Finding Meaning and Purpose in Recovery

Willie Oswald, founder of Summit Malibu, talks about meaning and purpose in recovery. Check out the latest episode of Sobering Up Summit Malibu to watch.

Program coordinator, Kristin Robert, interviews Willie at the newest Summit house, Summit Vista. Willie shares his experience, strength, and hope in this chat. He also discusses how he ended up working in the field of recovery. As well as the meaning and purpose that he has found in this field.

Willie got sober in 1979 and has worked in the field of recovery since the 80s (for over 35 years). It was never an industry that he thought he would work in, but in the work of helping other addicts, he found purpose in his own life. He found something that he was able you give– his experience, strength and hope. And, through giving this he discovered that he was able to help a lot of people.

This was the foundation for Willie’s career in addiction treatment, and after various other endeavors, around a decade ago Summit was founded. It is the big heart, the passion, and the commitment that Willie has for recovery that is a huge part of Summit. That same feeling and tradition is carried down by the entire staff, and it is this that makes the Summit Team so special. The real heart of what makes Summit Malibu different is its’ people, and Willie is a huge part of that.

Check out the interview here:

Also, follow Summit Malibu on YouTube here:   Summit Malibu YouTube Channel

Our New Sobriety Web Series: SoberingUp Summit


Check out our new web series, where we will be talking about all things related to sobriety.

Sobering Up Summit,  will also give an inside look at the people who make up Summit and to learn more about what life at Summit is like. It also gives a look at the reality of sobriety, from many different angles.

We have just released our first episode, featuring our Assistant Program Coordinator and former child star, Natanya Ross.

Natanya shares stories about acting and recovery in this episode. She talks about her own experiences and her own recovery. Natanya has been a part of the Summit Team for over two years and we are excited to have her staring in the first episode of this exciting new venture.


Check back frequently as there is a lot more to come! Also, subscribe to our YouTube Channel to get updates on our new videos.

Maintaining Your Recovery after You Leave Rehab

Five ways to stay committed to your recovery after you leave a rehabilitation center include:

Create a Substance-Free Environment – One of the greatest things you can do for yourself and your peace of mind is to create a living situation that is free from drugs and alcohol. Surrounding yourself in a positive atmosphere will encourage healthy behaviors. If you live in a house that still has drug paraphernalia in it or with people who are still using drugs and alcohol, it is going to be much more difficult to sustain long-term sobriety. It is highly recommended to create a substance-free environment for your own safety and security. Encourage your friends and family members to acknowledge and support you in your efforts to protect your recovery.

Avoid Dangerous Situations – The most important thing about maintaining recovery is remaining abstinent from all mind-altering substances, which means steering clear of triggering situations that may lead to a relapse. For instance, spending alone time with a heavy-drinker or going to a bar alone might be dangerous situations that can threaten your recovery. Visiting old using friends, drug dealers, or places where you once used can all be damaging to your psyche. Limiting exposure to these types of experiences will keep you safe, especially in those early days of newfound sobriety.

Keep Up Physical Health – Maintaining a physical regiment that includes regular exercise, attention to diet, and routine medical care are all vital practices in building a strong foundation for post-rehab recovery. Achieving a balanced lifestyle will provide the nutrients, endorphins, and preventative medicine necessary to ensure a healthy lifestyle conducive to recovery. Overuse of substances, such as caffeine and sugar, can affect moods and alter your perception in early recovery.

Build A Strong Support Network – 12-step groups have proven to be the greatest network of support anyone in recovery can participate in after rehab. In addition to 12-step groups, group therapy with like-minded individuals, who are pursuing a lifestyle of recovery, can be extremely helpful in sustaining a life of recovery. Fellowships at religious groups, community centers, and athletic facilities may offer additional support for those looking to build friendships outside of the prior routine of addiction, before rehab.

Family Support – Staying accountable and feeling supported in one’s journey through recovery are crucial components in establishing and developing one’s life after drinking. Peer groups and family structures offer support in a loving, unconditional manner that encourages the addict to continue on the path of recovery, even when the road seems incredibly difficult.

Now What? Navigating the First Few Weeks Out of Rehab— the Five Resources You Need

If you are transitioning out of rehab, you may be fraught with anxiety. Now that you’re clean, you’re stronger and better equipped to manage life’s challenges. But no matter how solid your commitment to sobriety might be it, it will undoubtedly be tested as you return to “real life.” For many, the world they left behind to seek treatment is filled with the very pressures that fed their addiction in the first place. And if there’s anything you’ve learned in rehab, it’s that addiction is about far more than willpower alone.

