By: Mike Murphy, Manager of Alumni Services

On June 19th I had the pleasure of celebrating my 3rd year of continued sobriety. Now, I will be the first one to tell you, I’m not a “day counter”. First, because I am a firm believer that every day is Day One. Secondly, because when I started this new life of mine, I decided there was no reason to count days if it’s going to be the rest of my life. But your Anniversary is something special. And should not only be celebrated, but also used for reflection, perspective and gratitude.

This June I had the honor and privilege to attend the Recovery Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. I was through the roof to not only be invited to attend this event, but also to have the chance to visit our Nation’s Capital as an adult. And adult that also happens to be a Veteran. And because I am pretty damn proud of it, a SOBER Veteran. Visiting D.C. and seeing things such as Arlington and The Iwo Jima Monument (aka The Marine Corps War Memorial) had long been on my list as an adult and especially after my time in The Corps had come to an end. But like most things on my “To Do List” it never happened because the disease of alcoholism had too tight of a grip on me. And now, here I was, in our Nation’s Capital attending a Summit with other Professionals that work at helping others in Recovery.michael murphy capital hill

While the Summit was amazing, and I got to meet a ton of other people from around the Country, one part of it stuck out beyond the rest. The final day was called, “Hill Day”. And this is where certain people in attendance were allowed to visit Capitol Hill and meet with representatives of their respective States and discuss matters we are facing in the world of Treatment and Recovery. As I found myself walking the hallways of the Capitol on my way to meet with Senators and their Staff, I couldn’t help but stop and laugh a little bit to myself. Just over three years ago, if you told me I would be at Capitol Hill for work, I would have told you you’re out of your skull. And if it were for work, I would assume perhaps a working party picking up trash and wondering how I got to D.C. in the first place. But nonetheless, here I was. And I was going to tell Government Officials a bit about my story and now what I get to do for a living. In all honesty, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. Instead, I was motivated and excited for the opportunity. Afterall, I’m not the one in charge of creating policy and getting things done. The ones I am speaking to are. Talk about a moment of humility! I left there and could have sworn it was all a daydream.

I decided to take some time away from work and spend the rest of the week touring around the city and seeing all the things I had on my list. Arlington was up first. The last time I visited Arlington I was a child. Shoot, Jackie O. hadn’t even been buried alongside JFK, yet. There was also a special reason for me visiting Arlington. To visit a friend of mine. Which to this day, is hard for me to even comprehend. That I actually have friends buried in Arlington. I don’t know why this is so weird to me. I know I am a Veteran. I know I have been to war. But for whatever reason, it’s weird to me. Maybe it’s also because I never served with the Veteran buried there. He was an Army Dog that was in Iraq around the same time as me back in the early 2000’s. But I wouldn’t get the chance to meet him until 2020 when we crossed paths in Delray Beach while we were both residents at 1400 S. Military Trail at the same time. (That address also happens to be the address to Transformations in case you didn’t know) My buddy Andy and I got along pretty well during our time here together. Two very foul-mouthed Veterans with what some might call a “dark sense of humor”. We were also two Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries. Which I actually found out about while in treatment. And when Andy heard, he insisted I check out this organization in Delray called, “The 22 Project” that has helped him out with his own TBI. We made plans to get together and check out some meetings when we both got out of TTC. Sadly, that would never happen as Andy unexpectedly passed away shortly after we got out. Fortunately, I was able to find his father on Facebook and through him, I was able to experience The 22 Project and their Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber Therapy. I still think of Andy regularly and to be able to visit him at his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery was beyond powerful. It’s a memory I am sure I will cherish for a lifetime. I think it also says something about just how much I remain in contact with our Alumni (dark sense of humor, remember?).

*I also knew I HAD to see the Changing of the Guard while at Arlington. If you have never witnessed this before in person, please do so if you have the chance. It’s like nothing else. *

My next stop had to be without a doubt, The Marine Corps War Memorial. Last year I had the opportunity to also visit the Birthplace of the Marine Corps, Tun Tavern (yes, a bar) in Philadelphia while visiting there. And this was next up on my list of Marine Corps Shrines to visit. The feeling walking up to it was heavy. Not even exaggerating, I could feel the pressure on my chest as I approached it. I was also astonished at the sheer size of it. I had only seen it on TV up until this point, and TV does it no justice. It’s MASSIVE. And fortunately, enough for me, during the Summer on Friday nights, they do what is called, “The Sunset Parade” at the Memorial. This involves the USMC Drum and Bugle Corps and the Silent Drill Platoon. And that Friday was the first one of the Season. It was nothing short of sensational. The sense of pride that swelled inside me was indescribable. The ultimate sense of “Esprit De Corps”.capital usa

It wasn’t all sentimental and introspective, though. I did get to visit some other places of interest (for me, at least). Like the Catacombs of Washington D.C. located at the Franciscan Monastery of Washington D.C. This Monastery has quite a few replicas of locations important to the Franciscans. Including their version of The Catacombs located in Rome. Which happens to be the home to a 2nd Century 7-year-old Martyr, St. Innocent. And being a lover of all things horror movies, I of course visited the famed “Exorcist Steps” from the movie, itself. And boy are they STEEP. Finally, when I travel, I tend to channel my inner Anthony Bourdain and eat everywhere I can. And in this case, I was able to eat at a friend of Bourdain’s, Chef Jose Andres’ restaurant, Jaleo. Where I took in an 8-course tasting menu created by the Spanish Chef. And on the anniversary date of Bourdain’s unfortunate passing, I ate at Ben’s Chili Bowl. An Iconic D.C. landmark that has been there since the 50’s. A place I remembered watching him go to on his show, “No Reservations”. This seemed oddly fitting that I would visit here unknowingly on the anniversary of his passing considering that June is also Men’s Mental Health Month.

All in all, this was an amazing trip. Where I was able to reflect, utilize perspective and be grateful for this life I have now been given. This life I have now been given through the gifts of sobriety and mental wellness. They both go hand in hand for me.

Lastly, brings me to the title of this blog. Shortly after this trip and posting some of my pictures on my social media, a fellow Veteran messaged me telling me how much he has enjoyed watching my progress the past few years. And he left me with this: “I can’t help but feel that with the decision you made, you’re not only adding years to your life, but you’re adding life to your years.” And that has stuck with me every day since I read that. For so many years, I wasn’t living year of life. There were no special occasions. There was little to be grateful for. No sense of perspective. But through accepting the mantra of, “One Dat at a Time” I have been given the gift of new life. And I fully intend on adding life to the rest of my years.