Learning Resilience, Patience and Gratitude on the Path to Recovery


Tony Walton says it like it is. People in SouthLight’s Opioid Treatment Program know and trust Tony. They listen when he shares his favorite quotes, including “Setbacks don’t always equal failure.” 

Tony works at SouthLight’s Opioid Treatment Program, where we serve nearly 600 people every day in our clinic–people who are on the road to recovery, people who show up every day despite roadblocks and setbacks. 

It was during these times of “setbacks” when I was able to pause and really evaluate who I was as a person and what I wanted out of life.

We talked to Tony to learn more about his favorite quote. 

Q: Tony, you’re famous at SouthLight for repeating this phrase, “Setbacks don’t always equal failure.” Can you share what this means? 

A: The overall message I want people to understand when they hear me say this: it is out of hardship and disappointment comes our greatest growth and opportunity for personal advancement. 

Q: Can you elaborate on what this means to you personally?

A: It has been my experience that when I thought my prayers were being denied or something I wanted was being held from me, it was in fact, not being held from me but rather prepared, cleaned up, or created especially for me! If things always worked out the way I wanted them to I would have missed out on so much! It was during these times of “setbacks” when I was able to pause and really evaluate who I was as a person and what I wanted out of life.

Q: Can you share an experience or story of a client who experienced a setback? 

A: Absolutely! Yes, I have tons of memories like that. One of my favorite client strength stories is of a young man who I had the pleasure of working with early on. He lost his father to an overdose a few years before we met. He and his girlfriend ended up entering SouthLight together for treatment due to his father’s death. He said he “Didn’t want to end up like his father.”

It is out of hardship and  disappointment comes our greatest growth and opportunity for personal advancement.

Q: How was this client’s path to recovery?

A: Very hard. After a second tragic death–his girlfriend did not make it–the young man pressed on. A year and a half later he lost his mother to natural causes but he never gave up or felt sorry for himself.  I remember our staff just really going above and beyond to make sure he had the resources and support that he needed through those losses. 

Q: How is the client doing today? 

A: That same young man now works in the field as a CPSS (Certified Professional in Patient Safety), and is working on a bachelor’s degree at a four year college!  He stays in touch, and we talk to this day about resilience, patience, and gratitude. 

Tony says, “So now when something doesn’t go the way I plan or doesn’t seem to be working in my favor, I smile and know that the God of my understanding must have something better in store for me. Life is a lot less stressful when I trust the process and truly understand that “setbacks don’t always equal failure!”

About SouthLight

SouthLight Healthcare is one of North Carolina’s largest nonprofit providers of substance use treatment and mental health services. Tony Walton works at our Garner Road location and shares his own personal story of recovery here. WRAL-TV interview with Tony Walton.

SouthLight partners with individuals and communities to provide innovative treatment solutions delivered with compassion and dignity. With outpatient and community-based programs, SouthLight provides prevention, education and treatment services in the Triangle and beyond. Call 919-787-6131 for more information about our Opioid Treatment Program or all of our mental health and substance use services.