Staying In Gratitude
Staying In Gratitude
It’s that time of year again. In the U.S. Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. Some will be spending time with their families. Some will be working (me included). And almost everyone will be thinking of all the things they are grateful for.
If you are part of a 12 Step Fellowship, chances are good that the topics at meetings will be focused on gratitude. Sigh.
But gratitude isn’t something that is reserved just for Thanksgiving. Gratitude should be something we practice year round.
It’s easy for me to be grateful during the good times. These days my life is pretty mellow. When troubles come my way, I’m able to see the silver lining. I have a good job. A multitude of friends. And I’m part of a Fellowship that has my back, always.
I haven’t always had a grateful attitude about life however. In my drinking days I was full of self-pity and resentment, and I rarely saw anything to be grateful for. The whole world was against me, and nothing good ever happened.
This feeling stayed with me in early sobriety too. Going to meetings I would hear people say “when you’re feeling low, make a gratitude list”. I thought, “How is that going to help?” My attitude was full of screw you and your gratitude too.
That attitude didn’t last for long. I decided to follow through on this advice, and thought, “What do I have to lose?” When gratitude was as far away as I could possibly think, I made a gratitude list. And you know what? It helped. Shockingly enough, making that gratitude list in the midst of my mental chaos really helped.
As time went on, and I had more sober time under my belt, gratitude became easier to come by. My head wasn’t full of crazy thoughts anymore. My days weren’t filled with thoughts about drinking anymore. And, I had more to be grateful for.
As I said before, it’s easy for me to be grateful in times of good. But when it comes to the bad times, having gratitude can be difficult.
I remember a very specific example where a gratitude list came in handy. Last year at Christmas I went up to see my sister. She lives about 2 hours away from me. I was looking forward to spending the holiday with her and my nieces. At the time my nieces were in foster care, but they were supposed to be coming over for a visit.
Christmas day arrived, with snow, effectively canceling our plans for the day. The case worker in charge of my sister’s visitation lived 45 minutes away in another town, and because of the snow, couldn’t come. Our visitation was canceled.
My first thought was “Great. Now the whole day is ruined because of snow. This whole trip was wasted, I should have just stayed home”.
Thankfully, I had been working the Steps for long enough that I could to look at why I was thinking that way, and knew what to do. I immediately pulled out one of my daily reading books, and looked up gratitude. I found one that fit perfectly. Then, I made a gratitude list, listing 10 things I was grateful for.
Oddly enough, it helped. I was able to see that the trip wasn’t wasted after all. And, we were still able to go over and visit my nieces for a little while too.
If I hadn’t made a gratitude list that day, I would have missed out on time spent with my sister and nieces. If I hadn’t made that gratitude list, I would have been miserable.
Today I try my best to stay in gratitude. I try to look at the positive aspects instead of the negative. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But the point is, I try.
I also start my day with a thank you prayer to my Higher Power for the day, and for giving me another day to live a sober life. When I go to bed at night, I also say a prayer of thanks for another sober day. By starting and ending my day with gratitude, I am better able to stay in gratitude during the day. No matter what happens to me in my day to day life, if I stay in gratitude, things don’t seem quite as bad.
So, what are you grateful for today? I challenge each and every one of you, if you don’t already do it, to think of at least one thing each day that you are grateful for. Just one thing. I can almost guarantee by starting small, with one thing each day, life will seem better. And, that gratitude will grow over time from one thing, to many. As long as you try.
Originally published November 23, 2016