Have you every been given a unexpected gift? A gift that you get at a time that there is no special day or time associated with it, no birthday, no holiday. no anniversary, etc. For many that either personally battle with the challenges of addiction and mental illness or have a loved whom does, that is exactly what they get almost every day. Unfortunately is not in a good way. Addiction is a “gift that keeps on giving.” What kinds of gifts does it “bless” the affected with?
Unfortunately, there is no “Day after Christmas” in the real world. There is a strict “no refund, no exchange” policy in reference to these “gifts. Once they have been received, the best that we can do is take them as they come, and attempt to cope with them as best we can. <Kinda like the ugly sweater that Aunt June gave you. You think it is absolutely hideous, but with a smile you put it on and wear it for the day. Then when she goes home you put it in the pile for your next rip to Goodwill.>
Unfortunately as we all know those that battle addiction, do not typically respond to these gifts in a “healthy” or “positive” manner. Many times they are taken as a good “excuse” to continue the negative and destructive behaviors.
This is so typical, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) says this about Substance Abuse (Addiction):
When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed.
This is one pattern of behavior that is needed for a person to be “diagnosed” with a substance abuse disorder.
In my opinion, this is the typical view that has been taken of these “Gifts of Addiction”, the negative and destructive. I want to challenge our paradigm and look at them from a little more positive perspective. Then I want us to look at the greater gifts and rewards that are found on “the other side”, in a life of recovery.
Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist, once said,
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
A couple of similar quotes reinforce this idea.
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”Arnold Schwarzenegger
I have had to fight like hell and fighting like hell has made me what I am.John Arbuthnot Fisher
Opposition is a natural part of life. Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights – we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.Stephen R. Covey
So what am I trying to say? I would NEVER choose to rewind the clock of time relive any of the struggles of the past including their pain, loss anger, etc. However, as strange as this sounds, I would not go back and undo them if I could either. Despite, all of the negatives that resulted, these struggles come with their own “unexpected gifts”. They develop character. Each one of us is the person that we are because of our experiences good and bad not despite them. These same trials foster strength and courage. Having gone through and overcome these trials, we become stronger and stronger with each obstacle that we conquer. With each step that we take onward and upward, we are stronger and wiser when it comes time to face the next one. It is not easy and will take a lot of work and devotion, but in the end we realize that it was all worth it.
That brings me to the ultimate “unexpected gifts”, the gifts that we discover in a life of recovery. In my experience and communications with those that have known both sides of this coin, there is one gift that is far and above the most treasured, “PEACE”. We learn that life does NOT have to be full of chaos! As we grow and get wiser and stronger, we realize that we are capable of much more than we have ever given ourselves credit for in the past. We realize that we DO have something to share with the world that is around us and it is some thing positive, healthy and beautiful! Life AFTER addiction is just that LIFE! We finally start living and being able to enjoy the experiences of each day rather than simply “surviving”. Life after addiction is a life of daily “unexpected gifts”. That is if we will open our eyes and hearts to be watching for them.
So whether it is your past, your present or you future, I challenge you to open your eyes and your heart and be grateful for each of the “unexpected gifts that come into your life.
Thanks for letting me share one with you in these words!
One breath, one step, one day at a time,