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MOTIVATIONAL MUSINGS: Peace of mind the best birthday gift one could ask for

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You know, I'm not quite sure how I feel about turning 48 today.

That's right; yours truly hits the big 4-8 today. I’m taking the day off, but feel free to send greetings, presents and cash to my office up in the Polly Bales building.

Seriously, though — I'm trying to come up with something all introspective and sage this week, but I just can't seem to bring myself to do it.

I suppose there's an upside and a downside to every birthday. As a recovering addict, I know I'll remember this one, at least. I can actually recall very few birthdays before I got clean, mostly because I was so plastered that it usually ended with a huge party and me passing out in a stupor.

I have a few fond memories of birthdays prior to getting clean. A party my parents threw for me as a kid, probably around the fifth grade. My buddies came over, we played video games and I got some cool “Star Wars” action figures. A birthday six years ago, when I was living in Myrtle Beach, still in the honeymoon period with my new girlfriend ... spending the day at the beach and walking the quiet trails of Brookgreen Gardens.

We had a nice meal at a fancy restaurant and drinks at our favorite local dive with our pals, sitting back on the porch outside, watching the tourists stroll down Eighth Avenue North toward the Boulevard, feeling the breeze off the ocean stir the humid air, toasting an unknown future. And then there was the first birthday I celebrated in recovery, back in 2001, with little gifts and presents from a special girl all over my desk when I came in to work and my parents surprising me at dinner.

Birthdays used to cause me a bit of angst — not because I was getting older, but because my life wasn't what I'd envisioned it would turn out to be. But even when I had a good job and a nice girl, I was an unhappy guy, mostly because of what was wrong on the inside. I wasn't happy with myself, so I certainly couldn't find any sort of contentment with things external.

Fortunately, all of that's changed today. The first physical birthday I spent in recovery felt good — like a rebirth. Like most “firsts” in recovery, it was a discovery of being able to exist in the moment, without the existential angst so omnipresent before I began to work on myself.

These days, birthdays are filled with gratitude — for the life I’m blessed to have, and for the completion of another trip around the sun. No one gets out of life alive, and the older I get, the more keenly I sense that terminus that’s out there waiting for us all. I’m not fatalistic, but when you start to lose parents and friends your own age, the invincibility of youth crumbles like a shoddy façade.

The biggest difference is how I look at my birthday. I don't wake up in the mornings, dreading to get out of bed. I don't look at friends and acquaintances and wish my life was more like there's, envying their cars or their girls or their material things. I don't wallow in self-pity, wondering where my life went wrong and when it's going to get better.

My life is great today. I may not have everything I want, but that's OK — I have everything I need: a program of recovery … an amazing wife … three incredible kids … real and true friends ... a meaningful job ... an appreciation for the little things. I'm loved today, and I feel that. I can love back, because I love myself, and I feel that, too.

I truly am blessed. So happy birthday to me.

Like any other day, it's a great one as long as I wake up above ground, blessed to draw another breath.

And really, that's the only gift I need.

Here’s your Friday motivation, friends. Love your lives, on your birthday and on every day.