Profiles in Recovery

Cara Johnson

Recovery gave Johnson a second chance at college. She’s no longer high on pills, missing classes or passing out on campus. And she found purpose working as an intern for a non-profit, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), which helps people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.

“I find healthier ways to cope and practice immense amounts of self-care,” Johnson says of her recovery. “For me, this means counseling, writing, exercising, and taking photographs of anything and everything.”

Day Job:
Full-time student; part-time campus photojournalist.

At my worst, I was:
Popping nearly an entire bottle of pills every couple of days, sleeping for days at a time, avoiding anyone and everyone, and nearly hopeless. Nothing else existed but that little orange bottle and me. I still remember waking up, never knowing what day it was.

What worked for me:
Counseling was a Godsend to me. I owe most of my recovery to my counselor, and a good portion to the friends and family who knew about my struggles and stuck by my side. They helped me find ways to recover without rehab, and without completely failing my first year of college.

On finding purpose:
We all have purpose. It wasn’t until my mind and body were clean that I found mine. Inspire others through your story. Remain courageous. Speak out. Fight the urges. Fight the vices. Practice self-care. Your purpose is in the silence between the in and the out breath. Do not be discouraged. It will come.

Advice to my younger self:
Keep your head up, keep fighting. This moment will pass. The pain will pass. The anxieties that rest in your heart will pass as quickly as they come. You are enough, your friends and family are enough. Hold fast.

Rules I live by:
If I am struggling, I speak up. I know that I cannot get through these things alone. We need other people in this life, to walk through the difficult days.

On my bucket list:
I want to travel the world as a photojournalist, no fear of the future, while simultaneously completing a collection of my own poetry to be published in the form it deserves.

Best advice for newbies:
Don’t give up. It is so worth it. Remember that there are so many rooting for you, and so many who want to see you live brightly in the brilliant life you deserve.

What I learned about myself:
I’m a fighter. I can conquer anything, and I have the choice to do so. I have the choice to choose my future over my past, and to live to be the woman I have always wanted and deserved to be.

Proudest moment:
I spent my 1 year sobriety date in a small beach town in Florida, spreading hope and help, working for an organization called To Write Love on Her Arms . . . A blog of my story was published on the TWLOHA webpage. I was proud to be a part of something bigger in my sobriety, and that I could use my story to help others.

Thoughts on relapse:
It’s okay to misstep, to make a mistake. Own that mistake. Call it yours, and send it away. You are not defined by it. It cannot keep you from moving forward.

There is still hope. It won’t be easy. It will hurt, you will take wrong turns. Just remember to keep your head towards the sky, and keep in mind what you’re fighting for.

Shed the Stigma:
If you’re a person in long-term recovery who wants to share your insights, please contact us at [email protected].