Happy Thanksgiving, first and foremost! Family – Food – Recovery + a tryptophan-induced coma = Serenity. 22nd sober Thanksgiving today. In November 2000, my roommates and I celebrated Thanksgiving together at our sober living home. I recall celebrating the weekend before so we could spend some time together. Our food was donated to us from a local women’s sorority and we had a feast. Stood in a circle, held hands, and started with a prayer, “hey God. What’s up? Thank you for bringing us all together today and thank you for our recovery.” That Thursday, I attended six 12-step meetings, two fellowship dinners, and my mom’s house. Went to bed both sober, at peace, and exhausted. Fast forward 19 years, married to a man who was sick from weeks of chemo and radiation. I was determined to create some memories to offset reality for a day & the poor guy was a good sport when he sat down to eat turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, veggie side, cranberry relish, and dressing for two. This year, I looked forward to sharing today with my in-laws for family time and to enjoy a homecooked holiday meal. The food was delish! Had a wonderful time too. My mother-in-law is such a sweet woman who is the eldest child, like me, and similar familial struggles, so we feel like kindred spirits. She sent me home with a cookbook she purchased as a newlywed. My brother-in-law gifted me some of his homemade goodies which was such a wonderful surprise.
Holidays were never truly relaxing for me as a child and in adulthood, some as a result of my alcoholism, so celebrating holidays throughout the years was a journey. Today? I couldn’t recall ever feeling so relaxed and comfortable with family outside of my time with Dad. Tomorrow, my mom and siblings are planning a Thanksgiving dinner and they’ve assigned me the task of preparing the stuffing. Looking forward to visiting with my siblings, their families, and my mom. We went a number of years without speaking which made the holidays painful, so I continue to work towards attending with an open heart and no expectations and it is working.
National Gratitude Month in November encourages us to embrace the power of gratitude and if you are a member in recovery, we attend multiple meetings to discuss this topic. Gratitude is a powerful word, it gives us the power to shift our thoughts from negativity to see the good around us. When I first sobered up, a treatment counselor had me write a daily gratitude list by using all five senses. Fresh out of rehab, disowned, alone, in a lot of pain, and found myself living in a sober living home. She asked what I was grateful for and “nothing” was my response. Hence, the assignment. The daily list made it possible for me to find the joy in the little things: toasted buns (smell) at Broadway Cafe, fountain sodas at Family Express (taste), feeling of the pillow I used for sleep every night that was issued by Porter Starke (touch), and the sight of the new friends I made at the meetings, and the sound of the serenity and Lord’s prayers. Each day, I created a new list and the clouds began to lift. I look back at the assignment as a gift from a woman who took her time with me. She told me the women went out together in three’s and to build my recovery outside of the home and in a 12-step fellowship. I have since learned how everything in my life has the ability to improve when I am grateful.
Needless to say, 2020-2021 was tough. Cancer, isolation, pursued my personal claim with the military for PTSD supporting my husband through a few of his military traumas. The PTSD claim resulted in a service-connection disability and it was debilitating. The ladies close to me knew all of this, so when we ran into personal conflicts with a few of the ladies and it blew up quickly, resulting in a heartbreak. People close to the situation commented how they’ve never seen anything like this with people from the fellowship. Didn’t know how to manage my emotions with the tornadoes. It was insane. At the same time, there was this lady who lives with untreated bipolar and wealthy who attempts to use her money and legal background to intimidate people with lawsuits. It didn’t work with me and I pushed back. She jumped out of the box on a few of us and I was the one who opted to stick around. I warned board members: she’s intelligent, vicious, and nuts. No problem. We’ve got your back, you are a big part of this place. After she finished annihilating me, everyone sat silent. I looked at people who I trusted completely who sat silent and/or walked away in part because of the controversy. Really? I thought that you would have my back. Two ladies who I spent time with went on this spree of character assassination, splitting, bullying tactics, and to hurt our group, but specifically to attack me personally. I reassessed my choices. Nursed a broken heart for quite a while and stayed away from the fellowship. Probably could have handled things better, but 2020-2021 drained nearly everything inside of me. It was time to regroup. To ask God for his will and to follow each open door.
Dad reminded me about how God can be the great remover. He removed people and commitments from my life and opened the doors for new experiences. God listened to the simple prayer: help me. I remembered the “old-timers” facing tough and life-threatening situations. There was a woman who would tell me that I needed to watch how she applied spiritual principles through painful events in her life. She and the other old-timers led by example. No matter how much pain I felt this past year, particularly while undergoing interviews for PTSD, I thought about the men and women and the memories reminded me of trusting God, clean house, and helping others, I could face anything sober.
Gratitude lists, small prayers, and by face timing with sponsorship family, I found a little peace inside. To find balance in life between recovery, work, play, and love is the goal for 2021-2022.
So much to feel grateful for:
- What started out as fun became ‘work’. I have a job, a great one too.
- My husband who is crazy about me and survived seven bouts of cancer.
- The family who loves me.
- A home that’s paid for.
- Job that allows for me to relax after spending so many years in field work.
- I created a 501(c)3 with the help of another nonprofit
- Fundraising resulting in $24000 ($5200 during shutdown)
- We submitted grant proposals ($13500 & $500 check)
- I gained a lot of knowledge about marketing and networking
- I took a look at my situation with the military claim and had to reflect on how it had such a huge impact on me in my early twenties (60% service-connected today).
- Once I could see the reality of my past, there was a part of me who could forgive that young woman who made so many painful situations. (I added a link for a book that was written about my own and so many other women’s experience).
- Paid off $12000 so far since Feb 1, 2021.
- Car loan APR drops 4 percentage points as a result of this effort.
- My father reminds me of Dave Ramsey and is pumped about my motivation to knock out debt. In two paychecks, I will pay off my last credit card. It’s time to stop “doing stupid”, per my father.
- By June 2022, we set our sights on paying off the vehicle loan.
- Grateful for the relationships with my family. We booked a few trips to California, Mississippi, and Florida. Time spent rebuilding relationships with a few family members throughout my trips.
- Attended a retreat and “Sober Fest” alone which gave me time to soak in the recovery communities from different areas.
- Enrolled in graduate school. Finished my first course this week with an A, so far while waiting for the instructor’s grades for the final assignments.
Quarantine and caring for a sick husband, I missed out on a few red flags. The brutality, ugliness, and dry drunk behaviors, and cruel words of someone I was transparent with were heartbreaking. Looking back at the loss of these relationships, I have to recognize all the good that resulted from the trials and tribulations. Thank you, God, for being the great remover in my life.
“In every thing give thanks.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV