Plenty to be grateful for

To call Kristi Gray my friend feels like a misnomer. We share more than one secret connection, and I know God has bound us together for the rest of our lives. I couldn’t be more thankful for her. Kristi, you matter to me.

When I first saw my friend Bethany’s request for people to submit posts on gratitude for her blog during the month of November, I quickly skipped over it thinking, I have nothing to be grateful for this year.  It’s been nothing but hard.  But then as the days grew closer to November, I began to be hit with a flood of emotions, including, yes, lots of gratitude.

Fifteen years ago this week, I was on a spiral downwards.  I had just moved to Washington, D.C., three months prior, and I was in a dark, dark place.  My drinking led to blackouts, which led to waking up in strange places with strange people.  I was putting myself in more and more dangerous situations.  I had managed to lose all the friends I had in a short period of time.  My parents were no longer speaking to me.  I was alone, miserable, hated myself, wanted to die and couldn’t imagine life without alcohol because then I would have to feel all these feelings I was desperately trying to push down and hide.  On November 4, 2001, in the middle of a drink, I was struck with the thought that if I continue drinking, I am going to die, and all of a sudden I didn’t want to die anymore.

mountain-lake-945440_1280

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

That night I walked into a meeting of people who had managed not to take a drink for weeks, months, and even years, and I desperately wanted what they had.  They offered me a solution and walked with me through the fear and the pain and the tears and all those feelings that I didn’t want to feel.  I began to slowly experience peace and contentment and God’s presence in my life.   And I haven’t had to be alone again ever since that day.  How can I say I have nothing to be grateful for?

Fourteen years from the day I put down that drink, I began walking through perhaps the most difficult year of my life.  At the beginning of this year, I was enveloped in a darkness I didn’t think I could ever crawl out of, and worst of all, I had lost all hope.  I have been through lots of painful, dark times in my life, but I had never experienced this level of pain.  I didn’t know what to do, so I just did what I’ve been taught to do by my many mentors in life and that is to keep walking through it, hang on, and don’t give up.  My wallpaper on my phone says “Never Give Up” as a constant reminder to myself to keep going no matter what.   And I know God didn’t give up on me because He has been continuously sending me angels to guide me through this dark, difficult year.  The most amazing, beautiful people have showed up on this journey to help guide the way and help me face those parts of me I had been unwilling to face.

Just a few weeks ago, with the help of a wonderful mentor God recently placed in my life, I was able to start removing some of those things that had been blocking me from God and from others, and finally, finally the light started to come in and the darkness began to lift.  I woke up today with a smile on my face, excited to start my day, and I felt happy for the first time in a very long time.  I think I called everyone I knew to tell them I was happy! I didn’t know if I would ever feel peace and contentment and God’s presence again, and now, 15 years after I felt it for the first time, I am feeling all of those things on a deeper level than I’ve ever experienced.  On November 5, 2016, I will wake up 15 years sober, and I will wake up in the sunlight and will know that God is with me and is taking care of me and that all will be okay.

How can I say I have nothing to be grateful for?  I’ve been given my life back, not once, but twice.  For that, I will be forever grateful.

2013 November “Dear Gratitude” project coming soon!

In the woods, October 2013

In the woods, October 2013

It’s that time of year again. Turkey, dressing, and pie. Leaves making a big color statement. Football season.

And Thanksgiving. Gratitude. Lots of talk about giving back, sharing with others, and counting our blessings.

Yada, yada, yada, right?

Not for me. November’s my favorite month. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Fall is my favorite season. And my favorite baby just happened to be born on November 16th last year. All the cynicism and nay-saying in the world can’t get me down this month. I love focusing on what’s beautiful, positive, and hopeful. These things remind me of God, and God is the ultimate source of my gratitude.

Me and my November blessing

Me and my November blessing

One thing I’ve learned about gratitude after making it a real habit for several years is that gratitude, as a habit, works best when I take action and express it. Keeping gratitude to myself is better than being grumpy and whiny, but if I keep it to myself, I am missing out on opportunities for blessings that come from sharing my blessings with others.

Even though I focus on gratitude all year long–partly by maintaining this blog–I wanted to share the opportunity to express gratitude with people I know and love. So this November, 28 of my favorite people–whom I’m very thankful for!–will share gratitude through writing letters to people, places, things, entities, and institutions they’re thankful for. If you don’t follow this blog yet, you might want to start following it now so you don’t miss out on the Dear Gratitude project this month.

If you get inspired by the letters you read, write some of your own. It’s a simple practical idea with big spiritual potential.