Based entirely on the promises of twelve step programs, here are 9 realities about recovery that you can be thankful for this holiday season.
1. “We will know a new freedom and a new happiness.”
Remember that overwhelming feeling that someone was going to find you out? Nights and days were spent in growing fear that the secret of your addictive behaviors would come to light. The fear led to sadness, anger and shame. Happiness had become a thing of the past, if it was ever there to begin with. The greater the compulsion became, the more enslaved you were. What seemed to be a justification to act in apparent freedom, to do what you wanted when you wanted, had become an inability to function without the object of your addiction.
Recovery changes things. Slowly, with growing honesty, integrity and vulnerability, a person in recovery can begin to be grateful for a new freedom and a new happiness that comes with the diminishment of fear, sadness and shame.
2. “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”
There are plenty of things about the past you might not like. In fact, if you’re honest, you hate the way addiction led you to behave. Hopefully that’s why you’re in recovery. But hating behaviors is much different than regretting the past or wishing to shut the door on it. The old saying “Years from now, you’ll laugh about it” makes more sense when you come to terms with a past you can’t erase. View your mistakes instead as a time that led you to the bottom so you can now build a firm foundation for the future.
Self-awareness, forgiveness and self-love blossom like flowers after a long, cold winter. In recovery, one discovers the basic truth: I never intended to do as much harm as I did. This truth helps you be thankful for a difficult past that has opened new and better doors rather than be ashamed and want to shut the door on it.
3. “We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.”
Someone who has not entered into recovery can only think they comprehend the word serenity. However, they won’t ever be able to understand the word as closely as someone in recovery. Those who have just begun recovery soon discover what veterans in recovery have come to live by: peace. Self-awareness, forgiveness and self-love produce serenity. This is something attested to by the folks at Psychology Today. Letting go of the shame, unrealistic expectations and self-pity makes more room to receive peace. Sure, it will be challenged often but as you continue to grow in recovery you’ll be able to recognize the robbers of serenity and steer clear of them.
4. “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.”
Recovery doesn’t just begin to shine a light on us. It begins to shine a light on the behavior of others. Where once we were quick to judge others, hoping to deflect their attention or actions from what we revealed in our own addictive behaviors, now we are able to walk in their shoes. Doing so makes us less judgmental and more approachable. Not unlike moths to light, the soft glow of our own serenity will draw in those who seek it themselves. It doesn’t matter how dark and cold our attitudes were previously, recovery ignites a change within us that shows us how our experiences, as distorted and disordered as they may have been, can now benefit others as they seek to move from addiction to recovery.
5. “That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.”
I suffered from an addiction to codependency. I wanted to help anyone and everyone. But others didn’t necessarily want to be helped. And so I began to feel useless. That uselessness quickly degenerated into self-pity. Before long, I was complaining about everything in life: my friends, my co-workers, myself, my environment, my circumstances, my family, even complete strangers. It seemed like I was constantly a victim and I made sure others knew it.
Recovery gave me something to be thankful for so I no longer felt that constant frustration of uselessness and self-pity. After realizing that no one could or would care for me as well as I could and should care for myself, I began to move out of the victim role. No longer being a victim meant that I could actually be useful to myself and others. Suddenly there was no time and no desire for self-pity.
6. “Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.”
It may not happen all at once. In fact, it won’t. But by no longer playing the victim and burdening yourself and others with self-pity, your attitude and outlook on life can’t help but change. You will be thankful that the future looks brighter and full of opportunity. A “never gonna happen” attitude is replaced with an “anything is possible” attitude and ongoing recovery empowers the motivation to fully embrace a more positive attitude and outlook on life.
7. “Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.”
I can’t say I have mastered the fear of economic insecurity due to a low paying job, a fiancé and two kids that I’m supporting, but I believe that recovery programs speak the truth when they talk about progress rather than perfection. As for my fear of people, I used to sweat profusely when I encountered someone from my past, before recovery changed things. I wore fake glasses, parted my hair differently and avoided stores during high-traffic times. In the earliest stages of recovery, I was terrified of running into someone I knew. But with recovery comes the acceptance of who I am and where I am in life. By accepting myself, I no longer have to fear others’ acceptance. For that, anyone in recovery can be thankful.
8. “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.”
Rather than the panic that ensues each time we are faced with a situation that baffles us, recovery leads to serenity and serenity leads to a peaceful, reflective and confident approach to perplexing situations. No longer do we worry about dealing with situations in ways that others think are best. In recovery, because of the serenity born through suffering, wisdom and experience, we somehow intuitively know how to handle those situations. Whether they be little annoyances or major life traumas, recovery has taught us to “take it easy,” to take things “one day at a time” and many other slogans that offer us the chance to handle situations in ways that are best for ourselves and others.
9. “We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Yes, we are thankful in recovery for our Higher Power. Before admitting we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable, we thought we could do it ourselves. Failure after failure enabled us to realize that we could not. By working the twelve steps and prioritizing our program of recovery, we begin to realize that we are not the carpenter. Instead, we are specific tools in the hand of the Master Carpenter, our Higher Power. Gratitude comes in realizing day-by-day that the God of our understanding is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.