Attitude of Gratitude - That's what the bumper sticker said. It must have been twenty or more years ago when I first saw that sticker affixed to someone's vehicle. More than likely I was otherwise occupied. I was probably fretting about the commute from Amherst to Springfield and covering that distance without running into the Po Po, the Five-O, the Pigs, the Man or whatever libelous slur one can affix to describe my nemesis at the time. I was carrying precious cargo and needed to get back home unfettered so I could weigh and repackage the product, and quickly distribute it so I could sit down and enjoy my cut of the contraband in the peace and serenity of my living room, without having to look over my shoulder, with no one pointing their finger at me or judging me. Well ... there was one person who was doing that, my loving wife who finally decided enough was enough and cut me loose years later. She was no Saint in the relationship, that is for sure. But then again neither was I.
It is surprising that I noticed the bumper sticker at all, never mind what it said, considering the vast and extensive check list which was undoubtedly running through my head, at the time. The paranoid, and drug fueled fears, coupled with the very REAL fear of getting caught. Being the addict that I eventually found out that I was, my desire to use superseded any rational and lawful behavior that I was expected to exhibit, especially when it came to dealing with the ways and means and lengths I engaged in to do so. It would be years before the progression would set in and bring me to my knees.
This progression is a simple mathematical formula to which you must insert your own variables, because no two equations are the same. This formula is, however, very simple. - If you are an Addict/Alcoholic and you continue to use, things will eventually get worse.
If you are lucky you will not die. If you are lucky, you may end up in jail. If you are lucky you may end up institutionalized in a rehab, a detox, a long term residential program or a half way house. If you are very lucky you will end up in the rooms of 12-Step fellowship when someone just like you with a little more experience than you when it comes to staying clean and sober will take you under their wing and teach you a new way to live. Just like someone had taught them, and you will teach someone else one day. But you have to want it and you have to ask for help. There is actually a little bit of work involved.
If you are the luckiest person on the planet, you can just stop drinking and drugging one day, live your life to the fullest and actually come out on the other end a reasonably healthy and well adjusted individual. That doesn't happen to very many people. I personally know of two. More power to them.
It is in these rooms of recovery that I began to understand what an attitude of gratitude is and what that bumper sticker I had read so many years ago truly means.
Today I am grateful. I have had a few bumpy months with a lot of ups and some downs, recently, but I remain grateful.
As 2010 rapidly comes to a close I have begun to reflect on the year and what my experiences have been. I was going through some personal stuff a few days ago, I have been burning the candle at both ends and my meeting attendance has been down. Although I'm still involved and keeping centered in my recovery. Old behaviors still emerge. Fortunately today I have some tools to combat such dreadful times when my diseased brain starts telling me doing such and such with so and so, might be a good idea. One of those tools is calling my sponsor who suggested I write a gratitude list. So I did just that.
I am grateful to be alive. It can't get much simpler than that. There were times where my using put me very close to death on a regular basis. Though overdoses, blackouts while driving, nodding out while driving, walking into strange buildings in the middle of the night because, someone told me Pito on the second floor has got some good shit. I am amazed I didn't meet an early demise.
I am grateful for my loving family who stood by me no matter what, one of the grateful attitudes I strive to demonstrate every day. I will not pick up no matter what.
I am grateful for an ex-wife who understands and supports my struggle and is a good mother to my daughter.
I am grateful for my daughter who is funny, gregarious, talented, emphatic, honest, loyal and a damn good song writer. I hope she sticks with music. She has a natural talent people practice for years to discover.
I am grateful for my experiences on the road with the Grateful Dead and Phish and all of the other live music I have had the honor to have witnessed. It was during these experiences that I learned to self medicate taking recreational drug use to the new level of "lifestyle choice." A lifestyle I had to experience to take me to the next level of my addiction.
I am grateful for the writers I have read extensively over the course of the years. Writers like Hemingway, William Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, Stephen King and Charles Bukowski. Writers who painted a romantic picture of drug use, drunks, junkies and hustlers. They painted a panoramic landscape where their shortfalls and hindrances were fodder for their craft. They described idyllic bohemian spaces where they could hide in the shadows where they could do their thing artistically fueled by the liquids, pills and powders and crystals which enabled them to repeatedly leave it all on the field before they had the opportunity to come back and do it again. Some had better results than others. Hemingway and Hunter Thomson took the easy way out ... if putting a gun in your mouth can be considered - easy.
The erroneous notions I concocted regarding the relationship between drugs and art and how drugs facilitate the artistic process were validated as I devoured the works of these guys. Delusional adoration of these writers allowed me to spiral downward as quickly I did when stronger and more addictive drugs became part of my daily regimen. Their well documented exploits gave me the license to do what I did and increased the rate at which my disease progressed causing me to find the desperation and willingness to change my life.
I am grateful for the gifts I have been given. My artistic abilities come natural to me. Through art and music and writing, I have been able to express myself in ways that I had never imagined.
Through the flame working, I have found a niche through the Continuum Memorial Glass series. This series involves me putting cremated remains into art glass marbles and pendants. I am making permanent heirloom quality pieces of art with which you can memorialize and celebrate the lives your loved ones. It wasn't until a few days ago when I had the opportunity to make one of these pieces with the ashes of someone I actually knew who died the previous week. I got incredibly emotional during the process. It hit me as to how very special it is having the opportunity ability and willingness to do what I am doing. How my work can affect the family members who are left behind. This truly is a gift. With perseverance, and a little marketing, art and music could easily turn into that one way ticket out of the production kitchen which I have been looking for. The funny thing is, I kind of fell into it when a friend of mine had the most odd request for his brother's ashes. Without advertising and through word of mouth, it is starting to happen. 2011 will be the year to see what will happen if I do advertise and market these gifts.
I am grateful for all of the people I have met along the way who have helped me in my recovery.
I am grateful in so many different ways that I could go on much longer. But it is Christmas Eve, I worked a very long day already making way too much food for way too many people. It is time that I wrap this up so I can go and enjoy some time with my family.
2010 was a very interesting year indeed. I found out a lot about myself. I found out a few things that I do want. I found out that I am really a lot more driven than I had previously thought. My entrepreneurial spirit, although dormant if not suppressed for a few years is bubbling back to the surface. I am aching to climb to the top of the highest mountain and shout to the world that I am ready and I am willing. I want to sing with all my heart and no fear. I want to tell the world I am the person you have been looking for all of your life. I will make a difference. I will follow through. I will be everything I ever wanted to be. There is nothing stopping me.
With all my love, hope in my heart and an attitude of gratitude, I find myself once again ...
Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.