Xavier T. is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Here, he shares why he’s thankful—on the holidays and all year round.
On Thanksgiving, as I sat at the table, stuffing myself with turkey and pumpkin pie, I thought what a miracle it was that I was there at all. I surveyed the room filled with loved ones—grateful that I was still alive and that I no longer needed to use.
Before recovery, I felt that the universe owed me something, but I had nothing I deserved. Using made life bearable. It started in my teens with the classic progression—booze, pot, pills, and eventually, cocaine and heroin. I spent 18 years on methadone programs, as I continued to use heroin. Methadone was supposed to block the opiate high, but all it did was make my life a little more stable, while, at the same time, keeping me connected with people who were actively using.
I always wanted to blame my parents for my addiction, particularly my father. I grew up poor, in the Brooklyn housing projects. My parents were uneducated immigrants from Mexico who gave me mixed messages of despair and hope. My father was an abusive alcoholic, who, in the depths of his drinking and misery, would sit at the kitchen table and cry that no one “understood” him. I thought it was the most pathetic thing in the world—a grown man feeling sorry for himself and crying about it. I swore I would never end up like that.
But many years later, I found myself in the same place. I was working as a night porter in a building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, taking out the garbage and mopping floors. My life had become a series of failures, and I hated myself for it.
Then, at the age of 45—after 16 years of marriage to another addict, and after having a son born to this disease—my wife asked for a divorce. I was terrified; I did not know how to live life on life’s terms, nor on my own.
I called a friend who was in a twelve-step program and agreed to join him at an N.A. meeting; I listened to what was said and decided to give it a try. By talking to other addicts, I soon discovered that I was not alone. They became my support system and we learned from each other through our shared experiences. It took a year to get off of methadone, with the help of the program I attended.
Gradually, I began to change my thinking. I realized that no one owed me anything, and if I wanted something—including self-esteem—I had to work for it. Today, I’m pursuing dreams I thought were lost forever. I always wanted to be a filmmaker because I loved to tell stories, but I never graduated from film school. I now know that I can go back to school and get my degree. In the meantime, I can continue to tell stories through my writing; I’ve joined a writers’ workshop, which has become an important part of my life.
Most importantly, I’ve learned how to be grateful for what I have, rather than resentful for what I don’t have. I am now married to a lovely woman I met in recovery, and I was able to care for my father for the last years of his life without bitterness. I have a wonderful relationship with my son, who has never had to hear his dad talk of self-pity. For this, I am truly grateful.Xavier T. New York, New York Back to Index