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MOTIVATIONAL MUSINGS: Putting those ‘Cadillac problems’ into perspective

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Every so often, I have to call an audible and make time for a perspective check.

When I was in my active addiction, life, to put it bluntly, sucked on any day ending in a “Y.” I was miserable every waking moment, because I knew my day would consist of the never-ending cycle of getting, using and finding ways and means to get more.

Responsibilities ... family ... participation in life itself took a backseat to the demands my addiction placed on me, and my existence became a weary cycle that ended every day with me praying to whatever God was out there to kill me in my sleep. And the next morning would always begin with me cursing him because I was still alive, and the cycle was about to begin again.

Compared to what life used to be like, my problems today are “Cadillac problems,” as I’ve heard them referred to in recovery meetings. The longer I remain clean, the more I deal with everyday life stuff: bills, job stress, family dilemmas and things that were way outside the scope of my reality when I was getting high. Back then, I lost jobs because drugs were more important; I didn’t pay bills, because every cent I had was going up my arm; I had pushed away everyone close to me, so family was the furthest thing from my mind.

Today, I try to be a responsible, productive member of society, which means living life on life’s terms. Most of the time, I’m grateful for this new life that I have and the opportunity to suit up, show up and be a grown man instead of a self-centered addict who only cares about using other people as a means to an end. But no matter how long I remain clean, no matter how much I continue to work on recovery, I can slip into that old “woe-is-me” thinking and look at all of my blessings, all of my accomplishments, as burdens instead. That’s probably not a unique thing to addicts; most people, at one time or another, lose perspective and tend to curse the very things that make their lives worth living, and certainly make them worlds better than the less fortunate. But because we, as addicts, once were those less fortunate, you would think we would know better, but hey — we’re only human.

And that’s where a program of recovery comes in. If I’m not working on my serenity through meetings, prayer and meditation, talking with others in recovery and most of all my own self-awareness, I can easily let life and life’s terms overwhelm me. The job that I think is the best in the world? I can complain and gripe and get stuck in the rut of hating going there every morning because I’ve lost perspective. The family I once prayed for, longed for, was desperate to have? I can get stressed, irritable and lose perspective that they’re the biggest blessings I have in my life.

I can so quickly go negative and get into a head space that leads me to irritability, anger, an ungrateful attitude and a short-tempered disposition. I’ll assume and expect the worse, forgetting that things I deal with today are child’s play compared to the agony and desperation I once grappled with on a daily basis.

Which is why I still, after more than 17 years clean, continue to go to meetings. Five minutes after one starts and I hear a newcomer share his struggle with staying clean, I have to shake my head and chide myself for losing perspective. When someone with 5 days clean is pouring out her soul over losing her kids and her job and her self-respect, I bow my head and give thanks.

And suddenly I find myself grateful: For the newcomer, for my own recovery and, more than anything else, for the fact that I deal with “Cadillac problems.” They’re high-class compared to the gutter-scraping way of life I once led. With the right perspective and the right tools, they’re easy to handle and deal with. They’re like driving a Cadillac, compared to the broken-down Gremlin on the side of life’s highway that was the only thing I had when I first got clean. And for that, I’m so very, very grateful.

Whatever problems you’re dealing with today — Cadillac or otherwise — I wish for you the perspective you need to cope with them in a way that doesn’t steal your joy. Here’s your Friday motivation.