasn't an option for me. I so deeply wanted a different life -- and I was willing to do whatever was necessary in order to get it.

Our recovery can help others

It is exactly because I have experienced crushing defeat in my life, and have humbled myself enough to reach out for the help I needed, that I know how scary it can be for my clients -- either those who are still addicted or their loved ones -- to make that first phone call or send that first email to me. I often hear that they chose to contact me because of how authentically I present myself on my website -- they know that I know -- and that matters to them. When they walk through the door of my office, I understand the courage it takes for them to be emotionally vulnerable with me in the session. I respect that courage and often let them know that.

I sometimes speak from the benefit of my experience with both addiction and recovery -- and they listen because they know that I understand their pain. What I know today is that even when the details of our stories are different, the feelings are the same -- the shame, the remorse, the despair, the hopelessness -- and what they most need is someone to tell them that recovery really is possible. I absolutely know that recovery is possible -- so I continue to tell them that, one session at a time.

If anyone had told me 30 years ago that I would be able to use my 'caterpillar pain' to help someone else become a butterfly, I would have thought they were crazy. But it's kind of like living with a baby or a puppy -- we don't notice their growth because we see them every day. Sometimes we need to hear it from others and then suddenly -- as if by magic -- we see it for ourselves.

My gratitude speaks...

I didn't know I had become a butterfly until a lot later, when other people started to notice my changes. I'm thankful they were able to do that for me because now I can act as a mirror for my clients in the same way, always striving to find something positive or self-caring they have done that week to encourage them to keep going on their sacred journeys.

Today I am very grateful for some of the incredibly painful struggles I've gone through -- with both addiction and with the chronic illness of Crohn's Disease. I believe that my hardships and my ability to withstand and overcome them is precisely what has given me the empathy, compassion, and patience to be there 100% with my clients. Life is not without problems for me today and, being imperfectly human, there are still some days when I go through growth periods that make my hair stand on end. But as long as I keep doing my inner work at those times, I know I will continue to be emotionally, and spiritually, strong.

I don't claim to know anyone else's spiritual journey or why people need to go through whatever they are experiencing, so I don't try to tell others what I think they 'should' do -- even when they ask me! But because we are all so much more similar than we are different, I believe in everyone's power to heal and grow in their own ways, should they choose that path.

I believe in every person's butterfly potential because I know, without question, that if I could become a butterfly from where I was at my lowest point, anybody can!

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