Gratitude (getting what I never wanted)

I am a teacher who experienced seven consecutive snow days over the last two weeks. That’s a lot of time to think. As a father of two under four, it was also an opportunity for all that I am grateful for to drive me insane, for the blessings of family to push the threshold of distress—a nine-month old in a sleep regression, and a daily dose of toddler tantrums. But,

it is always the right time to realize how grateful I am for what I have.

So I compiled a list. The first is the list of what I wanted when I first got sober. Please note I was in the psychiatry ward for three days before I transferred to a rehab. The accuracy of my best recollection at this time ranges somewhere between a mobster being questioned on the witness stand and a weather forecaster’s weekend outlook.

List of what I wanted then:

  1. To let the company of women nurse me back to health and restore my confidence.
  2. To get a job that attracted women (noticing a pattern?) and make good money.
  3. To be respected by my peers or better, be in a place of power where people need to listen to me.
  4. To be liked or at least accepted by everybody.
  5. For my writing to be read, for my thoughts to be heard.

All these desires came from a place of pride. Sobriety jolted my ego; people told me I couldn’t manage my own life, that I had to rely on a higher power to do that. I took the leap of faith—the story here—and what I have been given is far from what I wanted. Instead of glitz and glamour, I was given the work-a-day bliss, an ‘everyman’ lifestyle.

Where I used to stake unique unique claim to this life, I now celebrate the unique life that is at stake in sobriety.

List of what sobriety has given me:

  1. A wife and two children who love me and believe in me.
  2. Going on seven consecutive years as a teacher, a job I love (and hate at times).
  3. A faith that no matter what happens in my life, God will be with me.
  4. A confidence in who I am, that wherever I go and whomever I’m with, I don’t need to change.
  5. A blog for my writing to be read, and my thoughts to be heard.

These gifts I received are far greater than the outlandish dreams of my prior life. In truth, God gave me an underwhelming life, that I may discover the bliss that blossoms between human beings. So true is that portion of the “soldier’s prayer” that I have heard: (full version at

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

Wanting all the things I don’t have is ambition. Appreciating all that I already have is gratitude. It is when I am grateful that I am content and satisfied.

I run into trouble when I think of sobriety as something I’ve done, something I’ve accomplished. That is how pride invades thinking and sucker-punches my sense of gratitude. My reliance on God and others keeps me sober. And I stay sober by giving away what I was so freely given.

It is important for me to continue to understand that sobriety has given me the things I never wanted. It is how I define a blessing: the unexpected gift for the underserved. Now that I have these things, I wouldn’t trade any of them for my best night drunk.

4 Responses to “Gratitude (getting what I never wanted)

  • Great post Mark. I practice gratitude daily – especially when I feel like having a pity party – ha! And enjoy the little ones even when they try your patience because they really do grow up fast, and then they fly the nest. It’s over in the blink of an eye.

    • Thanks Audrey. Glad to hear you’re seeing the attitude of gratitude work for you. I hear you about appreciating them now. I have day dreams about getting them out of the nest of course. But, I know it’s one of those ‘grass ain’t greener’ scenarious. I’ll give my little ones an extra squeeze today for you! In fact, I’m off to pick them up from day care…

  • Love this Mark! I can totally relate and remember well being snowed in for 7 days… I had my boys in the bathtub at one point cause I ran out of ideas of what to do with them! LOL! They had a blast too!

    • Stick ’em in the one place they can’t escape from! That’s quick thinking. 7 days! Arghh. That must of been “snowmageddon?” Luckily I didn’t have kids at that time!

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