Here is a confession. For much of my life, I struggled with having enough. In my addictions to alcohol and food, one drink or doughnut was too many and one thousand were never enough. Through the 12 Steps in Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous, I address the physical aspects of those addictions. I have continued to deal with the many other manifestations of having enough.
For example, an area of life I focused on extensively in sobriety was my career. In early recovery, I went back to school and ultimately earned a PhD. Over the course of my studies, I received grants and fellowships for maintaining a 4.0 GPA and completing my dissertation in near record time. But, for a host of reasons, largely related to my insecurity, I did not believe I had really succeeded.
In reflecting on the last 20 plus years of my career, I can say with confidence, I always left the place better than I found it. But that never seemed enough. I have published widely in my field, chaired committees for national professional organizations, done all the right things and more, but that too has often left me wanting.
Only in the last 5 years have I come to feel really comfortable in my own skin, as it were – where I have begun to experience having enough. I had a strong “aha” experience over this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Here is some of what happened:
- Our next door neighbors from Memphis, all of my stepchildren and their children were at our house for Thanksgiving Dinner – 18 total. We never had so many family at our home for a holiday and I was grateful and appreciative. I am comforted that I do not need anything else from family or friends to demonstrate our mutual commitment and love.
- A dear friend drove from Austin, Texas to our home in New Orleans for Thanksgiving dinner. We sat on the back porch after dinner and talked about how we met when she was a Team Leader for AmeriCorps NCCC, and how our relationship grew and continued over the years. After our conversation, I do not need anything else to validate the value of my career.
- On Saturday, I received a package from Suzanne Henley a good friend of my wife. Inside was a creation and card titled Prayer Beads in Thanksgiving for Robert. The card described the prayer beads (above photo) that contain pieces from Ethiopia, the Afgan Silk Road, Brazil, China, the Dead Sea, and more. The prayer beads are now a very regular part of my guided imagery and centering prayer life. After receiving these beads, I do not need any other material object to make my life complete.
- On Friday evening, Emma and I strolled with our Memphis friends through the French Quarter. Emma reminded me that such walks along Chartres St., through Jackson Square and beyond were how we spent our earliest days together as a couple. After that walk, I do not need any more memories to know how wonderful my life has been.
The often quoted “page 449” of Alcoholics Anonymous statement on Acceptance is complimented well by Brene Brown’s understanding that:
Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.
Today, I have enough. If I remain active in my recovery program, I am always rewarded with such profound understandings that enhance my life. For this I am truly blessed, and grateful.