Matthew Cohen: When Passion Meets Purpose

addiction recovery

Passion: To have an intense desire or enthusiasm about a person, idea, cause, or thing.

We usually talk about passion as it relates to romance or to another person in some way. But passion is so much more than that. Passion has to do with drive, fervor, enthusiasm, spirit and energy. A lot of us in recovery are afraid we’ll somehow be forced into a life of apathy and live dull, boring lives in sobriety. We’re afraid our passion will die.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The very fact that you were passionate and driven at any time in your life, yes…even in active addiction, is proof that you can find and operate with passion in recovery.

Passion Without Direction

Before I got sober, I was all over the map. I was passionate about so many things and with all the wrong intentions.My thinking was confused, foggy, and self seeking, so I went about things in the wrong way. Maybe I shouldn’t say the wrong way, but the only way I knew how at the time. I was not only immature, but I was also closed minded to only one point of view, —my own. I didn’t like listening to others or their ideas because I thought I knew the best way of doing things. The insanity of my disease produced sick, selfish thinking, so even when I was doing something that would normally be considered a good idea, it turned into a twisted mess.

My Thinking Had to Change

Always acting on impulse, I didn’t know how to use my intellect instead of my emotions. I wasn’t able to think things through because I was so passionate about myself and my own ideas.

What needed to change was my thinking.

I learned the hard way.

Some of us need to learn the hard way.
The fact that I was so passionate wasn’t the problem. Directed correctly, passion is a good thing.

The Cycle of Destruction

Learning to live sober is so much more than just putting down a substance. It’s about learning how to allow God to heal the inner person, the spiritual part of us. I had to learn how to live a righteous life in an unrighteous world. Without true healing, addiction is just sitting there…It’s hiding, waiting for a better opportunity to destroy us.

After my girlfriend passed away in a car accident when I was 19, my life spiraled downhill.

I wanted to die.

I didn’t love life. Love was gone and I was empty.
I felt as though my soul left my body.
I dove deep into drugs.

I remember having so much hate for everything. It wasn’t until years later that my mother showed up at my apartment to drop off some food. When I got into her car she started crying.

“Look what you’re doing to yourself. Don’t you see what you are doing?”

For the first time since my girlfriend’s death, I felt something. I felt anger. It was a different kind of anger than the anger I had been feeling. I was angry because I made my mother feel the way she did at that moment. She had so much hurt in her heart because of what I was doing to myself that I couldn’t take it anymore. Although at that time in my life I didn’t admit to myself I had a problem, I put down the drugs long enough to get to the army recruitment office and enlist.

Okay, so this was the kind of passion I experienced… I made a decision. It was a good one.
I loved the idea of serving my country. I gained respect from others because I was doing something great —something honorable. I wasn’t using during basic training and I got in shape and even learned discipline. All good things.
I was proud.
My parents were proud.
And most of all my, grandmother was proud.
That was the first passionate thing I did in my life that made sense… but it didn’t last long.

When I put the drugs down I didn’t know I needed recovery. I just thought if I got away it would get better. As soon as I got out of basic training, I lined the shots up to celebrate. Here comes the cycle of destruction…

It didn’t stop there. I didn’t drink everyday at first but it only took five months until I was in full swing. The one thing I didn’t do right away was drugs. I just drank everyday. Soon I found myself making up any excuse I could to get discharged. A month later I got a general under honorable.

I was back drinking every day and eventually the drugs came back too.

Everything I attempted to do to get my life together ended in self sabotage. For 16 years I lived in this pattern of get it good and mess it up. Get it good and mess it up.

Everything Changed

Now that I found recovery this pattern has been stopped. My problems have been identified and I became recovered. I am so happy the obsession has been lifted. I don’t even think about drinking anymore.

I received clarity of mind and am now able to take a look at my intentions in all my actions. Today I live by honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love. If I am doing this my intentions are pure and my passions can be directed in a positive way.

Today my passion has met purpose. I work in the field of recovery where I am able to help others. I support the still sick and suffering and work to create recovery ready communities.
I wake up everyday believing I can help create positive change, and a shame free existence for those who have come through the darkness of addiction and are walking in the light.

When I feel a little down, or that my vision is too big, I’m always thankful for this quote by Steve Jobs:

Here’s to the crazy ones.The misfits.The rebels.The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal.They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

When I read it, I’m always reminded that I am crazy! Crazy enough to think I can change the world. I shouldn’t say I…I should say we. I should say we because there are 25 million people in long term recovery who can stand up and share the same thing as I can. We are not alone.

My parents spent their careers educating in the New York city schools and they did an amazing job doing it.

My mother showed me through education the road to success is endless because we never stop learning. She has helped so many young people in what she was passionate about. So thank you mom… I’m going to follow you and educate everyone about my passion.


If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, give us a call today. 239-440-6856

About Matthew Cohen

Clinical Outreach CoordinatorLife of Purpose Chapter Lead for Young People in Recovery - Delray Beach Supporter of I Am Not Anonymous Matthew is very passionate about addiction recovery as well as advocacy for the recovery community. A supporter of the I Am Not Anonymous movement and the belief that we should never be ashamed of our story, Matthew is always sharing, inspiring and gaining insights from those around him. Friend him on Facebook.


  1. katie mccarthy

    Great article.. keep it coming.. god bless..

    Katie mccarthy

    1. Matthew Cohen

      Thank you Katie

  2. Teri Ziegler

    Why do you think you developed the cycle of “get it good and mess it up”, the self sabotage? I know others with this cycle. Trying to help them figure this out?

    1. Matthew Cohen

      I wouldn’t say I developed that pattern. I would say that as a result of my disease I kept cycling through this pattern never admitting that alcohol and drugs were my problem. Every time the cycle ended in self sabotage it was because of my disease. I had to realize for myself that that was the problem and get honest to seek help.

  3. Danielle Buda

    Powerful and true, addiction is a disease of the mind as well as physical. My distorted thinking kept me in the vicious cycle of active addiction because I believed my twisted reality I created. Another way of justifying my using…my thinking had to change before I could ever become brutally honest with myself and everyone else helping me.
    Inspired again, thank you for sharing your insight with such passion!!

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