The longer I’ve lived the more clear it has become that life calls us to make hard choices. The key for me has been to be blessed with the recognition of an issue, whether minor or monumental, that calls for my attention and the subsequent courage to react to it with an appropriate, healthy response. One such defining moment came for me on a day in August 1996.
I was sitting in a therapy session describing how miserable I was in my public relations position with a top-fifty corporation. My therapist asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I instinctively responded “counselor.” Then I proceeded to engage in what I now refer to as the “Roadblock Syndrome.” I managed to trot out all the ways to say “No!” to my heart’s desire before I even gave consideration to the possibility of saying “Yes!” Well, I didn’t have the recognition that I was fully engaged in the Roadblock Syndrome and my lack of recognition kept me stuck.
My limited thinking limited my options. But it was clear I had to leave my corporate job. For the last two years of my corporate employment I had dragged my body, but not my soul, to work. My soul was fallow, like an under-worked tract of farmland, rich in soil with tremendous potential to yield a bountiful crop, but nevertheless crop-free. I left that corporate job on Friday, December 13, 1996, and became a consultant, principally to my former employer. Yet, I recognized that to be successful as a consultant, I would have to return to my workaholic ways of the recent past. I could not go there.
In March 1998, I was at the job center in New London, CT where I was making phone calls seeking work as a consultant and the person running the program encouraged me to reapply for education or retraining funds through a nonprofit return to work organization.
You see, when I left my corporate job, the State of Connecticut declared me a displaced worker. This automatically made me eligible for funds to help me begin a new career. However, I was not deemed most in need of the funding in 1997 because of my computer skills and employability with my current set of skills. That changed when the state received a five million dollar federal grant.
I applied and received five thousand dollars in free money and decided to pursue a master’s degree. It had been nearly twenty years since I received my undergraduate degree, a BA in communications studies from the State University of New York, College at Oswego. Change, major change, was in the offing.
The impostor syndrome crept back into my consciousness. Old messages began to reverberate in my skull: “You can’t do this! You’re not up to the academic rigors of graduate school! You never complete anything, what makes you think you can achieve this?” But my enthusiasm won out and I told everybody and anybody who would indulge me and listen that I was going back to grad school to get a degree in rehab counseling and become a substance abuse counselor. I found that process was easier said than done, but that’s a story for another time.
“Gratitude” leaps to mind as the word that best epitomizes my intended focus in the first eleven years of my recovery. Gratitude for the grace of God, gratitude for being a father to two wonderful children, gratitude for working in a fulfilling job, and gratitude for all my life experiences, for they have shaped me into the man I am today. Sometimes it felt as if l was put through an extrusion machine, you know the kind you see on the Food Channel television network when they are demonstrating how the popcorn for Cracker Jacks is made? It’s important for me to mix humor with the seriousness that characterizes my daily walk on this planet.
Originally written on October 9, 2002, in Westerly, RI:
“Higher Power, I want to speak more about my gratitude. I could weep. I’m so emotional this evening. Is it my exhaustion, is it my vulnerability, or is it my readiness to receive Your healing love to help me address my sexual abuse survivor issues in a way which will transform my experience of this day, tomorrow, and the rest of my time here?”
“You feel, you express, you grow, and you get stronger. Being fearlessly honest is a trait that will serve you well. It is my calling for you. Exhibit the trait that will allow you to reclaim the very essence of your being, the personhood that will shine forth into your world.”
Weekly Reflections and Guidance for March
“Dear Higher Power, my heart is open to your direction. Help me understand your will for me. Remove me from the equation and sharpen my listening skills so I may be of maximum use to others. Open my heart to those that need help, help me help others.”
“Your focus is the higher good. You see the good in others and are well served when you lift them up instead of tearing them down. There is enough negativity in the world. Be a beacon for light, a flashlight that will cast out darkness. Smile my spirit. Be a blessing unto others.”
“Dear Higher Power, I need your direction this day and every day. Help me decipher the next right action. Speak to my heart about the issues that trouble me. I seek your will, your wisdom, your truth.”
“You are troubled, but that’s okay. Turn your attention now to your finances, your taxes, your budget. You will see what your next action needs to be. Do not fret. Your requisite actions will become clear.”
“Dear Higher Power, it’s the beginning of a new week, one during which I seek to do your will. Inspire within me the right motives and intentions. Help energize me to accomplish what needs to be done. Grant that I may be healthy in all ways pleasing to you.”
“Take a moment to breathe, to smile, to reflect on your good fortune. The help you seek, the help you need is at your disposal. Simply ask for it from Me and others and it shall be granted. Go in service to Me and others.”
“Dear Higher Power, my gratitude is a loud gong, resonating deep in my soul. It’s the cry of a child for his mother. It’s the twinkle in the eye of a new father. It is the essence of my life experience—an appreciation for what You’ve given me and what You’ve taken, sometimes ripped from me because I have been so invested in holding on to that which had outlived its usefulness and no longer served me. Thank you. I am overcome with appreciation in recognition of my many, many blessings.”
“I anoint you. I heal you. I call you to speak of the transformative powers of the spiritual way. Continue to walk with Me and along the path hold the hands of others who, like you, struggle and need loving reassurance that they too are being nourished and lifted up by their process, their need to take a closer walk with Me.”
Thomas M. Greaney, of Savvy Communications, is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor in Connecticut and Rhode Island. He is also a certified co-occurring disorder professional. His other expertise is mentoring and inspiring young adults. He facilitates his SAFE (Substance Abuse Freedom through Education) and BUTT OUT! (Tobacco education and cessation) programs for young men at a preparatory school in Connecticut.