‘Tis the season when we invariably find ourselves reflecting upon the closing year and at some point conducting a personal audit. This year-end self-evaluation generally includes recalling earlier resolutions resolutely made and quickly forgotten, a relationship “tally” and/or “assessment” and a scary full-length-mirror body scan.
I encourage any who cannot be dissuaded from embarking upon such a potentially masochistic review to proceed with kind caution and include a “gratitude list.”
My own gratitude is tremendous. According to my physician, my health is fine. My two young daughters appear to be thriving, socially and academically. I have a job I love, where I feel respected and valuable. I hold dear to me a coterie of fantastic friends who treat me pretty well.
More important than any of those excellent pieces of the puzzle called my life, I am grateful that it looks pretty good that I will spend my seventh consecutive holiday season completely sober.
Before Aug. 26, 2001, for an alcoholic like me, this time of year was really no different than any other. Every night was New Year’s Eve, and every morning began with a medicinal swig of “Christmas cheer.”
At the end, long after my drinking had progressed to a need rather than a choice, when my health was anything but healthy, when any interactions with my daughters were strictly monitored, when I was no longer welcome on the lot of the major TV network with which I had enjoyed a 15-year working relationship and after my friends had sadly surrendered any attempts to help me address my “problem,” I felt hopeless and doomed.
Fortunately, through the grace of a power stronger than myself, I was one of the lucky ones offered a second chance. I cannot say that I was thrilled at the prospect of spending 28 days in rehab, but I knew I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and could not live this way one more day.
Also, rehabs then were not fodder for jokes and magazine covers. The program I chose was structured and offered real recovery. I merely followed what it suggested and got the miracle in return.
For more than six years since, sober, and as a certified drug counselor, I have dedicated myself to helping others who still struggle with chemical dependency. I share my experience, strength and hope with them, our bond forged by the simple commonality that I was once where they are and thus know the humility, frustration, loneliness and despair of addiction.
I know how profoundly the problem affects the family. I do not possess superhuman powers and tell them that if I was able to break the shackles of dependency, anyone can.
I encourage them to get out of the problem and into the solution, because there is one. I’ve seen miracles in abundance.
I promise them that they need not live such a limited life for one more day if they choose, instead, to seek help. I promise to assist them in any way I can.
Addiction is an insidious nemesis. I know, because near the end, my family was planning my funeral. It was not a question of “if,” but “when.” They were not being overly dramatic.
Fortunately, I was willing to be willing to seek help and, like millions before me, found a new life beyond my wildest imagination.
On your own year-end gratitude list, include those you love and who love you. If, however, any of them is struggling with drug or alcohol dependency, help them believe that bountiful hope and a full recovery are available to them.
I’m eternally gratefully to those who led me to both.
Don Grant is director of admissions for Harmony Place, a residential treatment center for women in Woodland Hills.