For some time now, I’ve contemplated the stigma our society has placed on things like drug and alcohol abuse or mental health issues. On 12/12/2017 I posted “VII” (seven) as my Facebook status and many of my friends in and out of recovery seem to have understood it. After much thought, I’ve decided to do my part in moving toward destigmatizing these things.
Seven years ago, on December 12, 2010, after years of struggle, shame, depression, confusion, and a whole host of embarrassments, questions, and attempts to control it, I admitted to myself that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol. When I reached out for help there were many hands there to take mine. People to help me make sense of my struggle, to assure me I was not a moral failure, and that there was hope for a better life.
Today, I have a life more amazing than I ever could have imagined. So much joy and love and light and happiness and fulfillment on so many levels. There are two interrelated, fundamental building blocks to this life: humility and gratitude.
Humility, for me, means staying “right sized” and maintaining a perspective on my place in this world. This translates to not thinking I know better than everyone else. It’s me reminding myself that I don’t know everyone else’s story or what they’ve been through, and keeping from quick judgments of them or assumptions about their motivations.
There’s another side to humility, too. It’s the one that points back at me. It’s me not expecting myself to be perfect all the time. It reminds me that I’m just another beautiful, wonderful, and perfectly human being stumbling through life just like everyone else. Turns out, none of us got the instruction book and we’re all just making this up as we go along.
Gratitude necessarily stems from humility. When I remain humble, the sense of entitlement I used to have remains at bay and I truly cherish the wonderful life I have: amazing home life, beautiful child, a steady and secure job that pays a generous salary, a roof over my head and good, healthy food in my stomach. I no longer take these things for granted and assume I am entitled to them.
Before I got sober, I used to scoff at people that said things like, “I’m just thankful I woke up today.” Now, I get it. Every day is a gift. That’s why it’s called “the present.” The drinking-and-using me couldn’t understand why I wasn’t CEO of whatever company I was working for. Now, if someone asked me to dig ditches I’d dig the best damn ditch I could and be proud of it when I was done.
I only deserve what the Universe brings me. As I continue to do the next right thing, the Universe provides me a wonderful life.
So if you are struggling and/or think you may have a problem please ask for help. You can come to me or any number of people and one of us will talk to you. We can tell you our stories, including how we’ve recovered from a hopeless state of mind and show you how we’ve built new, amazing lives.
Asking for help is not a sign of failure or weakness; it is a sign of strength and the first step to success. This is something I know in my heart of hearts.
I also know this: You are loved.
Brian Carideo is a Long Island native now living on the West Coast with his family.