Profiles in Recovery

John Donovan

U.S. Army Major John Donovan is passionate about his country – with nearly three decades of military service, including deployments in Bosnia and Iraq. He’s equally passionate about his recovery from alcohol addiction.

Growing up in an alcoholic family, Donovan lost several loved ones to the disease, then became a heavy drinker himself. He found sobriety during a moment of clarity in his youth.

“I was dying and I saw my life flash before my eyes and every scene was filled with despair, hopelessness and pain,” he says. “And then this simple, but profound thought permeated the semi-comatose state I was in and the thought was this: “maybe if I stop drinking my life would be less complicated”.

Donovan frequently speaks to military families about recovery, and is the founder of the nonprofit Recovery Community Network (RCN) in Central Minnesota.

Day Job:
Military Officer

What I lost to addiction:
In addition to my self-worth, self-esteem, and self-respect, I have lost several family members to the disease of addiction.

What worked for me:
After several attempts to get sober, I finally fell to my knees and in utter despair I cried out, “Dear God please help me because I can’t do this anymore.”  And like a fever dissipating, I felt the obsession and craving leave me.  I’ve been sober ever since that day.

Rules I live by:
LDRSHIP:  Loyalty, Duty, Responsibility, Service, Honesty, Integrity, and Prayer.

Best advice for newbies:
Put as much energy into your sobriety as you did your addiction.

I asked my sponsor how many meetings a week I should go to.  He replied by asking how many days a week I partied.  I said I partied every day.  He replied, “Well there’s your answer.”  So for my first 365 days of sobriety, I went to 365 meetings.

On my bucket list:
I want to write a book on my experiences in sobriety.  I’m and avid golfer, but I have never had a hole-in-one.  And I want to travel to Australia and New Zealand

Favorite quote:
“The price of freedom is constant vigilance” ~ Thomas Jefferson

On changing the stigma:
With sobriety comes freedom and with freedom comes responsibility.  All it takes for ignorance about addiction to persist is for people in recovery to remain silent

What I learned about myself:
I learned I am resilient.  I learned that a fear faced today does not become a paralyzing anxiety tomorrow.  I learned that I can make it on my own, but recovery through unity is better.

Thoughts on relapse:
Relapse is part of the recovery journey.  I think we put too much emphasis on time and not enough emphasis on our quality of life.  If a chain of days sober has been temporarily interrupted, what is most important is that it start over again.  Let’s not focus on time so much as to whether or not we are happy, joyous and free.

I get inspired by:
The newcomers in the program.  To see their lives turn around; to see families that were destroyed by this disease now living in peace and harmony; to see the joy on someone’s face when they get their sobriety medallion.  It’s like having a front row seat to a modern day miracle.

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