Certified National Drug & Alcohol Interventionists

Unexpected Gifts

This is a guest post from Hope in Recovery’s Gary Tidwell

Have you ever been given an unexpected gift? A gift that you get for no
specific reason at all. For many, that either personally battle with the
challenges of addiction or have a loved who does, that is exactly what they get
almost every day. Unfortunately these would not be the gifts of our choosing.
Addiction is the gift that keeps on giving, and what type of gifts does it
“bless” the effected with?

Physical illness
Psychological dependence
Co-dependent Relationships
Legal Issues
Financial Issues
Poor Self-Esteem

Unfortunately, there is no “Day after Christmas” in the real world. There is a strict “no refund, no exchange” policy in reference to these “gifts. Once they have been received, the best that we can do is take them as they come, and attempt to cope with them as best we can. Kind of like the ugly sweater that Aunt June gave you. You think it is absolutely hideous, but with a smile you put it on and wear it for the day. Then when she goes home you put it in the pile for your next trip to Goodwill.

Unfortunately as we all know those that battle addiction, do not typically respond to these gifts in a “healthy” or “positive” manner. Many times they are taken as a good “excuse” to continue the negative and destructive behaviors.

This is so typical, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) says this about Substance Abuse (Addiction):

When an individual persists in use of alohol and other drugs despite problems related to the use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed.

This is one pattern of behavior that is needed for a person to be “diagnosed” with a substance abuse disorder.

In my opinion, this is the typical view that has been taken of these “Gifts of Addiction”, the negative and destructive. I want to challenge our paradigm and look at them from a little more positive perspective.  Then I want us to look at the greater gifts
and rewards that are found on the other side, in a life of recovery.

Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) a 19th-century
German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist, once said,  “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

A couple of similar quotes reinforce this idea.

Opposition is a natural part of life. Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition, such as lifting weights, we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity – Stephen R. Covey

I have had to fight like hell and fighting like hell has made me what I am – John Arbuthnot Fisher

So what am I trying to say? I would NEVER choose to rewind the clock of time relive any of the struggles of the past including their pain, loss, anger, etc. However, as strange as it sounds I would not go back and undo them if I
could either. Despite, all of the negatives that resulted, these struggles come with their own “unexpected gifts”.  They develop character. Each one of us is the person that we are because of our experiences good and bad not despite them. These same trials foster strength and courage. Having gone through and overcome these trials, we become stronger and stronger with each obstacle that we conquer.  With each step that we take onward and upward, we are stronger and wiser when it comes time to face the
next one. It is not easy and will take a lot of work and devotion, but in the end we realize that it was all worth it.

That brings me to the ultimate of “unexpected gifts”, the gifts that we discover in a life of recovery. In my experience and communications with those that have known both sides of this coin, there is one gift that is far and above the most treasured, “PEACE”.  We learn that life does NOT have to be full of chaos! As we grow and get wiser and stronger, we realize that we are capable of much more than we have ever given ourselves credit for in the past.  We realize that we DO have something to share with the world that is around us and it is something positive, healthy, and beautiful! Life AFTER active addiction is just that LIFE! We finally start living and being able to enjoy the experiences of each day rather than simply “surviving”.  Life after addiction is a life of daily “unexpected gifts”. That is if we will open our eyes and hearts to be watching for them.

So whether it is your past, your present, or future, I challenge you to
open your eyes and your heart and be grateful for each of the unexpected gifts
that come into your life.

Thanks for letting me share one with you in these words!

One breath, one step, one day at a time,


Gary Tidwell

Hope in Recovery


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