There was a tradition in my house on Thanksgiving – we’d go around the table and tell the gathered kinfolk what we were thankful for. When I was young, I’d get nervous, trying to think of all the things I should say. All the people I should thank. I didn’t want to miss anything – or be considered ungrateful. I didn’t want to sound silly or have anyone laugh at me. That’s the kind of neurotic kid I was. Instead of enjoying myself and listening to everyone else, I was rehearsing in my head what I was going to say.
I’ve changed a bit. I still don’t like to share much. But, I try to be in the present and count my blessings regularly (not just at sit-down turkey dinners). I’ve learned that the things one is thankful for, can change over time. That God is always in his heavens. And that there is no “right answer” to the question, “What are you thankful for?” I’ve also learned, the needs that sit low on Maslow’s Hierarchy, food and shelter for example, are not givens. I have added “a roof over my head” to the list of things I am thankful for, every day.
But this is an article for an addiction treatment center and I am a person in long term recovery. On the cusp of Thanksgiving I have been thinking of the things I am most thankful for in my sobriety. Here they are:
There is a reason this is top of the list. Mornings are my favorite part about being sober. The sun comes up, I open my eyes and I am ready for the day. Oftentimes with a surplus of energy and an idea (just like a lit bulb) popping into my mind. There is no anguish. No scrambling for my phone or purse to put the pieces of the previous night together with receipts and text messages (WHERE ARE YOU???!!??). I do not have a headache, my heart is not pounding in my throat and I don’t feel like throwing up. Jackpot!
Telling The Truth
Okay, I still falter sometimes. I had a lot of practice covering for myself and it’s a hard habit to break… But for the most part, I am sanguine about answering the “W” questions. What happened to the case of red wine in the garage? Where were you? When did you get home last night? There is something incredibly refreshing about bold faced honesty. About having nothing to hide (except the occasional peanut butter cup wrappers…).
Driving at Night (With Impunity)
When I was drinking, police lights made my heart jump and my palms sweat. I still don’t like getting pulled over, but I do not FEAR getting pulled over. Bring on the breathalyzer, tell me to walk a straight line and say the alphabet backwards!! Also, when I was drinking I was unable to be spontaneous. If it happened after five at night, I had to make an excuse to not go, because by five I was drunk. I was never, ever the designated driver…
Cultivating Relationships – NO DRAMA!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – those screaming fights where car tires squeal, ashtrays sail through the air and people shout, “I never loved you!” only happen when drinking is involved. After living a life that was all drama, I relish my sober peace and quiet. And my relationships are deeper and more meaningful now that I am sober. My alcoholism was like a wall. It separated me from others and buffered my feelings.
My Brain and My Memory
Last, but certainly not least, I love that I now have a memory like Sherlock Holmes. If you said it, I remember it. I used to have to jot notes to myself as the night went on so I could recall what happened the next day. I was like a scam fortune-teller, looking at the faces of loved ones for a clue as to what had occurred. Yes. Dancing – of course I remember dancing. Not on tables, though… Tables. Yes there was that one table… Oh sure, two tables and karaoke…right… and falling… I meant to do that… I have begun to read for pleasure again. My brain is back in full force.
The fact is, I have changed. I can’t say it has all been for the better, but most of it sure has. I’m not the little girl I once was and I’m not the alcoholic I was either. I am something new and improved. And everything, every last sober, thankful thing is because I put down the wine and picked myself up. By the bootstraps. By the back of the neck… And this year, if someone asks what I am thankful for, and my mouth is not full of honey baked ham, I’ll know what to say…