Hi Dr. Richards,

I can say for once, that I am starting a new year with great optimism and eagerness. New hope brings new plans. And I am pursuing them with more sureness and confidence than ever before.

Two evenings ago, I took up an invitation to a small gathering at a friend's house. It was only afterwards that I realized that I didn't have a single moment of anxiety before, during or after it. If I did, it wasn't significant enough for me to remember it.

I was in awe of this realization. In the past, I would have felt great apprehension upon receiving such an invitation. I would have brooded a long while and battled in my mind incessantly whether I should go or not. Wanting to go, but feeling anxious about all the unknowns involved in the going.

Then, while I was there, I would have froze up and just stayed silent in a corner. Wanting to mingle, but feeling tongue-tied only because my head was full of negative thoughts.

And afterwards came the beating up on myself. "Why did I bother going? They must all think bad of me in some way, shape or form. What's wrong with me?..." I could go on, but I think you're too familiar with the routine.

This time things were quite different. I received the invitation. I decided right away that I wanted to go. I made time for it. On the evening of it, got ready and went. No, drama to deal with. Driving there, all I remember was listening to the radio and singing along with a new song that I like that happened to come on the radio.

When I arrived, I stepped in and freely greeted everyone. And I welcomed in all the warm greetings from the others. I only knew one other person besides the host, but it didn't bother me none. I looked them all in the eye and gave my hello's and hi's and then took a seat in an empty spot on one of the sofas.

Throughout the evening, I was able to mingle easily and to ask questions and make comments. I talked to everyone. And it felt good. It went beyond small talk. We moved on to talking about subjects that had meaning to us. We got so carried away we went long passed the time that was planned.

Afterwards I went home and talked about it with my girlfriend. It was only after talking a bit about what happened that it dawned on me that this was a social evening that was anxiety free. It still amazes me to think about it. I even struggle to think of a moment where I was anxious, but I can't come up with anything.

I hesitate to say this even to myself, but here was a time when I was lucid, clear-headed. Compos mentis, if you want to be highfaluting... In other words, I was rational. If I can do it once, I can do it again. I won't expect every experience to be this good, but there have been other good moments, I just have been too busy to put them all down. I shared this one with you because it was the most recent one and I wanted to write it while it was still fresh in my mind. (There's a good story when I went to the post office just before New Year's, but that deserves another e-mail.)

This is just one example of the changes taking shape. And I'm lovin' it. Not everything is hunky-dory. I don't think that it's reasonable to expect that except for certain times in your life. I savor them because they are fleeting moments. Something always happens. And when you take care of that, something else happens. Even if it's something like: You jammed the thumb on your favored hand and have to brush your teeth with your weaker hand for a few days.

But that's life. Things happen. The only people who don't have to deal with anything are six feet under pushing up daisies.

The important thing is that I'm improving. (I did all the right things that evening. And without even having to think about doing them; even the singing with the radio.) And even more important is that I'm dealing with real problems instead of false ones.

Anyway, that's one of the rational moments I wanted to share with you.

I recently had an e-mail exchange with John and will be going up there when he starts the group up again. I look forward to seeing how he does things and to meeting the others in the group. He told me that they are eager to meet another person who has been to Phoenix for one of the CCBT groups.