My Thanksgiving List
(original post November 28, 2013)
This morning as I was sipping my coffee, I visited one of the Facebook benzo withdrawal groups. Members were sharing the different things in their lives that they were thankful for. It brought back memories of some of my therapy sessions years ago when I was suffering through withdrawal. On several occasions my therapist would tell me to make a list of all the things I was thankful for. In fact, others in my life also suggested that I construct such a list. They were certain that, once I did so, I would suddenly begin to feel better. I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I nonetheless complied.
 I made quite a list, but the only benefit was that the exercise distracted me enough to get me through some time – it helped me survive the torture a little longer. The only other thing it did was to make me feel guilty. I listed the things that I “knew” I should be thankful for, but I “felt” no gratitude for them whatsoever. In fact, it was depressing because I knew I was unable to be thankful for them. I wanted to be thankful, but I could not be thankful. I could focus only on my mental anguish, and I was certainly not thankful for that  – even though I knew, at a very “deep” level, I should be.
This evening, as I sit here, I think it would be a good idea to finally make a new list – one which names things for which I now “feel” the most sincere gratitude – very simple but profound things. Here we go:
  • I can smile and laugh, and I love to see others smile and laugh.
  • I can enjoy driving again without being panicky or anxious and without freaking out over crossing bridges, going through tunnels, and going up or down steep hills.
  • I can walk without feeling like I am going to pass out or fall over.
  • I can take a shower without worrying that I might tip over and fall through the glass door.
  • I can fall asleep easily.
  • I can sit in a loud stadium and focus on a sports event without feeling like I have to get up and leave.
  • I can look out the front window and enjoy the view of the mountain.
  • I can watch a movie or show and understand what is going on.
  • I can read nearly anything and understand it – even very technical things.
  • I can solve puzzles and enjoy math again without getting panicky.
  • I can eat and drink anything I want.
  • I can lead/facilitate groups without even the slightest anxiety or self-consciousness.
  • I can talk on the phone to friends and family without panicking and actually enjoy the conversation.
  • I can “go with the flow” and be flexible when plans get changed.
  • I can talk on the phone for hours with others who are going through withdrawal without getting anxious or depressed because I know they will get well just as I did.
  • I can eat at restaurants without feeling like I need to eat as quickly as possible so that I can leave.
  • I can say “No” to the doctor if I want without being afraid.
  • I can shovel snow or mow outside without being terrified.
  • I can express myself in any way I want without caring about what others think.
  • I can ponder life and dwell on philosophical/existential things with an understanding I never had before withdrawal.
  • I can discern that many things I was taught about the meaning of life and my purpose in life were not exactly true (and some were quite wrong).
  • I can hold conversations with my daughter and son and see in their eyes that they know Dad has returned  - and that they are very glad.
  • I can sit in the company of one specific individual without resorting to alcohol or any type of drug – something I could not do before ditching the alcohol and benzos.
  • I can speak freely and openly with ease to others who are having mental/emotional stresses or who are taking psych drugs.
  • I can speak freely about my experience with benzos and booze.
  • I have a genuine interest in others rather than merely tolerating them through the numbness caused by booze and benzos.
  • I can see what I used to view as insurmountable obstacles now as opportunities.
  • I continually look forward to the future with hope and expectation instead of dreading it.
  • I see people as “another me” rather than as simply someone getting in my way or someone I should fear.
  • I can “see” me playing softball and tennis in the spring – things I have not done in years. (Hopefully it will happen.)
  • The friends who returned after I returned from the imprisonment inside my head.
  • The friends I have made in the forums and where I live – because of withdrawal rather than in spite of withdrawal.
If I took the time, I could list many more. As I look at the list, most of the items are related directly to my withdrawal. Most of them are examples of the strength, hope, positive attitude, perseverance, and peace that I now have and that I would not have if I had not gone through withdrawal.
In that regard, I am thankful for the withdrawal I endured. I simply could not be thankful while I was suffering, but now I am. I can “feel” it. Even more, because of withdrawal, I appreciate everything in my life more than I ever have. I have a completely different perspective – a new attitude. I am truly a new man.
I know it is nearly impossible to ”feel” gratitude for anything as we suffer through this. But I also know (as I had read in many success stories) that the thankfulness comes when the wellness arrives. I had also heard it in the AA rooms many times and could not grasp the concept until it happened to me. Seeing is believing.
One day you will see……and believe.
Happy Thanksgiving……and may next year find you in a place of wellness and “feeling” the thankfulness.