I have been reading The Healer’s Way, by Earnie Larsen. Larsen has the gift of story, as do I. I did not know I had this gift until I was given the greatest gift of my life other than life itself, sobriety, freedom from addiction through a spiritual path. The best stories come from my recovery journey anyway. We are coming up on the Christmas season, which has traditionally been a time of giving. Somehow it seems to have become more about getting, or at least giving with an expectation of return. What Larsen talks about is pure, Christ-like giving, without expectations, without strings, sometimes at great personal cost (not monetary) or risk to the giver.

I am moved to ask myself, what are the greatest gifts I have been given in my life? Few of them are tangible. They must start with life. A while back I worked with a woman who had been given the gift of sobriety. Sobriety is hard; it brings you face to face with the sometimes-terrible things you have done in addiction. You are suddenly feeling your feelings and have no chemical to make them go away. You have harmed people and feel terrible shame. You may have lost much and feel alone, even when surrounded by people who are there for you, practicing unconditional love. This woman was one such and, after treatment and several months of sobriety with new people in her life who truly loved her, she committed suicide. She could not see the gifts, only the shame and loss, and in her pain threw away the gift of life.

The next gift is love. Last August my wife and I celebrated 41 years of marriage. When I got sober and met people in self-help programs truly offering unconditional love, I thought it was something new in my life. When I woke up to reality I realized that I had been offered unconditional love for years, from my wife, friends and family members, and I had been unable to see it, playing the victim as all addicts do, focused only on myself. This brings me to the third gift in my pantheon, giving itself. Giving without expectation comes from first feeling gratitude for the gifts you have already been given, starting with gift one: life. For me it started in my early sobriety when I started feeling gratitude for the incredible gift of recovery. I had a powerful urge to give back and started volunteering at the detox center I had gone to and becoming a helper in my self-help program. I had been a very selfish person for so long that I was astonished at how good this felt. I went from there to entering a helping profession. I still give without fee in the self-help programs.

Another great gift is teachers. I cannot believe the quality of the many teachers who have come into my life, and what they have given me allows me to teach and heal others. Another is beauty. We live in an incredibly beautiful place. Oddly, some of my greatest gifts have been life-threatening illnesses, first alcoholism, then heart disease, then cancer. I am healed now, but all these things teach what is important and what is not, and what is important is today and what I make of it. I was taught, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift of God, and that’s why they call it the present.”

Author's Bio: 

Paul Hood is a recovering alcoholic/codependent who has been counseling alcoholics and addicts since 1983 and practicing professional counseling and psychotherapy since 1989. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice as Mountain Spirit Counseling in Evergreen and Bailey Colorado. He has broad experience and training in chemical dependency, many forms of mental illness, particularly ADHD, PTSD, depression, anxiety and personality disorders, marriage, family and relationship counseling, general life and adjustment problems, anger and stress management, personal and spiritual growth.