Our blog post today comes from a very special friend in recovery: Alicia. You may remember several of her memorable posts–she was a regular contributor before she received a diagnosis of Stage IV Breast Cancer earlier this year. This beautiful message from this beautiful person has impacted my entire holiday season, and I hope it will yours.
Living and growing up in the country is a beautiful thing -though we’re farther from stores and conveniences, including in-person recovery meetings -it provides a story-like setting for holidays. Our Thanksgivings are filled with family, smoked turkey and laughter. After dinner, we are treated with horse and buggy rides. The day after Thanksgiving, while the rest of the world is shopping, my mother bakes granola and a gingerbread house from scratch. While scents of the holidays roll through our home, most of us stick around to enjoy leftovers and a few games or movies while some of the family joins in the annual family cattle round-up. Anyone from a ranching family knows that holiday gatherings are a prime opportunity to recruit volunteer workers. If you’re home for the holidays, you’re hired! Add grandma’s cheesecake to the mix, and what we have is truly picturesque.
As Thanksgiving came this year, I was easing out of 6 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy. Earlier in the spring, I’d been diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer, and my summer months were a blur of appointments, decisions, weight and hair loss, sickness and shock. I spent hours in my white front porch rocker, trying to digest My New Reality. I was the rope in a tug-of-war between life and death, and I felt weary gratitude for my recovery principles as I worked to let go of what I couldn’t control: my future. As scans reported good news, I moved into the holiday season with a deep sense of presence and appreciation. My hope is growing alongside my hair, and I couldn’t wait to simply BE at Thanksgiving Dinner with my family.
I went in with high expectations and when they weren’t fully met -as high expectations are, as I’ve learned in recovery, premeditated resentments -I was able to take a step back and use my tools. I could observe where I was at, reevaluate my priorities, make choices for my own happiness (reaching out to others I trust and reaching up to God), let go of what was out of my control, and get present with the moment.
Walking through the doors of my own home with a belly full of turkey and fresh veggies, I reflected on the role recovery plays in life. In the tug-of-war battle that raged all summer, life won. Life won! My body popped out of death’s grip and landed roughly on the Life Side of things, and I sit humbled and hairless, grateful and giggling.
And tired. Oh, so very tired.
Cheating death doesn’t make life suddenly blooming and perfect -it deepens appreciation though, and what was once routine becomes rich, even miraculous. Breathing, eating, a hot shower! What once felt normal now feels indulgent. But the kids still fight, drivers are still pushy, a fun new mountain of bills are piling up and falling through a few cracks, and I’m facing a more uncertain future than ever before. Life won, and I’m stupid with happiness about it. But life is messy, and I’m sopping up messes with the principles of the 12-steps.
I realized that day -that day where my heart was a full as my belly -that the greatest gift I can offer my family (and myself!) this holiday season is The Gift of Working My Own Recovery.
Working my recovery implies that I’m letting God take care of things outside the realm of my control. I’m a lover -and handing people, situations, and the past over to the care of my Father in Heaven means I have more space and capacity to love those around me.
Working my recovery implies that I’m taking consistent ownership for my side of the street. It means I’m actively aware of my tendencies to control and give into fear. I’m able to observe these behaviors and reach out to a sponsor for support. Each time I do this, my shame decreases and I’m able to get outside of myself -I become more available for loving relationships. Loving relationships are now, more than ever, my greatest treasure.
Working my recovery implies that I am willing to make amends in those very relationships, and in doing so, there is more love, more connection! My time with others is used more deliberately, and I am able to more fully enjoy my family, accepting them in the moment as they are (not as I would have them).
Working my recovery implies that I’m in continual contact with My Father in Heaven, bringing peace, divine counsel and direction beyond anything this world has to offer.
The holidays, by the simple nature of what I’ve gone through, are going to be more meaningful this year. I’m so looking forward to playing Santa, to shopping when I can, to creating healthier versions of holiday treats, to letting go of the past! Most importantly, I’m looking forward to giving the best gift I can to my family. Though the offering will be silent, God will know and I will know: I’m giving them the promise of continued healing, recovery and health that we all may prosper and find the abiding abundance recovery has in store.
May your days be merry, bright, and reasonably happy is my Christmas prayer.