This time of year always instills in me a deep sense of gratitude. As the leaves change color and the weather cools down, I often find myself reflecting. The dark days behind me strike such a brilliant contrast to the light that permeates my now daily living. It’s an excellent reminder of places I’ve been that I never have to return to again.
I remember eating Thanksgiving dinner in Community Bridges Detox. My face scarred from relentless picking. My jaw sore from the ever-present clench that never left me. An abscess on my arm the size of a baseball. I was bleary eyed, tired, and broken from the way I lived.
I remember the hollowness of the soul. Emptiness of spirit. Countless days spent scrounging for anything I could in desperate efforts to stay intoxicated no matter the personal cost. Stealing Blu-Rays from a grocery store to pawn for pennies on the dollar. Getting arrested, the cold steel of the handcuffs tight against my bony wrists.
I remember the broken look in my father’s eyes as he pleaded with me to get in his truck with him at 16th street and Glendale outside a Subway. To go and get some help. My solemn refusal as I stared at my feet, heroin burning a hole in my pocket. The tears and desperation on his face. Walking away, fully aware of the pain I was inflicting in that moment but unwilling and unable to put a stop to it.
It’d be easy, or even preferable in some people’s eyes, to completely shut the door on these memories, or at least attempt to. I find myself returning to them occasionally though, and for good reason – I worked, and learned to never discard my miserable experiences as lost time, as something I could never get back or undo either. Those days served me in their purpose of setting me on the course I am today and make practicing gratitude a simple thing in comparison.
Gratitude is an antithesis to negativity and selfishness. When practiced actively, with intent and purpose, it allows us to reframe distorted thought processes and maladaptive behaviors. It lets us see the goodness in our lives, the blessings that surround us constantly, and comparatively speaking, to trials of the past. It allows us to appreciate even the smallest of kindnesses like the beauty inherent in nature, and simple pleasures, to the point where they can turn an entire day around with the right attitude.
I don’t forget those times. I let those memories intermingle with all the good ones I make now, but I don’t dwell on them. I make it a point to live my life to the best of my ability in a way that rights the wrongs and mistakes I’ve made along the way. Living amends. Frustration, future struggles, failure – they’re inevitable of course. They’ll always come. When your journey’s been built on the framework of hardship, it makes it that much easier to see the light – and a way forward – in something as simple as a hot shower, a warm cinnamon roll, the laugh of a small child, or a smile from a stranger.
Here is my gratitude list for today:
- The upcoming holiday season, and being present, and able to spend it with my family.
- My family. The restoration we’ve experienced is a miracle that I’m thankful for every day of my life.
- My beautiful wife, Dana, and her kind, forgiving, and loving ways.
- My 1-year-old son, Kaehler. His smile and deep belly laugh enrich my life every single day.
- My 8-year-old daughter Norah. Her humor, intelligence, and compassion make me endlessly proud. What a pleasure it is to watch her grow.
- My job. Working for an organization that adequately compensates me, takes care of me, and does solid work in the community is a blessing.
- This delicious rigatoni alfredo I’m currently eating, topped with basil and smoked mozzarella, that I prepared and plated as I wrote this (impressive, I know 😉)
- New Balance shoes. Extremely Comfortable. Stylish. Great collabs. What more is there to say?
- Living free. It’s truly a miracle, and I thank God for it every day of my life.
- Every moment that’s brought me to this place, at this time, in the here and now. Both good and bad.
It’s a pleasure to be here with you.
If you’re struggling, I’m confident better days are coming. They always do. Have a wonderful, blessed, and happy Thanksgiving.
Sean – In Recovery