As Thanksgiving approached, I was almost five months sober––and an orphan. Up until then, I had not experienced a holiday without my Mom and Dad. Honestly, I had no idea how I would make it through, much less stay sober. By the grace of God, the rooms of AA and the people in them, and my friends in Science of Mind, I did make it through––and I did stay sober. In a very real way, I learned what it meant to live one day at a time. And within those days, I frequently practiced living one moment at a time and one breath at a time.
I stopped drinking almost 20 years ago, and I sometimes think that my real life began on that day in 1991. Getting sober was one of the best things I ever did, and, strangely, one of the most liberating. Drinking was one of the worst things I did, and I did it continuously and abusively from the age of 18 into my late 40s… I once thought that life couldn’t be fully experienced without alcohol: but the truth is the opposite – life can be more fully experienced without alcohol.
It doesn’t really bother me to say I’m an alcoholic. Not that I nonchalantly or indiscriminately blab it out, but when appropriate, I own up to it. But that’s because I now know that it’s a mere fraction of who I am. That is not my only adjective. In fact, I am a creative, strong, humorous, prolific, wise, open-minded, friendly, caring person in the process of discovery, recovery, and ongoing un-covery. I used to not be able to say any of that.
Gratitude is thrown around a lot in recovery. You hear the hard-core sober men and women say: “Get off your pity-pot and get in gratitude.” You hear gratitude is a necessary component of sobriety,” and “Write a gratitude list when you get in your head.” Why does everyone talk about gratitude so often? Because gratitude is scientifically proven to take the focus away from your struggles, shortcomings, and misfortunes, and redirect it to the goodness in your life.
November is called Gratitude Month, a chance for heightened awareness of what really matters. It is so comforting to know in a time when there is so much chatter in the environment that peace is within me whenever I seek it; always has been, always will be. This inner calm that knows that when emotions rattle my inner world, or the world at large, whatever else is going on is merely a situation or circumstance that will pass. Inner peace is eternal and constant. I cast my powerful vote for inner peace, and peace for the greater good. I let my inner voice be heard and trust the process.
In active addiction, I had no clue what enough was, so noticing quiet contentment takes practice. To savor moments of connection, beauty and inner peace—such as laughter before a meeting, a hug or word of care afterwards, or someone honestly telling her story—is the joy of lifelong recovery. Gratitude makes a difference because it shows me the subtle changes that occur over the months and years of recovery.
Just in time for Halloween, here are 10 things that no longer need to spook us––if we stay on the recovery path: (1) Loneliness, feeling adrift in the world; (2) Relapse; (3) Isolation, no one to talk with about or to understand what we’ve been through; (4) Waking up in strange places; (5) Blackouts…
Like the onion itself, my mask has many layers. For years (okay, decades), I didn’t even realize I hid behind one. When I caught wind of it, I thought it must be “only sometimes in certain circumstances…” on a kind of “as needed” basis, like when I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, as they say… which was basically all the time…