The choices you make in the tender, pivotal weeks after rehab are crucial, often determining the success—or failure—of your recovery. Preparation is vital; awareness and steadfastness are key. Here’s what to expect—and the five resources you’ll need:

Social Support

Your first inclination may be to isolate yourself—a common feeling that’s borne out of shame in disclosing your addiction, fear of facing those you’ve harmed, or distress in navigating social situations sober. However, it’s critical that you aim for the opposite. Surrounding yourself with people who will support your sobriety and offer encouragement is crucial to lasting recovery. For many, such social support is found in 12-step and Refuge Recovery meetings, which provide compassion and connection in a nonjudgmental setting.


Treatment centers offer immediate and constant support, protection from temptation, and the comfort of structure. On the other hand, idle time often leads to an idle mind, which generates depression, anxiety, and boredom—all triggers to pick up where you left off. Creating a home routine that keeps you occupied and fulfilled will reduce the urge to use while also deepening your sense of accomplishment and self-worth.

Sound Nutrition

Substance abuse doesn’t just wreak havoc on your relationships and self-esteem: it takes a serious toll on your physical well-being, leaving many malnourished. Nutrition plays an enormous role in recovery, repairing damaged organs and tissues while stabilizing brain chemistry. Commit to a diet that’s protein-rich and packed with antioxidants, monitor your sugar intake, and be judicious with caffeine—it can create mood swings that may serve as a catalyst for relapse.


Self-care is often neglected—if not abandoned entirely—when you’re in the throes of addiction. Sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, regular exercise, even personal grooming are often less important than the next fix. Enduring recovery and restored self-confidence rely on self-care. Consider these basics the primary components of your daily routine.

Coping Strategies

One of the biggest obstacles people encounter in recovery is coping with stress without turning to alcohol or drugs for relief. Nurturing the coping skills you were taught in rehab will dramatically impact your recovery. Whether it’s taking a brisk walk when angry, reaching out to a loved one when lonely, or delegating when overburdened, discover what works for you and nourish it. It may seem difficult to believe, but something as simple as taking a hot bath when anxious may be the small grace that saves you from a relapse—and perhaps your life.

Stress Management Through Creative Expression

The pressure that comes with the ups and downs of everyday life can be difficult to manage, especially when someone is accustomed to suppressing or avoiding it with drugs and alcohol. The ability to relieve stress in a healthy manner is an important component of long-term recovery.

Purpose and Meaning

Creative expression does not require specialized skills or formal training. It is a personal process, a cathartic method that does not have to follow guidelines or be shared with anyone else. When you pour all of your energy into a creative outlet, there is no more room for self-pity, anger or fear. You are essentially getting out of your own way by disrupting negative thought patterns that lead to stress and anxiety.

Self-expression is also an avenue to self-discovery and healing. Creating something personal can lead to a sense of fulfillment that does not exist when someone is consuming substances or otherwise avoiding reality.

Types of Creative Expression

Creativity comes in many forms, all of which can lead to the same goal: relieving stress and finding peace.

Art: Some people create visual images or manipulate line and color to express their emotions, while others do it simply for the process. For someone who is intimidated by the thought of having to draw or paint something, coloring pages can produce the same effect.

Writing: Whether through poetry, prose or journaling, writing is a way to get feelings out and tell a story, whether or not anyone is meant to read it. Writing letters to someone without sending them, is another way to find peace with what you are holding inside.

Music: Both creating and listening to music have the power to move the senses and bring relief. Making music can be as simple as using household items as drums or singing along to an uplifting song.

Movement: Dancing and other active methods of expression help clear the mind and are beneficial for physical health. Dancing for the purpose of stress relief does not require skill, and it does not have to follow a certain form.

Things to Consider

The types of creative expression you decide to use is your personal choice. If nothing from the list above seems appealing, explore other options. Also, engaging in the creative process does not have to be a daily activity, but it is beneficial to practice it on a often. Making it a habit helps to make life as a whole more manageable and less stressful. This habit will promote healthy leisure and become a major source of stress relief.

Every Day is a New Beginning: How to Make it Matter

We cannot erase what we have done or what has happened to us in the past, but holding on to guilt and resentment will hinder emotional and spiritual growth. A negative outlook can lead to anger, hopelessness and eventual relapse.

Instead, approaching each day as a new beginning and a chance to make better choices can foster hope and lead to positive action. Thankfully, there are steps that people can take to consistently incorporate this outlook into their lives.

Develop a Positive Attitude

Sometimes being positive takes work, especially after going through a stressful experience. Try taking an active approach:

  • Meditate or pray. Ask for guidance from a higher power.
  • Think about what makes you happy. Write a gratitude list.
  • Reach out to a friend or other support.
  • Use helpful self-talk. Repeat mantras and affirmations.
  • Remember that you are the only person who can control your thoughts and actions.

