Profiles in Recovery

Curtis Oliver

Oliver’s bucket list includes a goal to swim in every major body of water on Earth. He’s already conquered the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. And he hopes to help others find joy – by taking 25 children to see college and pro sporting events, and by creating recovery support services that empower people in his home state to better their lives.

Now in his 27th year of recovery, Oliver is on a path to fulfill lifelong personal quests. He’s come a long way from battling addictions that once left him 40 pounds underweight, homeless, jobless, broke and divorced.

Today, Oliver is a leader in Mississippi’s recovery community. And he continues his own journey, still attending 12-step meetings after nearly three decades of being clean.

Day Jobs:
CEO of Faces and Voices of Recovery Mississippi; first African-American Coast Guard veteran from my hometown, possibly state; grandparent, community volunteer, board member on various local/state committees

My turning point:
When I looked into my mother’s eyes and saw in her face that my inside felt the agony, disappointment, sadness, hopelessness and helplessness.

What worked for me:
Total surrender to a new way of life and concepts that were completely opposite from the lifestyle I once lived.  Being of service to individuals and families.

Initially, treatment took me away from the drug using environment.  Then I got involved with the 12-step community, which has led to other recovery support groups.  I still make meetings because they still make sense to me; also I make myself available to the new person coming in the door.

Advice to my younger self:
Stay the course.  Surround yourself with the winners and when a mistake is made, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back in the game.  Keep working toward your dreams.

Favorite recovery quote:
“When the Drugs go, and the addict works the program – wonderful things happen.  Lost dreams awaken and new possibilities arise” ~ NA Basic Text

When cravings come:
I understand and know that I suffer from Obsession and Compulsion.  As long as I don’t feed the beast, it won’t eat me.  I haven’t had a craving to use since the early days of my recovery (first 2 years).  I’ve had thoughts periodically, but remembered that “a thought is just that – a thought.” Nothing happens if I don’t use, and the thought passes.

On my schedule today:
My day always starts with prayer and meditation.  My recovery schedule today is to talk with my sponsor, attend a meeting, work with a couple of sponsees.  Be a caregiver to my mother.

Best advice for newbies:
Don’t use no matter what.  Make a meeting a day no matter what.  Connect with people who are living a recovery program, not with someone that relishes using or reliving the sad ole days.

What I value most in recovery:
I value that recovery is a spiritual kindergarten, I get to try new things here before presenting it to the world.  I value the recovery process (the steps) the most.  The person that shows up early, opens the door and sets up for the meeting and stays after meeting (s) to talk with a newcomer.

What I learned about myself:
I’ve learned that at the end of the day, I’m a worthwhile person who is living a worthy life.

Stigma I faced:
Negative perceptions toward people with addiction issues.  Disbelief that I could and would recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.  Suspicion that I’m the same guy that I was before recovery began…

What saves me from myself:
God, the fellowship, sponsor, and being honest with myself.

I get inspired by:
I’m constantly inspired when I see the light come on in the eyes of the newcomer.  I get inspired when I see a person in recovery live through adversities and stay clean.  I get inspired when new opportunities come up.

Proudest moment:
Being of service to my mother who is sick, obtaining my Master’s Degree, the birth of my grandchildren . . . too many to list.

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