Gratitude in Recovery from Addiction

Inspiration for Your Journey

We all have our favorite Thanksgiving holiday traditions, from turkey dinners to touch football games. As a person in long-term addiction recovery, Thanksgiving has become a special time of reflection for me—for sorting through the struggles and blessings that have come my way and seeing how all of these experiences shape and color the tapestry of my life.

Here are five reasons my heart is filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving:

  • I said goodbye. My mom died on February 21 this year. She had smoked for more than 50 years and ultimately died from her addiction. She reached the point where she couldn't breathe on her own, and it was really hard to watch. Near the end, she was in a lot of pain. My mom and I didn't have a perfect relationship, but I'm grateful I was able to be at her side and fully present the night she died. In the months since her passing, I've been experiencing real grief. It's a new experience for me—a part of life I didn't have access to when I was in active addiction.
  • I said hello. My 12-year-old son had a series of horrible losses this spring, starting with my mom's death and followed closely by the loss of our beloved family pets. He really, really, really wanted to get a new dog, but we wondered if it was too soon to bring a puppy into our lives. There are all kinds of good reasons why people wait, but we decided to go with what our hearts were telling us. We got a puppy, and you can't believe how much joy this little dog gives our family. I'm so grateful.
  • I met you. It was a year ago, in November 2015, when I began working on your behalf, as the executive director of Alumni Relations for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. I can't imagine a more rewarding or fulfilling way to earn my living. Seriously. I get to work with and for recovering people who inspire me every single day. How lucky am I? I know. Very.
  • I tried a few new things. If you're like me, self-care is the first thing to go when life gets busy. That's why I'm especially grateful for three opportunities in 2016 to follow my bliss. First, I enrolled in a course on mindfulness-based stress reduction, a subject that has intrigued me for some time now. Second, I survived a super-intensive strength training workshop that challenged me to the core. I've continued to practice the techniques and I'm working toward certification. And third, I joined a book club. Finally. Even though I have a master's degree in English literature, taking time to read for pleasure always felt like too much of a luxury with the demands of work and parenting and everything else. But my new book club gets me out once a month to enjoy great conversations with great women. I love it.
  • I went on an adventure. For vacation this year, I decided to get out of my comfort zone. Way out. I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba, to learn first-hand about its history, culture, literature and people. This was not a relaxing trip, but it certainly satisfied my sense of adventure. There's something very freeing to me about being immersed in unfamiliar surroundings. I pay attention differently. I get to be curious. I have a heightened awareness. It's something I really appreciate about venturing to new places.

So, yes, 2016 brought a combination of joys and sorrows, challenges and achievements, and ups and downs that felt sometimes like more than I could handle and other times like more than I deserved. I'm guessing you can relate.

What I'm most grateful for is the fact that I didn't drink my way through a single moment. Isn't this the truest blessing of recovery?

Nell HurleyNell Hurley is the executive director of national alumni relations for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
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