Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. This year, I had the pleasure of spending it with family. I drove north to where I grew up, to spend the holiday surrounded by the people I grew up with. Everyone was happy to see me. The atmosphere was warm and inviting and the food was delicious. I had a great time. I truly have a lot to be thankful for. But not so long ago, things looked very different.
The beautiful experience of spending the holidays with family is just one of the many things I lost to my addiction. Between the drinking and drug use, stealing, acting like a lunatic and generally making everybody’s life difficult, my family relationships fell apart. There were years when half the people I was related to wouldn’t even talk to me. The only thing worse than spending the holidays alone and depressed is knowing that it’s all your fault. No level of intoxication can blot out that feeling—but I sure tried to blot it out anyway.
So what changed? In a word, recovery. Getting sober and getting my life together is what made this dramatic change possible. All the wonderful things that I enjoy today I owe to my recovery. It’s the foundation that my new life is built on. But it took more than abstinence to build that new life.
Putting down the drugs and alcohol was a good first step, but that’s all it was. A first step. I still had to deal with the consequences of my actions. In this case that meant, among many other things, broken family relationships. This is where the amends process came in.
My recovery, especially early on, was 12-Step based, and a big part of that practice is making amends. For those of you who don’t know, that means making a list of the people you’ve harmed and doing whatever you can to make things right with them. So that’s what I did.
It took some time for some of my family to even be willing to sit down with me. I had to demonstrate that I was serious with over a year of sobriety and clean living. When the time came, I was so nervous, but I approached the situation willing to admit everything I had done wrong and do anything to make it right. And the crazy part is, it worked. Sticking to the process fixed my life, just like it did for millions of others.
Today I feel truly grateful. I’m thankful for getting to spend the holidays with my family, and so much more. Trusting in the process and putting work into my recovery has given me things to be grateful for. And this isn’t a past-tense thing—I still put work into my recovery every single day. The Thanksgiving I enjoyed this year is proof of just how much that work pays off. It’s just one more thing I have to be grateful for.