By Ryan Skinner
I had the wonderful opportunity this week to travel to Aruba for a vacation with my fiancée and future stepchildren. One evening, while sitting alone on the balcony of our room, gazing out in awe at the beautiful landscape and feeling warmed the balmy breezes, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. I’m blessed with so many things – family and friends who love me, opportunities to meet and work with amazing people and the daily opportunity to express how grateful I am to God for giving this recovering addict a second chance at life. I’ve been in very dark places and know that my story could have ended differently. But this night in Aruba, like all of the days since I made the commitment to be clean and sober, offered another moment to reflect on the reality that if you do the right things, hang in there and choose to live God’s way, all of those blessings are possible.
Since I renewed my commitment to God and a life of meaning and purpose dedicated to helping others both professionally and personally, I’ve developed daily prayer, meditation and journaling rituals that help me get into the right spiritual mindset. I’ve been doing this ever since I got sober. I wake up by 6 a.m. at the latest and spend 30 minutes on a combination of praying (sometimes on my knees on a clean floor, but sometimes even at my kitchen counter having my morning coffee) and doing affirmation readings from books of positive quotes and writings that inspire me to live that day and be present. I spend a lot of time on gratitude. Whether it’s dark or light, I always light a candle. It’s just my way of bringing spirituality into the moment and connecting with God. My morning journaling is simple, just writing thank you to God for another day He has granted me.
I ask God in those moments to help me use my talents to be of service to others, not just professionally but personally to help alcoholics and addicts. I will never be able to give back a millionth of what I’ve been given but I will spend the rest of my life trying. For me, prayer is asking for guidance to achieve the things God has planned for me, asking him to work through me. I meditate so that I can receive the answers as they come. When I’m at the office, I draw on that energy in my dealings with clients. I pray before each meeting that I may be of service. I pray, “Please steer the ship so I can be genuine and create a joyful experience.” Throughout my day, I engage in moments self-reflection, like a “self check-in.” I ask myself, “Am I being helpful or impatient?” I like the famous Buddhist saying, “Does it have to be said? Does it have to be said now? And by me?” I have to do this throughout the day or I can turn back into the old self-centered Ryan in two seconds.
At night, I pray again, but with different prayers and a single affirmation reading. I do my “nightly check-in,” reflecting upon the top five things that happened that day that would never have happened if I were still an addict. I write down the names of five new people I met that day that I didn’t know previously, even those I bumped into randomly or had just a quick conversation with. Then I pray for those five people. I feel this brings positive energy to me and others. It’s so easy to take recovery for granted – and now that my business is solid again, get caught up in making money. But I realize it’s not about me. The only reason God keeps me around is so that I can serve others. Every so often I forget that, that it’s not me having the success, but God allowing me to have it. These daily practices keep me grounded. I’m here to do His work and sometimes that involves helping people in dangerous places like jail. But I say, “God’s got me. I’m here to do his work.”
Recently on Twitter, I wrote a phrase that came to me and bears repeating: “A person is defined by how they treat someone who can do nothing for him or her, and who has nothing to give.” I believe gratitude is an action word. It’s not what we say but what we do that demonstrates our gratitude. My goal every day is to live my gratitude for the things I have been given and for the life that was given back to me. Having the opportunity to do that is one of my greatest blessings.