There's a saying in the rooms of recovery — be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it.
Never has a proverb been more true in my life, throughout my addiction and recovery.
Often, while using, I would pray to God to help me stop using drugs. Inevitably, my dealer would run dry or I'd be unable to get ahold of cash to purchase what I needed, leaving me in the agony of withdrawal. Of course, I couldn't handle stopping my use that way, and I always went back to what I knew best.
In recovery, my prayers are often answered in a way that makes me chuckle. If I pray for patience, I often get stuck at a train crossing while a mile-long section of rail cars stops for 30 minutes to switch tracks. Or, I get caught in a traffic jam at the end of Pellissippi Parkway and have to wait 30 minutes just to get through a single red light.
Personally, I think God has a funny sense of humor. I know he hears all of my prayers, but when he answers them is completely up to him. When it comes to his will, I'm on a need-to-know basis. And sometimes, it takes several years for the things that I pray for to materialize into blessings.
I used to watch families playing on the beach when I lived in Myrtle Beach, S.C. At the time, I felt completely isolated and alone, dealing with a raging addiction that was consuming me. I had no self-esteem, no accomplishments to take pride in, no real friends to call upon and no one to go home to at night.
I would see these families and feel a longing, an ache somewhere deep in my chest to live their lives for one day. To have no cares other than simple domestic ones, to be filled with love for and to be loved by children who respected me, to have a partner and best friend for life. More than anything, I longed to be free of the beast that controlled my every waking thought.
Today, those prayers have been fulfilled. In May, my wife and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage. I have three kids, a house I own, a truck that’s in reasonably good shape, two dogs, three cats and seven chickens.
I have a recovery family that understands where I've been and supports where I'm trying to go. I have a spiritual foundation that I've never had before in my life. More than anything, I have the one thing I was searching for through all my years of chemical experimentation, all the long nights in smoky bars, all the lost hours in dying neighborhoods conducting nefarious deals with an eye out for the law: some simple peace of mind.
It didn't come without some work — my Higher Power didn't dump these blessings in my lap and say, “Have fun!” I had to surrender to a program of recovery and become willing to do some work on myself. I had to listen, get honest and remain open-minded. I had to change just about everything.
And the blessings I've accumulated don't always seem that way. I'm still human, and just because I'm in recovery doesn't make me perfect. On occasion, I tend to take things for granted and get frustrated and stressed out and see the things that I have as burdens instead of blessings.
But recovery has given me the ability to step back and see how blessed I really am, and that's when I'm flooded with gratitude. Because I can put in a hard day's work, help out other people and go home at night to my family. I can sit down after the dishes are done and the chickens are locked up and the house is quiet, and I can reflect on the fact that I’m OK.
I’m at peace with who I am and what my life has become, because it is literally the one thing I always wanted and searched for when I was out there getting high: peaceful.
That doesn’t mean it’s stress-free, and it doesn’t mean I don’t have trials and tribulations. But it does mean that no matter what else happens, I don’t wake up with a gnawing spiritual hunger I have to feed. I don’t go to bed at night praying to God to kill me in my sleep, and I don’t curse him as soon as my eyes open because he didn’t.
I get to live today instead of exist, and if I look for it, I have opportunities to help other human beings. What more can a man, or woman, ask for?
Here’s your Friday motivation, friends. Celebrate your own blessings.