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Finding Happiness in Recovery

Joseph Skrajewski, MA, MFT-I, is the Director of Medical Education at the Betty Ford Center, part of the Hazelden Betty Ford FoundationFor many years now, I have been presenting a lecture to the Betty Ford Center inpatient community on "Finding Happiness in Recovery." During that time, the lecture has evolved and developed into a message of hope. Like all of us here at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to touch other peoples' lives and show them that there is a better way to live through being clean and sober.

I reflect back to where I was in 2006 and what I was looking for when I was newly sober. At that time, I could not grasp the concept of being in recovery for a number of years. I tended to forecast out into the future and wanted everything to be "fixed" and "perfect" immediately as a result of being sober. I hadn't yet grasped the concept of taking things "one day at a time."

In early recovery, I met a man named "Shep," and he taught me a number of things about staying in the moment. I remember being 29 days clean and sober and going to the "Cornfield" AA meeting at Palm Springs City Hall. My plan was to take a 30 day chip, and I was very excited to strut up to the podium and display my pride in receiving a chip. I told Shep my plan before the meeting, and he asked me these simple questions: "If you are going to take a 30 day chip on your 29th day, why not just take a 5 year chip? Or how about a 10 year chip?" His sarcasm and the way he made his point was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.

He taught me about the concept of taking things "one day at a time" and remembering that tomorrow is never promised. He also taught me another important lesson with regard to finding happiness in recovery. I saw Shep take a chip on his 25th sober birthday and he stated, "My name is Shep and I'm an alcoholic. I'm 80 years old today, 25 years sober today, and I've never been happier in my entire life." I knew at that moment that I was in the right place. Like Shep, I too want to be 80 years old one day, stating that I've never been happier. That's what I was looking for when I started on my road of recovery. Its stories like Shep's that remind me of why I am here in the first place.

Life is such a beautiful thing, and I'm full of gratitude for the opportunities that present themselves each and every day.

Joseph Skrajewski, MA, MFT-I, is the Director of Medical Education at the Betty Ford Center, part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

Recovery Matters, November 2014

 
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