Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year…it’s a time to get together with loved ones, while taking time to express appreciation for life’s numerous gifts. Unfortunately, for many who are in recovery and even for those not in recovery, Thanksgiving and the subsequent holidays can be painful reminders of relationships lost or dreams broken by this terrible disease. About 5 and a half years ago, I made the decision to cease contact with my mother’s husband; his disease of alcoholism and addiction, and the actions he had taken while I was growing up, made it impossible for me to continue having a relationship with him.
Consequently, my relationship with my mother was strained which was particularly painful given that I’d always been very close to her. While I had the support of my therapist, sponsor and network in making this decision, it did not take away the feelings of loss and grief that came with separating myself from the family I loved, who continued to gather and create memories in my absence. When the holidays came around, I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner but because my mother’s husband would be there, I chose instead to be at my best friend in recovery’s house and participate in a “Friendsgiving.”
It was not a particularly memorable holiday, but I do recall the feelings of safety and love in gathering with friends along with pride that I had not compromised myself or my integrity for the sake of tradition, family, or another person’s comfort. I learned that year, and especially during that holiday season, that no matter what is going on, no matter who is in my life, I will be okay as long as I stay abstinent, honest, and connected to others and a higher power. I needed a lot of help at that time, and it was always there, every single time I reached out; I truly learned the meaning of “You are not alone”.
I am grateful to say that there was a happy ending to this story. Several months later, my mother made the decision to leave her husband after decades of being in a dysfunctional disease-riddled marriage. This is not something that I expected to happen; in fact I was convinced that it never would. But through working a program of recovery and continuing to be honest with myself and others, I came to accept this reality. And once I accepted this reality, it changed.
I write all of this today because it’s so easy to forget how far we’ve come in recovery and in life. Even now, I tend to focus on where I want to be and what goals I have yet to accomplish, however when I take a few minutes each day to reflect on the gifts that have come into my life as a result of working a 12-step program and living an abstinent spiritually-centered life, I can see that things have always worked themselves out. My sponsor recently sent me a quote that says, “I still remember when I prayed for the things I have now”. If I take a step back and see all of the “answered prayers” in my life, I feel foolish for experiencing any worry or fear, ever.
I encourage anyone reading this article to think of the things in your life that you have prayed for and that are now a reality for you. In doing so, you might see how far you’ve come and realize that there’s no need to worry about what will come to pass! Happy Thanksgiving and may you find the blessings, big and small.