Happy Sunday, everyone!
In my last post, Creating a Future Unimaginable, I wrote about just that - creating a future unimaginable. For someone who's gone through a living hell on earth, in any form, that isn't an easy thing to do. See, those of us who've struggled with tough times can't always see the good or hope in the world. However, I'm a firm believer that there's something deeply ingrained in humans that wants to feel the good and hope for the best.
I was around a month sober when I was struck with my first big blow. The group home job I held was something that gave me purpose, even in the middle of the horrendous times I was living. After the overdose, I assumed my chances of ever working there again were all but gone. I spoke with HR and they informed me I was terminated but that I should re-apply as soon as possible. I had hope again that I could fulfill on what I later learned, and maybe always knew deep down, was my purpose on the planet - to help others with things they couldn't help themselves with.
So, I re-applied. I remember the day when I received the letter at the halfway house in Rochester, thanking me for my application but turning me down as a candidate. I was absolutely crushed. Early in recovery, holding my hopes high, and being disappointed. This might not seem like a huge deal to some, but for the addict in early recovery, the one who coped with chemicals, it sent me into a tailspin of emotions; almost like life was over again.
Then came the ingrained positive spirit. Something told me I needed to get to a pen and piece of paper and make a list. A list of all the things that were good in my life. I wrote and wrote. Before I knew it, I realized I had more than I ever thought to look forward to and appreciate. The practice of Gratitude - what a life changer it was, would be, and will always be.
I continued my time at the halfway house in Rochester, and eventually moved to a halfway house in Owatonna, to be closer to family and friends. When I arrived in Owatonna, I realized how much more accommodating and welcoming the staff were. One of our daily practices was to write in a journal, one we handed in each night to our counselor.
I'll jump ahead and tell you my counselor was notorious for writing back with one liners that would drive me nuts. I'd write two pages of my early recovery life drama, to which he'd respond "Have a great weekend."
Did he even read it?!? Doesn't he know how important these things are, and how much I need more than a one liner?!? These are just a couple questions I'd ask myself about his responses, questions I laugh about today.
Back to my initial arrival. I shared in one of my first journals how appreciative and grateful I was for the welcoming staff, the change in scenery, and the chance to continue down the path of recovery with the house. He responded with one of his typical one liners, the best one I can recall, and maybe the best one I can ever pass along to others:
"If you stay grateful, you'll stay sober."
It's not something I understood then. In fact, I thought it was pretty bold to tell me that just one thing would keep me sober. Today, I get it. You see, contrary to the common societal understanding, drinking and drugging are not the addict's real problems. The real problems lie within the attitudes, thoughts and feelings that addicts experience. Ego and greed are two of the biggest problems we have. They continue to generate drive for more and better, never leaving room for satisfaction, gratitude or happiness.
As much as anyone in recovery knows gratitude is not a single solution, being grateful can only come from becoming well in other aspects of life. And as gratitude takes over, there's no room for ego and greed. Not to mention, gratitude generates the more and better we always searched for, anyway.
Gratitude is one of my big three. One of the three things I preach more than any as a solution to a new way of life. A new way of life for not just addicts, but for all. I'm incredibly grateful for the path my life has taken, and for all those who've been there to support me. Based in gratitude, I know my life will continue to show me more greatness and happiness than I ever could imagine.
Last month, I spoke at a fundraiser for my current employer, Avivo, and was given the opportunity to share a bit of my own story, including much in the way of gratitude. I'm thankful for that opportunity, and for the many opportunities in the future to fulfill my dream of sharing with the world a message of recovery, hope and generosity, to and from all. If you missed it, take a look at the video here, and subscribe to receive notifications of future videos.
Until next time, stay grateful for what you have, and even what you don't have, and you'll be amazed what shows up.