This was a big week for me. It was Thanksgiving, and of course I have a lot to be thankful for. However, the holidays have been really hard for me the last few years. As many of you know, I have no contact with my family and that is really emotional for me when it comes to celebrating holidays, birthdays and the like. I have worked really hard to accept that things are the way they are, and to no longer let my feelings about my family send me back out drinking.
The other big news for this week is that on Tuesday I celebrated one year of sobriety! I was really excited to be able to go up and receive my one year chip at my home group meeting on Tuesday morning. It felt great. It felt exhilarating. It felt miraculous. And it was…all of those things. Mostly though, I felt so grateful, so very grateful. It is really apropos that my sobriety birthday is so near Thanksgiving, the timing is perfect.
This post could easily turn into one about gratitude, but I am saving that for another time. What I really want to write about is what the last year was like. As I reflect on the past year, I can tell you that it was like a roller-coaster. There were a lot of really high highs, but an equal amount of really low lows. I was dealing with the wreckage of my past (I still am), learning how to live with the grief that comes from being estranged from my family, trying to forgive others and myself, and trying to do it all as honestly as I could. It wasn’t easy, not by any stretch of the imagination. It was a lot of self-examination, which for us alcoholics is often pretty ugly. It certainly was for me. It was emotional and very stressful at times.
As hard as it was though, I realized a while back that this past year was actually, amazingly, filled with joy. Each difficult situation and negative emotion gave me the opportunity to work through it – not around it, not over it, but really, genuinely through it – without taking a drink. This wasn’t just a change in perspective for me, it was a life change. Before this past year I lived in extremes, even when I wasn’t drinking. A bad situation was never going to end, good things would last forever. I would always feel whatever emotion I was feeling. My vocabulary was filled with “always” and “never”. It was black and white thinking and it did not serve me well.
On Thanksgiving I wrote this in my journal:
“I’m so grateful to be alive and happy. A year ago, two years ago, five, ten…whenever I was asked what I wanted most in life, my answer was to be happy. I finally have that now. I thought that I would never know what that really felt like, but now I do. I also never thought that there could be joy in the midst of adversity. But the two can peacefully coexist. I’ve realized that it isn’t black and white. I can have joy and happiness even at the worst of times. I don’t have to get mired down in the shit. I can do the next right thing, no matter how hard, and I can still have joy in my heart.”
Getting through the bad times, without hurting myself or anyone else, is really a cause for celebration. The simple act of making it through to the other side is joy-producing. Realizing that bad times and feelings aren’t going to last forever is joy-producing. Knowing that I can hand things over to God and have faith that His will is what’s best for me is joy-producing. Not drinking over all of life’s crap is majorly joy-producing. How awesome is that?