Addiction, Recovery, Thanksgiving and a Time for Grateful Reflection
My name is Zach Snitzer and I’m a person in long term recovery from addiction. For my life and all the blessings I have received due to recovery, I am eternally grateful. However, sometimes I need to be reminded of that that during Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season.
This will be the third year of contributing a “Thanksgiving blog” for the MARC company web site and to be completely transparent, I may not be in as good an emotional or mental space as I had been for the previous two entries. For a little background and frame of reference about why, my wife and I welcomed our third child (Odin) to the world on October 18, 2016, so just over one month ago. Therefore, as any parents of a newborn understand, lack of sleep, irritability and delusion are a lot more prevalent in my day-to-day life than usual and certainly more so than they were at Thanksgiving time the previous two years. So it seems just a bit more difficult to find that level of gratitude that I was able to easily access and write about this time last year and in 2014. Every day I wake up and pray and meditate and make sure to do my best to find a daily feeling of gratefulness and thankfulness, but just as life seems constantly rushed and panicked with a new baby, so does my morning routine and therefore the results don’t seem as tangible.
And isn’t that JUST like an alcoholic or addict? The selfish, self-centered perception of life. The fact that I’m tired (poor me) so it’s hard for me to find gratitude. The idea that I only see life through my own eyes, my own vantage point, my own perception, so because my life has been altered (by an unbelievably wonderful event) I feel just a bit off and now unless I try I don’t feel nearly as grateful? What a load of crap. Never mind that when I walked into a treatment center on October 7, 2007, withdrawing from several grams of heroin and cocaine, sweating profusely and just wanting to die, the last thing I thought was capable for a guy like me was to have a loving wife, incredible children and a life that worked in almost nearly every aspect. Never mind that for years I had watched through drug-induced psychosis as neighbors would wake up in the morning and begin leaving their houses for work and I would think to myself “I have no idea how you do THAT. How do you have a normal life? How do you live and be happy?” Never mind that the idea of a life that worked, with a loving family and a meaningful job and a host of friends was something that was so foreign to me that it didn’t even make sense. I couldn’t comprehend “normal” or “routine” or “simple.” Never mind all that. Give me a couple weeks with a fussy newborn and I completely forget the blessings in my life and rather only focus on the immediate discomfort of not sleeping and feeling a little run down. If there was any question of my alcoholism, my lack of perception of my current situation certainly would act as evidence enough.
But the truth is, when I take some time to see the truth of my life and how blessed I am, I can recognize what Thanksgiving is to me, and to me it is the beginning of the holiday season and offers a time of important reflection and self-observation. It is a time when many of us gather around our loved ones, forget the petty issues and the outer concerns of the world and simply enjoy spending time with those we love and whom we choose to be part of our lives. However, it is important to remember that not everyone gets so lucky and not everyone is able to spend time with those they love during Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays. It is this realization that makes the time I spend with my family that much more important and why we as a treatment center here at MARC do our best to make sure our patients are able to engage in the holiday season with their loved ones as well. My realization of my lack of gratitude has really made me take some time to reflect on the need to truly see where I am grateful and where we as a treatment center can play a part in helping our patients see and feel and recognize their own gratitude during Thanksgiving.
When Sam Bierman, Aura Arslanian and I opened Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, we knew before we even opened the doors that we wanted to be a community-based, family-oriented facility. We knew the importance of the family piece in treatment and we wanted to make sure that the vital focus of treatment wasn’t lost or forgotten when the clinical day was done. And a really good example of this is the MARC Thanksgiving event (as well as the MARC Christmas event) that we hold each year for our patients and their families. In an effort to make sure our patients are both surrounded by their loved ones but also making sure they are suiting up and showing up as members of their family unit, we have created a Thanksgiving Event at our clinical offices for our patients and whatever family members and loved ones of theirs are able to show up and take part.
So what is this Thanksgiving event at MARC? Although we held a small Thanksgiving lunch for patients and the community the first year we opened, last year after we opened our extended care residential treatment program we decided it was vitally important to do something for the patients around Thanksgiving. Something real, something family-oriented and something memorable. After all, our patients are with us for months at a time and between each other in the patient community as well as between the staff and patients, MARC certainly begins to feel like a family atmosphere. With that in mind, it was important to the staff that we begin something during the holidays for the patients and their families.
As anyone that has been to treatment before or has had a loved one in treatment during this time of year, spending the holidays in a treatment center can be a daunting idea and extremely overwhelming for both patient and family. For many, the holiday season naturally comes with anxiety and depression and that can certainly be true or even magnified for addiction treatment patients. Here at MARC, we take this time to try to teach the patients the true meaning of the holiday season. For many of them, their selfish, self-centered behavior in active addiction (like at all other times throughout the year) ruined holidays for themselves or their families. Other times, they simply wouldn’t show up for the holidays at all. Now that they have entered recovery, it is our job to demonstrate to them and to work with them to learn what it means to be an active member of their family and the community during Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays.
For the Thanksgiving event that MARC patients participate in, we wanted to make sure that the patients took and felt ownership of it. After all, although they are patients in treatment, it is still the holiday season. From planning the meal, inviting family members and loved ones to the event, going out and shopping for ingredients, decorating the clinical offices and serving the finished meal, the patients in MARC’s extended care community living come together as a community and prepare a Thanksgiving feast and social event for MARC staff, alumni, intensive outpatient (IOP) clients and approved family members. Last year’s Thanksgiving meal, the first in what has become an annual event, was a huge success that included over 30 family members of MARC patients that came to spend the day from as far away north as Vermont and as far away south as North Carolina. This type of special event allows the patient community to come together, give back to their loved ones, experience the feeling of community, comradery and family, enjoy each other’s time and begin to truly understand the meaning of giving back and giving thanks.
There is a famous recovery line that says “a grateful alcoholic will never drink” and a slogan repeated throughout the 12 Step rooms of recovery that goes “always have an attitude of gratitude.” I can say for me, my life looks absolutely nothing like it did in 2007 and it looks absolutely nothing like I thought it would or could look like when I entered treatment on October 7th, 2007. And I am so grateful for that fact. I was fortunate that in my many different treatment stays before getting clean and sober that I never was in rehab during Thanksgiving or Hanukkah or Christmas or New Year’s. Fortunate because I probably would have used that as a reason to leave treatment or used it to create anger and depression and thus create a barrier to engage further in the treatment process. We here at MARC understand the absolute necessity of long-term treatment equaling better recovery outcomes and also understand that engaging in long-term treatment means that patients will often be in treatment during important dates, holidays and life events. Therefore, it is important to us and our staff to make sure we can create therapeutically appropriately situations that allow for our patients to experience the holiday season while still receiving a vital treatment experience.
We are absolutely grateful that we are able to help those in need of treatment for addiction but that we are also able to provide a memorable family experience for patients and their families during the holiday season. These real life, real world experiences will be beneficial to our patients and will be extremely valuable as they move forward in early sobriety to a lifelong journey of recovery. For being able to be a small part of that journey, we are forever thankful.
If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at Contact us today. For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.