Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

The Scare: Exhaling with Gratitude

I’ve heard when someone faces a great fear the best solution is to focus on being grateful.

The night before the biopsy as I sat in bed reading by the light of my iPad, I closed my eyes and lost myself in gratitude. I reflected on how I’ve been given my life back in countless ways over the past decade. My experiences have been extraordinary and my perspectives profoundly changed for the better. My relationships have grown deeper and my resentments have grown smaller.

As my mind continued to wander, I realized no matter what would be revealed during the biopsy or what would be required of me to accept, I’d be just fine. I’d been through enough troubling experiences to know, regardless of circumstances, I may not have liked the pathway but the end I always ended up where I needed to be; having grown emotionally, mentally or spiritually regardless of how I might have tried to alter the direction.

As my husband lay sleeping by my side, I listened to the rhythm of his breathing and felt the comfort of his presence, knowing he’d be OK too. I then considered all those I love and care for feeling completely confident they’d also be just fine. Each of them have proven to me the depth of their strength, overcoming various forms of adversity and in doing so taught me what integrity means; to value the life we are all so freely given.

The next morning my husband and I were off to the hospital, not saying much as we were each lost in wonder as to what the day would bring.

The admission process went like clockwork. Before I even had time to turn around I was in a hospital room being connected to all kinds of wires and machinery assuring the medical staff I was in good shape.

After having the procedure reviewed and the paperwork signed, a nurse came in to wheel me away. Just before I started moving, I looked up at my husband who had not stopped holding my hand. He smiled and said, “We’re a team. We’re in this together. Know I love you and I’ll be right here when you get back.”

I let go of his hand but not his words.

Moving down the hospital hallway I watched the ceiling tiles roll past as a tear long in development began to slowly descend my cheek. I wasn’t fearing what was about to happen but rather how incredibly grateful I was for what already had. The man who just told me he’d be there for me was the same man who wanted nothing to do with me a decade ago. Once again I was reminded of how remarkable and extraordinary the process of recovery can be when all that was asked was I remain willing to change and to stay closely connected with those who have stood in my shoes.

When I reached surgical room, all kinds of people were attentively moving around assuring me I would be well taken care of and comfortable. The doctor calmly asked that I remain very still and to relax. As I felt myself drifting off I remember thinking that suggestion was rather ironic considering what was about to happen.

The next thing I knew I saw my husband’s smiling face. He asked if I felt OK as I noticed yet another warm blanket being laid over me. I remember thinking how lovely that blanket felt and wanting nothing more than to continue sleeping. When I opened my eyes again, I was being offered some juice and snacks as we still had a few hours to wait while the doctors were assured there were no signs of a collapsed lung.

Within a few hours we were back in the car exchanging not much more than a squeeze of the hand. Neither of us wanted to acknowledge what the next 24-48 hours would require of us while waiting for the phone to ring. There we were, once again powering up the patience, the prayers and perhaps some much-needed laughter.

When the phone did ring to confirm the mass was benign, I once again found myself exhaling with extraordinary gratitude.
I salute you for joining me over the past few weeks as I retraced the path through “The Scare”. The intention of writing the series was to offer my perspective of how basic fundamentals learned in the circle of recovery can be put into practice. Elements such as being patient, listening to words said not fears felt, the importance of having a firm recovery foundation, shifting from what I know to what I understand, knowing where to turn for support, and perhaps most valuable, acknowledging gratitude.

Thank you for always supporting me and the insight I share.

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