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We are coming up on one of the greatest times of the year–a time when the brisk nature of the cold starts to be lifted away by the bright, shining sun. It is a time when we will all be looking for any reason to go outside. Menial tasks such as mowing the lawn or washing the car seem to be a bit more inviting. Even taking the trash outside doesn’t seem to annoy us so much.
My recovery at this point in time, feels much like this move into spring. Out of the dark and into the light of a life worth living. It is growing more beautiful with each passing day–life with more to it than a reflection always pointed in the past.
As a person who has struggled with drugs and alcohol for more than half my life, I have grown accustomed to several meaningful sentiments.
Acceptance is a good one, setting the tone for my recovery. Of course, there is powerlessness.
I have felt this many times in my recovery. The hardest part was coming to terms with it. And let’s not forget spirituality. We all seem to cling to the mention of this word when we are working hard on our recovery, don’t we?
But there is a word that has meant more to me than any other: Gratitude.
It seems simple enough to mention it in a piece that is talking about recovery, right? Setting clichés aside, gratitude is the driving force in my remaining sober today. So how can this one word keep me from escaping pain in the most self-destructive of ways?
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First of all, gratitude helps me to focus on the positive side of everything I do.
Author David Richo put it in terms I could understand fully. He was talking about the many times in our lives something goes wrong, even times that seem incapable of producing any good. He suggests each time we are in the midst of these bad times, we should make a list of ten positive things coming out of the situation. I agreed, and for each bad situation I get myself into, I mentally begin making my list of ten positive things.
Secondly, gratitude brings me into the present moment.
Life begins to slow down and speed up in the times it should. The past no longer holds as much sway. I am no longer defined by what I have done or what has been done to me. I am no longer forced to look far ahead into a life I need to make, forgetting the life I have right now. Gratitude tells me to simply look around and enjoy what has already been given. As Ralph H. Blum wrote,“There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.”
Not too long ago, my little sister got married. It was a great affair, and I was so glad I got to be a part of it. But, I was growing fearful of having to be around the people who loved me yet were the ones most disappointed in me. I worried I would make a fool out of myself. Would I be able to say the right things, or do everything I was supposed to do?
I had gone to one of the functions already, and had felt really uncomfortable. I felt everything inside me churning up notions of “not good enough” and “gonna mess it up.” It was then I realized the need to get up early the next morning and get away for a little while.
My goal was to find something, anything to be grateful for.
I drove out to Yellow Rock trail, my favorite spot in the world right now. As I began my walk, I took in all the wonderful sights and sounds. I began to notice a dense fog was covering the valley–the light bouncing every which way I could see. Stopping every five minutes or so, I began to feel the tension of trying to live up to a certain expectation ease a bit.
As I began to walk through the Cedar Grove leading to the overlook at Yellow Rock, I could see this was not going to be just any other view. What I walked into that day was one of the most breathtaking sights ever seen. The fog covering the valley was sitting at the treetops, which just so happen to be the same height as Yellow Rock. You could reach your hand out into the beauty of what you were seeing.
So I walked the length of cliff’s edge and found a spot to sit, under a tree. I wanted to soak in the valley as the sun melted the fog away. Over the next hour I set and watched as the air became clearer and clearer. Visibility lifted to the point you could see all the way to the other side of the valley. In that moment I knew I had found the gratitude so desperately needed.
After leaving the trail, I would go to several more functions associated with my wonderful sister’s wedding. I was able to leave the air of my discomfort sitting under that tree where I had been sitting. And I was able to enjoy every remaining moment of that weekend.
See, gratitude is not just a simple word, but it is an action. It is a belief that I get to be okay with the man I am today. A belief that no one gets to take away.
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