Thanksgiving kicks off the festival season with high expectations for a cozy and happy time of year. A time for family, friends, giving and gatherings. A time of wide-eyed wonder for children and moms special recipes.

It has not always been this way for me. For many years I hid the dark world of my addiction from my family – I lied, manipulated, and ran from family gatherings. I was ashamed that I used right up to pulling into my mothers’ driveway to eat (ugh) the dinner that she had literally been up since 5 making. I carry a ton of remorse for going to my favorite aunt’s one year and feeding my heroin addiction in her bathroom while she entertained my children. The pain in my mom’s eyes when she visited me one of the many times I was incarcerated – when she said that she was sorry that I would not be with the family that year for the holidays. I didn’t want to use during those times, but I had NO idea how to stop nor did I understand why I kept repeating the same poor decisions over and over.

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these things. Gratitude is the thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether it can be touched or not. With gratitude, we can acknowledge the goodness in our lives and in the process, we can usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies within ourselves. As a result of practicing gratitude I can connect with something larger than me — my higher power.

Today was a hard day, it was a day filled with fear and frustration. My youngest son revealed to me that he had again returned to using after 5 months of being in recovery. This is not the first time I have heard him say “I don’t understand how this happened” nor is it the first time he has said with tears in his eyes “I need your help.” Tonight, I am eternally grateful that I made the decision 13 years ago to change my life and that I know the resources in our county and can help him. I am at peace that just for tonight he is safe and not using. He will not be with us for the holiday, but he is alive. I pray for the family who cannot spend this holiday season with their loved one because of an addiction that the addict themselves does not understand. I also have hope that the suffering addict can find their way into recovery this holiday season.

As I move forward to the upcoming festive day of Thanksgiving I carry in my heart the fact that I am able to deal with adversity, and more important I get to spend the day with a small (COVID style) dinner with my mom, dad and oldest son. Not the family gathering that any of us are used to but one that will be meaningful. I will remain grateful for the time spent with them and hope that you do too.