Siobhan Morse is nothing less than a positive bright light in every conversation, but her vibrant personality wasn’t always at the forefront of her life. She has learned to approach life, time and again, from a perspective of gratitude and delight. Although, as it often does, her appreciation for life came at a cost.
Siobhan currently serves as a voluntary adjunct for Baylor Medical College and is the division director of clinical services for Foundations Recovery Network, the addiction services division of Universal Health Services. She finished 271 in her age group in the 2018 Crossfit Open, which put her in the top 5 percentile. She is training relentlessly to compete in the 2019 Games and pursues a better version of herself in aspects of fitness, health, and her profession daily. However, she has another consequential reason to celebrate life. Going on 12 years of sobriety, Morse is in perpetual recovery from opioid and stimulant addiction.
Born and raised in Miami, Florida she has always been an athlete, particularly in the sport of diving. In her younger days, she recalls being “wild”, but those associative traits eventually took a turn. Forced to deal with adverse childhood experiences like trauma and life circumstances, she recognizes these episodes were affiliated with the conducible habits of her addiction. “Addiction is a progressive disorder,” Siobhan states. And starting in her 20s and dominating her 30s, she lived on the street, homeless, using, and immersed in her substance abuse. At 40, Morse entered a treatment center due to state recommendations. Here she says, “I began to understand the disease concept of addiction and learned to deal with my past.” She was educated on her particular issues, and because of her time at the treatment facility, she grew into a master addiction counselor and was ultimately offered a job leading her to Nashville.
In Music City for 6 years now, she spent the first 3 earning her position as the division director of clinical services. Before that, she earned a master’s degree in health services administration from Florida International University. While at FIU, she participated in a number of research projects, focusing on the severely and persistently mentally ill. During her time as an adjunct professor at FIU, she taught program planning and evaluation for the College of Urban and Public Affairs. In addition, Morse received her certification as a clinical research coordinator (CRC) from the Associates of Clinical Pharmacology, working with major pharmaceutical companies to investigate new and promising treatments. She holds certifications as an ARISE interventionist and as a master addiction counselor. Morse has several current publications in research journals and has presented at global conferences on substance use and co-occurring disorders. She even wrote the chapter on exercise in recovery that is used today in given treatment centers.
“Recovery is recovery is recovery,” Siobhan says, “we are all recovering from something.” Her education might have earned her certifications and degrees, but what it really taught her was how to recover her own identity. “Recovery can cause a lot of shame and guilt,” she admits, “but that was yesterday.” She commonly asks herself, “Who do you want to be today?” and “Can I face my past, make amends, and move forward?” In the process of recovery, we have to understand and accept it is likely going to hurt, but once we get through it we become a better person on the other side. She believes the center of everything is rooted in the recovery process, but the gains illuminate in all aspects of life. “You have to tell yourself that you may have been wrong, but you learned from it,” she explains, “The only way to do that is to accept it and own it – you need to establish your integrity again and again.”
Morse also heavily works with Heroes in Recovery, a movement that connects focus groups and promotes a better understanding of addiction and mental illness. People often think, “Can’t you just stop?” or, “If you didn’t do this you wouldn’t be in this situation,” but Siobhan wants them to comprehend these issues as a brain disorder and sickness, just in a different way. On the outside, it may not look like a broken arm or a fever, but it is an illness nonetheless. She explains, “It is a chronic relapsing brain disorder and I believe people are starting to understand that more and more about mental health.”
Everything Siobhan does revolves around recovery. “I do two things in life,” she claims, “help others in recovery through my job, and I do CrossFit for myself.” Beginning in 2015, around the age of 50, she placed well in the 2016 CrossFit open and progressed into an athlete that views her recovery and her chances as a competitor seriously. CrossFit grew to be something different than other sports and today it is where she leaves her heart and her problems daily. She admits, “I’m not a good sit-still mediator, but when I lift heavy weight over my head, I am in that moment.”
Siobhan struggles with body image, specifically body dysmorphia, where one sees themselves as the way they use to be when in reality, they have physically and mentally changed. However, she says CrossFit made her feel empowered. She finds the beauty in being surrounded by others working hard and working to be better, instead of focusing on looking good. It gave her new movements that in turn translated to a new mentality. He describes, “It changed from simply doing exercise to how I looked and felt. Now, more prominently to what this body can do.” After 12 years of realizing the abuse she submitted her body to, she says, “To be where I am now – that is the place where miracles live.”
She has learned life can get pretty messy, but you have to move through it, and she is willing to let go of things that hold her back in order to push herself to a positive place. “I am embracing the mess that comes with CrossFit and with recovery,” she says. Although she didn’t know anyone in Nashville prior to moving here years ago, she says CrossFit Old South has become fellowship and family and full of love supporting her everyday intentions.
This year, Siobhan has learned another aspect of recovery – how her body needs to heal and recover between workouts. Her focus remains on competing every day, but not just for the CrossFit Games. She competes with herself to embrace the lasting issues brought on by her past endeavors and practices that diligent mentality every time she is in the gym, thankful it has translated to her daily responsibilities. The knowledge she gained and the opportunities she received all stemmed from a sickness she was forced to face head-on. She continuously uses that knowledge to educate others, while still celebrating her personal growth.