Follow a Morning Routine

Having a healthy morning routine and practicing the steps until they become habit will help you start your day off right with minimal conscious effort:

  • Get up when your alarm goes off. Hitting the snooze button will actually make you less productive.
  • Eat a balanced breakfast.
  • Do a mentally stimulating activity, such as working on a crossword puzzle or reading a daily meditation.
  • Get dressed in clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good.
  • Praise yourself for getting through your routine with a positive attitude.

Reflect at the End of the Day

After all of your responsibilities are met and you are winding down, do some honest self-reflection. Take time to assess your thoughts and actions from the day.

It might help to use a set of questions:

  • Did I help anyone today?
  • Did I cause harm to myself or anyone else?
  • What did I do well?
  • What do I need to work on?
  • What were my lessons today?

Make a Plan

Using the information you gathered from your reflections to set an intention and create a plan for the next day. Make a goal and identify steps that you can take toward reaching it. Even if it is not met, having a goal can help you wake up with a sense of purpose the next morning.

Lastly, remember that everyone makes mistakes, and feelings get hurt. The trick to moving on is to find a lesson and make an effort to avoid repeating what happened. Sometimes it takes conscious effort to be positive; having a set of techniques to overcome pessimism and foster growth will make the process a little easier. Incorporate the techniques above and any that you already use to start each day fresh and focus on making progress.

Getting Back to Balance in Early Addiction Recovery

People tend to neglect themselves and their responsibilities during active addiction. Cleanliness becomes less of a priority, bills go unpaid, and relationships are neglected. It is unrealistic to think that all of these issues can be addressed and repaired as soon as someone gets clean.

In early recovery, the primary focus should be on putting down the alcohol or other drugs and staying clean throughout each day. This is a process that takes time and effort. Attending to daily responsibilities comes next.

Finding Balance in Early Addiction Recovery

One of the benefits of long-term recovery is that people learn to have fun and connect with others. Over time, lives become full. Factor in employment, relationships, children and other responsibilities, and days can get busy.

Finding a perfect harmony between responsibilities, leisure and active recovery is unrealistic. Work deadlines and family emergencies may temporarily take precedence over other aspects of a routine; however, finding a measure of balance is possible if you have a foundation that allows you to meet priorities without dropping other responsibilities.

Methods to Maintain Recovery

Even when other situations need your full attention, it is possible to keep recovery present on a daily basis. Here are some techniques to keep recovery at the forefront while also attending to other responsibilities:

  1. Start each morning with a positive attitude. Remember that you have made it this far and will continue moving forward as long as you use the skills you gained in recovery.
  2. Make time for prayer and/or meditation in the mornings and at night. This can be as simple as reading a daily meditation or asking a higher power for guidance.
  3. Review your thoughts and actions at the end of each day. Ask yourself what you did well and what you need to work on. Make a personal commitment to better yourself.
  4. Attend 12-step meetings, Refuge Recovery, SMART meetings, or another support group on a regular basis. Connect with your support network in person or on the phone if you cannot get to a meeting.
  5. If you feel pessimistic or find yourself wanting to give up, write a gratitude list. This can help you remember what you have gained in recovery and what you are working toward.

Remember to keep it simple in the beginning. Focus on staying clean and learning how to live without the use of substances or replacement behaviors. As this becomes a natural process, people find their lives becoming full with activities, relationships and responsibilities. Life can become overwhelming, but with a solid foundation and daily attention to recovery, it is possible to meet responsibilities and stay clean throughout a lifetime.

The Rollercoaster of Emotions in Early Addiction Recovery

Early Recovery is an Emotional Rollercoaster

While ups and downs in life are expected, the rollercoaster of emotions that come with alcohol and drug rehabilitation can be surprising and overwhelming to addicts. This point is particularly true in the early part of recovery when an addict typically feels extreme highs and lows.

Change as a Contributing Factor

Entering rehab is a huge step for a person struggling with an addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs. It is a time abundant with changes, including ending relationships with “friends” who still drink or use drugs, making new sober friends, and finding activities to fill the void of time no longer spent using or drinking. With so many changes, it makes sense that there are many emotions felt, including sadness, fear, anger, and withdrawal.

Getting Back in Touch with Emotions

Often, addicts use drugs or alcohols to numb their feelings; the substances provide a way to escape emotions they do not want to deal with, such as guilt or shame. When they later decide to seek treatment, they must abstain from these substances and, therefore, start to feel their emotions again. After feeling numb for what is typically many years, a person in rehab often feels overcome with the array of emotions.

Other Mental Health Problems

An undiagnosed mental health issue may account for emotional highs and lows in early rehab. A good treatment program involves an initial mental health assessment to determine if the person in drug or alcohol rehab has a co-existing disorder, such as depression. A recovery center can provide a person in this situation with appropriate medical attention.

