Happy Thanksgiving!

Holidays bring up mixed emotions for a lot of us- while it is nice to reflect on the year and all that we are thankful for while being surrounded by loved ones, sometimes it feels overwhelming and stressful.  But I do have a lot to be thankful for this year.

I remember Thanksgiving 2015; I was scheduled to fly out to Arizona for treatment two days after the holiday, so that meant enduring Thanksgiving while withdrawing from heroin while simultaneously blacked out on Xanax and alcohol.  I was an absolute terror to all of our guests that year – it was no secret that I had been loaded years before, but now that it was public information that I would be going to rehab later that week, the energy in the room was more so focused on me and the chaos I brought about.  It took two years before my family invited me back home for Thanksgiving again, once they knew I was sober and not going to ruin another holiday.

The two years that I missed being with my family, I was so full of gratitude to be taken in by the friends and family I had made through my fellowship.  They helped remind me that I could get better and could be a part of.  They loved me and supported me when I felt I had nowhere else to go, and they reminded me that I could one day be with my family again, sober and present with them.

With my family living back on the east coast, I was unable to make it home this year.  I was invited though, and still got to have a wonderful phone call with all of them before they ate.  I missed them a lot and felt sad that I couldn’t be there with them, but I was so beyond thankful to have another wonderful family take me in and treat me as their own.  I was still able to experience the love, gratitude, and joy brought about by this holiday.

I am thankful that while I could not spend the day with my immediate family, that I was able to spend it with people I love.  I am thankful for the relationships I have today, both back east and here in Arizona.  I am thankful for my sobriety and all that it gives me, including the ability to tell those I care about, how much I truly love and appreciate them.

No matter where you spent Thanksgiving this year, I hope you all had a nice time.  I hope you were able to separate yourselves from the stress and frustration that can be brought about during the holidays and truly focus on gratitude and love.

 

Being in close quarters with other addicts and alcoholics can be hard sometimes.  There is definitely no lack of strong personalities and character defects running rampant when you get a bunch of sick people together.  It can bring about frustration, anger, and a feeling of lack of control.

 

So, what do we do when get overwhelmed, or angry towards people specifically acting in ways in which disagree or in ways that arise anger or jealousy within us?  We take a deep breath and remember why we are here.  The traditions remind us that we are here for a common purpose, and that we need to put personalities aside and focus on the reason why we are here.  No one of us is better than anyone else, or more deserving of sobriety than our fellows.

 

Anger and frustration may be warranted and may be valid in some situations.  However, we have to take a look at what is really important.  We can learn a lot from other people and experiences which may not always be the most pleasant for us.  When we can remove our egos from particular circumstances, the outcome can be truly beneficial and show us ways in which we can grow to be more useful to our fellow AAs and be a productive member of the program that has already given us so much.

The next time we are faced with feelings that incline us to raise our voices or storm out, we must remember that there is a greater good we are a part of.  When we learn from these experiences and embrace the discomfort we face, we can truly grow from there.

I listened to a speaker tape on emotional sobriety the other night, and to put it simply, it was exactly what I needed to hear.  The past couple of years have been full of ups and downs – the beginning was different.  It was nice feeling accomplished getting through the day without getting loaded, and I felt like I was making tangible progress with every gain I made in my steps, with every amends I made, and with every move forward.  Things started to change one I hit two years and I felt like I needed more.  The speaker says, “In spiritual growth, the job is never done.”  I heard this, and it struck a chord.  Am I to expect not to reach a point of enlightenment and peace? Well, not really.  The point is to constantly be growing, to be evolving, and to be okay with that.

He speaks about learning, growing, and changing, and the evolution of our behaviors and thoughts when we practice self-love and connection with each other and our spiritual selves.  I cannot expect to be perfect all of the time, and I know this.  Sometimes, I forget that I place unrealistic expectations on myself and others.  I need to take a moment and really think about what my sense of self is based upon.

Am I letting others define me?  Am I allowing my perception of myself when I do something wrong dictate my overall attitude and mindset?  Am I prey to my own negative thoughts and feelings?  Am I unable to see the good in myself, even when others try to point it out to me?

As much as I would like to say my sense of self is solely based upon a spiritual connection and a desire to be useful, that isn’t always the case.  The more important question I can ask myself, though, is, “Am I willing to give myself a break and focus on growing?”

With practice comes learning, with learning comes growth, and with growth comes change.  I want to remain open and teachable, I want to be student in this life and be able to approach things openly and with a sense of willingness that I may be able to get better with each experience.  I want to practice to the point where I can sustain changed behavior and practice loving myself not only through my thoughts, but through my behaviors as well.  I want to connect with those around me and learn from what they have to share, and maybe contribute to their growth as well.
While I cannot expect myself to be perfect along this journey, I can remain grateful for what I have learned thus far and that I have made it to where I am today.  My sense of self is fragile.  I am still learning who I am and what makes me who I am.  I do know that I want to be a good person, and I think I am well on my way to feeling that truth as my reality.

 

To listen to Tom B. speak on Emotional Sobriety, click the link below:

As clichéd as it sounds, acceptance is really the only way to get through difficult situations we may not like.  At first, I had no idea how to approach this concept – how was I supposed to sit idly by and just be okay with things that were happening that made me angry or upset or uncomfortable?  The solution; Seek acceptance and kindness in my heart.

Acceptance does not mean liking something.  It means understanding that I do not have control over everything that happens, and that things are what they are.  Whether or not there is a reason, if I am caused distress by what happens, I have to accept the simple fact that it happened.

Acceptance doesn’t mean sitting and wallowing in my contempt.  It means I see clearly that I have to take further action to work through my own feelings.

 

The simple reality rings true that I do not have a say in what other people do.  I am simply responsible for my own reactions and the things I do to seek support to work through my feelings.  I pray every morning for acceptance of what the day holds – this does not mean I do not get angry or upset.  This means I take a step back and look at things through a lens not clouded by my own selfish needs and wants.  I look at things and think to myself, “Okay, it is what it is,” and I move forward accordingly.

Acceptance is hard and truly means surrendering to the natural flow of life’s occurrences.  It is daunting and scary, but it also provides a sense of relief when I realize how truly blessed I am to be able to seek support from my loved ones, my fellowship, and my higher power in times where I feel out of control and scared.  It is not always easy, but it feels more natural over time with practice.

Today, I will accept things that happen, without taking them personally, without trying to manipulate or change things.  I will feel my feelings and let things come up if they need to, but I will not dwell on them and I will reach out for support if I need it.  I will accept things that are out of my control and move on from there.