Taking stock of a house full of blessings
I spent the weekend doing what 12 years ago seemed unthinkable: Painting a house that I now own.
The Wife and I closed last week on our first home. It’s a little overwhelming, signing a 30-year note that makes me responsible for a piece of property, but standing in the driveway on Saturday morning to get started on minor improvements before moving, I was struck by how far I’ve come.
I don’t say that to pat myself on the back, because humility reminds me that this journey was never one I embarked on alone. Over the past 10-plus years of my recovery, every step I’ve taken has been with my Higher Power leading the way and my fellow recovering addicts at my side. It’s been one of encouragement from family and loved ones, of struggle and toil and some hard times.
But while this past weekend was hard work, along with other days that are no doubt on the horizon, it was by no means a hard time. Not knowing where I’m going to lay my head at night ... scraping bags of dope with a razor blade by candlelight in an apartment with the power turned off and an eviction notice hanging from the front door ... relying on the generosity and good will of friends who took me in when I had no place to go ... declaring bankruptcy to avoid all of the debt accumulated during my destructive run ... those are hard times.
This? This house stuff? It’s a blessing.
I’d pretty much consigned myself to the idea that I’d be a lifelong renter. Bad credit, bad decisions, bad finances ... until a few years ago, I’d come to expect that my past would forever hang over my future. I should have known better, because if there’s anything recovery has taught me, it’s this: Anything is possible.
The past is simply that, and the future is unwritten. By focusing on the here and now — “just for today,” as we like to say in the rooms of recovery — then I can make incremental improvements to my life and my relationships. I can slowly emerge from the fog of addiction, into the light of the world. I can deal with challenges, overcome hardships and make some small difference in the lives of people around me.
I’m by no means a saint or an expert or anyone who’s accomplished something special. I’m just a guy trying his best to make my way in this world by facing problems and turmoil head on instead of seeking escape or avoidance in drugs.
It’s amusing, almost, to regard my sense of wonder over this house purchase with a sense of detachment. After all, this is something people do every day. People buy and sell property; they make themselves homes and go about their lives. For those of us in recovery, however, even small accomplishments are met with a sense of wonder, and major milestones like this are the equivalent of reaching the summit of tall mountains.
And the thing about recovery is that this ... this life, these blessings and wonders and accomplishments — are free for the taking. They can be obtained by anyone struggling to climb out of the darkness of addiction. Honesty, open-mindedness, willingness ... by seizing a few spiritual principles and applying them to life, by cleaning up the wreckage of the past and making every effort to move forward into the future with selflessness and humility and spirituality ... we can do anything.
Looking back on my past, I know this is true. If I can rise up from where I was 11 or 12 years ago to the place I am today, any addict can. I’m no exception to the rule; I am the rule, as other recovering addicts who went before me have shown me.
Standing in the driveway on Saturday morning, imagining the possibilities of my new home and savoring the to-be-made memories that await within, I was struck by the gratitude I have for this life. It’s been one hell of a strange adventure, but it’s been worth it. How appropriate to celebrate Thanksgiving week by taking stock of how I’m blessed — as are well all, if we just do the next right thing, hang on through hard times and live life on life’s terms.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.
Steve Wildsmith is a recovering addict and the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at 981-1144.