Here are a few things I’m grateful for:
Recovery – 18 years ago I was 4 weeks abstinent (not in recovery) and 1 week away from being coerced into a psych unit because my therapist was convinced I was going to kill myself in the coming weeks. He was right. The patients (not the doctors) in the psych unit told me that my main problem was my alcoholism and that I should go to the meetings in the cafeteria. They were right. After I was released (4 weeks later), I was fortunate that my therapist was humble enough to recognize that his ability to help me was limited and that the long term solution to my problem was outside his office. He encouraged me to keep going to meetings, though he frequently expressed disgust at the smoking at meetings.
Community – I was welcomed into the recovering community in a way I had not been welcomed anywhere for some time. My first time at my first home group, Dan F. insisted that I take his seat (The meeting was too big for the small meeting space and did not have enough seats. This meant that he would have to stand or sit on the floor. He was in his 60s and needed a knee replacement.) Ron S. made sure that I never had to leave my seat for coffee, refilling my cup frequently. John M. told me that he was an atheist and that there was room for him in this program and that there was room for me. Dave H. told me that he had faith that things would get better for me and said, “if you can’t believe that things will get better, just believe that I believe things will get better for you.” Bill C. who had sponsees stop by my place to invite me to go to meetings with them. Today, my home group is a wonderful group of people who are patient, kind and generous with newcomers and relapsers. We support each other through blessings and trials.
Today, my experience of community has expanded far beyond the rooms that the recovering community meets in. I’m an active member of the larger community, getting to spend time with people I like and admire and hopefully making the community a little better in the process.
Family – All the damage of addiction has been healed in my family and I now I have a family of my own with a wonderful wife and happy, healthy children. When I got sober, I didn’t want a family and, now, I can’t imagine life without them.
Work – I’m grateful to work in a place that understands and respects recovery. We accept addicts for who they are and who they can become. In return, we get to play a small part in miraculous transformations of people who were once hopeless into healed, whole people who are fully engaged in their families and their communities–often helping others stumble through the same transformation.
Bill White did a good job summing up this experience in the context of the history of addiction treatment: “So what does this history tell us about how to conduct one’s life in this most unusual of professions? I think the lessons from those who have gone before us are very simple ones. Respect the struggles of those who have delivered the field into your hands. Respect yourself and your limits. Respect the addicts and family members who seek your help. Respect (with hopeful but healthy skepticism) the emerging addiction science. And respect the power of forces you cannot fully understand to be present in the treatment process. Above all, recognize that what addiction professionals have done for more than a century and a half is to create a setting and an opening in which the addicted can transform their identity and redefine every relationship in their lives, including their relationship with alcohol and other drugs. What we are professionally responsible for is creating a milieu of opportunity, choice and hope. What happens with that opportunity is up to the addict and his or her god. We can own neither the addiction nor the recovery, only the clarity of the presented choice, the best clinical technology we can muster, and our faith in the potential for human rebirth.”
Gratitude itself – On last thing. I’m grateful that Rob M. instructed me to practice gratitude on a daily basis. It was so unnatural and difficult for me. It also challenged my worldview that was colored with self-pity and pessimism about human nature and the human condition. The gratitude he taught me has kept me humble (most of the time) and free from (extreme) bouts of self-pity.