April 23, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

This is my third attempt at a letter to you. The first was a gripe about Zoom meetings, whether recovery or business focused. The complaints were real and factual, and I’ll likely complete it in the future. Watch this space! The second was a meditation on sickness and death in the age of Covid-19. It was as upbeat and chipper as it sounds.

Since I got into recovery, though, I’ve learned to observe myself with both compassion and objectivity, and since my brain and heart were drawn to negativity, I know I need to focus on gratitude and positivity. What follows is a 10-item gratitude list, with some items having more elaboration than others.

  1. I have an incredibly comfortable bed. For two-and-a-half years I slept in the Tiny White Box on a bed that was a little too narrow and a lot too short. If I rolled over in the night, it was common for me to end up on the floor, and the length was two inches longer than my height, meaning I had the choice of either bumping my head or my feet. Today, I have a queen-size bed with four pillows and a warm comforter. Ideal!
  2. I have men friends who care about me. Every Wednesday night, I gather with six to 15 men in recovery, and I’m able to reveal myself fully to them. What a gift to have men who view me with compassion, yet who are able to take a longer view of my life than I am. I am truly a lucky man!
  3. I have three daughters who love me very much and whom I love. Even in this time of the plague, I’m able to spend time with two of them, and able to share my home with my oldest, Becca. Even if she does have two cats.
  4. I have the best dog in the world. Or at least the best dog for me.
  5. I have a job where I’m able to help make a difference in some folks’ lives. Hope is the perfect place for me, providing an opportunity to be creative and focused, to support art and writing while also being a more serious leader in the outside world.
  6. I have co-workers who look past my jackassery and see someone worth following. Karla, Dave, Bob, Dawn, Jill, and Lisa are a great team, as are our volunteers—Ashley, Sharon and Lissy.
  7. I have five pounds of coffee in the freezer and enough cigarettes to last me a long time. Thirteen years ago, this simple item would have been enough to make me jump for joy.
  8. Although I’m an old man, I’m able to hike a hundred miles, play sub-mediocre tennis and take Lucy out into the woods for a day of walking. Unlike many folks younger than I, life offers me a bunch of options with few items scratched off the list.
  9. I have all the food I need. Although I’m not driven by my stomach, it’s still a cause for celebration that I’ve got Special-K with Red Berries, milk and anchovy-stuffed olives, especially when I think of all the folks don’t even think to buy anchovy-stuffed olives.
  10. I’m not a slave to my addiction. Thirteen years ago, I’d ceded control of my life to booze, although at the time I thought alcohol was the only possible solution to a life of meaninglessness and sorrow. Today, I am a free man working to help other people throw down their chains and reclaim their lives.

Did writing a gratitude list help? Absolutely. Does this mean I’ll never write a letter to you griping about some small thing in the universe that doesn’t work the way I want it to? Absolutely not. At least for this minute, though, I am sober and relatively sane, and that’s plenty.

After all,

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith