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:
- To let the company of women nurse me back to health and restore my confidence.
- To get a job that attracted women (noticing a pattern?) and make good money.
- To be respected by my peers or better, be in a place of power where people need to listen to me.
- To be liked or at least accepted by everybody.
- 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:
- A wife and two children who love me and believe in me.
- Going on seven consecutive years as a teacher, a job I love (and hate at times).
- A faith that no matter what happens in my life, God will be with me.
- A confidence in who I am, that wherever I go and whomever I’m with, I don’t need to change.
- 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 motivateus.com)
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.