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My Family History

My grandmother lead a long and rich life, full of love and laughter, ups and downs, but (most importantly) she possessed an underlying sense of peace. She was 95 years old when she passed away. She was calm and serine at the time of her passing. Happy with her life and open in stating she had "very few regrets, if any". She accomplished many things in her long and happy life. She was the architect of a loving and talented family. She was a wonderful friend, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. But she was also 39 years sober when she died. This was a major contributor to the richness that was the latter-half of her life, and it was something she viewed as one of her biggest accomplishments. Her funeral was full of reuniting family and long-lost friends. People reminiscing, eating, laughing and celebrating my grandmother's life. Grandma had some very specific requests for her funeral service, the most significant was that it be "a celebration of life". She did not want it to be a somber occasion of grief, but a final send-off centered around celebrating the connection we all have. The final song in the service was "as the saints go marching in", and copious amounts of her favorite ice cream was served at the reception.

In the early days of my grandmother's sobriety, it was a very difficult adjustment for both her and my grandfather (who was getting sober at the same time). My aunt made her a needlepoint of the serenity prayer, to help remind her of the support that she had during that difficult time. It remained on her bedroom wall for the rest of her life, and it was on the wall above her bed when she passed away. The fact that I turned my life around and found sobriety was a point of pride for my grandma. One of her last requests was that I receive this framed serenity prayer, and that it be given to me after she passed away.

It is now on the wall above my desk, where it will remain for the rest of my days. Genetics play a part in substance use disorder, and is as much a factor as environment, trauma or upbringing. I am the father of a rambunctious 2-year old, and his mother is also in recovery. The reality of the genetic hand he has been dealt weighs heavy on my mind from time to time. I am constantly searching for ways to improve as a father; searching for a way to instill my son with healthy coping skills for life. Searching for hope that he will not have to go through the rigors of active addiction that plagued both myself and his mother. This framed prayer is on the short list of items I plan to pass down to him, and represents so much more than a quote of wisdom. I've known for all my life that I have a long family history of addiction, but it turns out I also have a long family history of recovery.

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