Sleep and Nutritional Issues

Emotions may also be rampant if the person in recovery does not get enough sleep or enters rehab with nutritional deficits. While these issues may be avoidable while on drugs or drinking, they are more likely to come to light and be a source of emotional discomfort during rehabilitation.

Getting onto Stable Ground

Many addicts experience huge emotional highs and lows during substance abuse rehab, particularly early on when there are many issues to address. To get off the roller coaster and onto more stable ground where the person in recovery begins to feel in control of their life again is the goal. Entering a rehab facility provides the individual with the opportunity to learn how to cope instead of turning to drugs or alcohol.

It Takes a Village: Recovery in a Therapeutic Community

The proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” arose from the idea that children are more likely to become healthy, well-adjusted adults when they have the support of their whole community. We, as humans, thrive with connections to society.

How Does This Relate to Recovery?

Recovering addicts are more successful when they have support from a therapeutic community. The community can be comprised of treatment providers or other recovering addicts. This is one reason that 12-step fellowships are highly recommended, and why they continue to grow worldwide.

What Is a Therapeutic Community?

Therapeutic Communities used to refer to long-term residential treatment centers, in which clients lived together along with therapists and supportive staff. Today the term is used more loosely and can refer to rehabs, intensive outpatient programs, day programs, recovery houses and also 12-step fellowships.

The Benefits of Recovering in a Community

By definition, a therapeutic community should take a group-based approach; recovery is more successful when people work together to support one another.

In a residential setting, resources and assistance are available around the clock. Staff is present at all times to facilitate groups and make sure that the atmosphere is conducive to recovery. Inpatient settings also allow people to separate from the triggers in their natural environments.

Outpatient settings also provide support from trained staff, but this is limited to certain times of the day. Group and individual therapy sessions allow people in early recovery to learn coping skills and develop methods to stay clean in their environment.

12-step programs are comprised solely of recovering addicts, who share their experience and strength to help fellow addicts. The programs follow a structure and have a specific series of steps that empower addicts to help themselves.

How to Find the Support You Need

When you are new to recovery, it’s a good idea to observe what is going on around you. Look for people who are committed to their recovery. Find supportive people in the beginning and continue to develop those relationships as time goes on. Talking to others honestly about how you feel and asking for help when you need it are key parts of maintaining long-term recovery.

In treatment programs, utilize the staff’s knowledge and identify resources in your community. If you participate in a 12-step program, go to meetings regularly, find a sponsor and start working steps. Whatever the setting, a therapeutic community offers a recovering addict a natural support network. No one has to deal with life in isolation.

Why Learning to Set Clear Boundaries is Essential to Your Recovery

Boundary setting is vital for the addict to do in recovery. Setting boundaries is the basis for a balanced life with healthy relationships, so learning this skill is part of a life of sobriety. The skill can help an addict through stressful times when risks of relapse typically increase.

Boundaries and Addicts

Often addicts do not have healthy boundaries. They may push away people who care and instead seek the company of fellow addicts they barely know who encourage their addiction. But, while boundaries have been blurred by addiction, it is still possible to set clear boundaries again.

When healthy boundaries are rebuilt, a strong structure is in place for recovery. The person in rehab can then focus on goals for himself or herself, rather than wanting to please others, and practice self-exploration, which includes taking time to learn coping techniques for difficult situations that don’t require reaching for drugs or alcohol.

Reconnecting with Friends

Create firm boundaries with people who support recovery, whether they be family members, friends, church members, or others. By building relationships with a supportive network again, the path to recovery develops more definition and is easier to follow. Boundaries in place with these people help to protect a recovering addict’s morals and values, as well as provide emotional stability and put this individual in a place to take responsibility for future behaviors.

About Fellow Users

Friends who are substance abuse users are tricky ones when it comes to setting boundaries. The boundaries must be clear so that the person in recovery is not in a tempting environment to return to drugs or alcohol. Unhealthy emotional boundaries can cause a spiral that leads to connecting with inappropriate friends and becoming emotionally attached to them; these supposed friendships are likely to hurt recovery success because they are disrespectful and all-consuming. In other words, there are no clear boundaries.

The difficult part about setting clear boundaries with fellow users is that they will likely feel betrayed and angry at the person seeking recovery. Creating boundaries in this case might be easier to do with the help of a therapist or mentor. Healthy boundaries could include only meeting these friends during daylight hours or in places that do not trigger cravings.

Testing the Boundaries

Once boundaries are set, they will likely be put to the test. But by choosing not to let people violate the set boundaries, recovering drug addicts or alcoholics can start to reclaim control of their lives, practice self-care, and not blame others for their issues.