Structure Your Story

Here are some more suggestions on how to structure your story.


First, introduce the main conflict or challenge that you faced. This challenge is the set up. Avoid going down the pathway of a “drunkalogue” or a long story about active addiction. Here is where you identify the common villain. Think of the villain as a structural system, like incarceration or poverty. Or it can be the loss of a loved one or inadequate support services in your community. Here is an example:

“My name is [Gloria], and I am a person in sustained recovery. I had been using substances to cope with my life since I was 13 years old. I didn’t realize that it was a problem since I was able to hold a job, and my life had not fallen completely apart. But at age 26, that all changed.”

Rising Action

Second, rising action describes the steps you took to address the conflict or challenge. Build suspense and tension in your story. Highlight any obstacles or setbacks. Use vivid and descriptive language to help your audience visualize your experience. This step is where the hero comes in. Here is an example of the conflict part of the story:

“At that point, I was still working a full-time job. My substance use disorder was severe in that I could not cope with simple everyday living. I had gotten to the point where I “had to” use to be in life. My weight had dropped to 85 lbs. I knew I was not healthy, but I did not see a way out other than eventual death. No matter how much I wanted to say no, I could not find the strength to fight my substance use disorder and felt hopeless.”


Third is the turning point or climax of your story. This step is where your story has the highest emotions. It’s where the Guide comes in and something changes. Here is an example:

“One day at work, my boss did an intervention. He told me that if I didn’t get help, he would have to let me go. He had the kindness in his heart to research a treatment center and offered to take me there that day. Had he not intervened, I would not be here today to tell this story. I am grateful that he cared enough to want to help.”


Next is how you resolved your challenge. Explain how you overcame your addiction or mental health challenges and the lessons learned through your journey to and through recovery. Bring your story full circle. This is where the Hero and Guide tackle the Villain. Here is an example of resolution:

”I was afraid of taking that step, but more afraid of staying where I was at. I went into treatment and started to rebuild my life from there. Over the years, I have learned how to live life, learning from others in recovery and exploring other ways to support my recovery journey. Things such as therapy, yoga, nutrition, exercise, spirituality, community and giving back. Eventually, I became a Peer Recovery Support Specialist and supported others on their recovery journeys. I now use my lived experience and tools I have learned along the way to encourage and inspire others that they can recover too! “


And lastly, make your conclusion strong and memorable. Don’t forget to add an ask. This ask can be an invitation to join an organization or attend an event, or a task you’d like someone to complete, like signing up for a newsletter, signing a petition, or calling their members of Congress. Or it can be asking them to consider something new that they hadn’t thought of or understood before. This involvement is how we change hearts and minds. This stage of the story is called A New Bliss.

Here is an example of a powerful conclusion:

“My life in recovery is amazing! It continues to be a wonderful path of self-discovery and exploration. I am speaking out to offer hope to others and to encourage other employers to offer support to those who may be struggling. It truly can save a person’s life.”