© 2019 by Jason Elbinger

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Ten Years of Gratitude

Today is the tenth anniversary of my clean date in Narcotics Anonymous. Ten years ago I received the gift of desperation, and I owe my life to the fellowship of N.A. 

I hated myself and I wanted to die, so I was slowly killing myself through the use of drugs. I had no hope or faith that I could turn my life around. It was like I kept walking in the same circle for so many years I had dug a rut too deep to climb out of. I had tried countless times to quit on my own, but always failed. Always. I thought it was shameful to admit that I needed help, so I kept destroying my life: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. 

Finally, I became sick and tired of being sick and tired, and finally summoned the courage to ask for help, and met a man that told me it was possible to live a life beyond my wildest dreams if I would just be honest, open-minded, and willing. I trusted him and began a journey of hope, faith, gratitude, generosity, humility, and love. I learned to turn things over to a power greater than myself, and to seek guidance when I stumbled. I have met so many wonderful people along the way who understand the power of giving away what was freely given to them, and I’m grateful to be there for others when they receive the gift of desperation.

If you think you have a problem with drugs, I highly recommend that you go to a meeting and introduce yourself to someone. That person will be glad to meet you and will welcome you to the fellowship. You can visit the website NA.org to find a meeting closest to you. Please leave a comment if you have questions. 

Tomorrow morning, I begin chemotherapy. I’m excited to start, but scared, too. Will I be able to work through it? Can I afford to miss days when I feel too shitty to go it? Will the side effects make me miserable? Will I have permanent damage to healthy tissue? Will my appearance permanently change?Will I look older? Everyone tells me I’ll be okay, but will it even work? 

I have faith that I’ll be okay when it’s all over, yet I know I must get through some misery to get there. Narcotics Anonymous taught me how to cope with life on life’s terms, so I’ll use the tools I have to deal with my illness. Illness? It is so strange for me to say that. To admit it to myself, even though I feel perfectly fine. But like I’ve written about before, by admitting I have a problem, I open myself up to receiving the help I need.

I felt shame when I was first diagnosed. What a strange thing it is to be ashamed of something I had no control over. Like addiction, having cancer isn’t my fault; and like addiction, I have the power to do something about it.  So what if the cancer is in my rectum? I wonder how many people never reported symptoms to their doctor because of embarrassment.

I have so much to be grateful for today. Here’s a gratitude list. I’m grateful… 1. I have Rachel, my beautiful, charming, selfless wife with me

2. I own my own home

3. I have an amazing dog

4. I have a job

5. I have health insurance

6. I have so many friends and family who love me and care about me

7. I’m healthy, other than the cancer

8. I’m reading a great book

9. I’m happy

10. I found Narcotics Anonymous.

I learned a long time ago in recovery that gratitude is the cure when I’m feeling miserable and have self-hatred. But sometimes it's good to just write a gratitude list just for the hell of it, and remind myself of how wonderful it is to be alive.

I'll let you know how tomorrow goes.