The dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”, and this is definitely the season to practice gratitude in our daily lives. There is no argument that gratitude is an integral part of every recovery program. While it may not be written into AA’s twelve steps, it is very rare that you can make it through an AA meeting without at least one member speaking about something they are grateful for. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is the perfect time to sit back and reflect on my own gratitude and to evaluate where my mind set is. This holiday season, there is a plethora of ways to express your gratitude and to keep the true spirit of the holiday alive.
While I was still in treatment, I was told that “a grateful heart will never drink” and while that phrase seemed like just another AA slogan at the time, the true meaning didn’t occur to me until more recently. I have always considered my sobriety to be a gift, but the epic proportions of this gift are sometimes hard for us to grasp. That is where the gratitude list comes in.
Every time I have started to stray a bit from meetings or if I have started to think of working my program as a task rather than a blessing, my sponsor has me start a list of everything I am grateful for. This homework will last for at least a month with a minimum of 5 items a day and with none being repeated. At first, the list starts simply with gratitude for a roof over my head and food to eat. Then, as the days go by, the items get more meaningful as I am forced to open my eyes and my heart to more than just my immediate surroundings. I am thankful for all of the wonderful women in my network and the love and support they provide through all of life’s ups and downs. I am thankful not just for my job but for the ability to work at, High Watch, where I get to watch miracles happen every single day. I am thankful that I have a relationship with my family again and that I can enjoy the holidays with them, while also protecting my sobriety and setting clear and respectful boundaries.
Gratitude is an ACTION Word
In the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have often heard that “gratitude is an action word.” But what exactly does that mean? On top of keeping a gratitude list or gratitude journal, there are other ways of cultivating and expressing your gratitude. Here are a few suggestions to help show your gratitude, while also fostering it.
- You can offer to give rides to those who aren’t fortunate enough to have a car and still need to get to work or to a meeting. Giving rides is also a great way to keep you accountable and to guarantee that you make it to a meeting.
- Another great way to show your gratitude is by giving compliments and expressing appreciation to the people in your life. You can even write a letter of appreciation for somebody who has been an integral part of your life or your sobriety.
- Volunteering is one of the greatest ways to show gratitude and thankfulness during the holiday season. Volunteering at a local food bank or clothing drive not only reminds us of how far we have come, but makes us feel even more grateful for the ability to give back.
- Be supportive of those around you who are experiencing difficulties. Even if it is just being present and truly listening to someone, being able to show up will help to nurture your own gratitude while also showing how much you care.
- Random acts of kindness are my personal favorite way to show my overwhelming gratitude. This could mean paying for the coffee for the person behind me in line at the coffee shop, without any expectation of praise or thanks. Or letting somebody cut you in line at the grocery store because they have children with them that must be antsy to get home. It doesn’t have to be anything grand or expensive, just a small token to “pay it forward”.
Meditation and Prayer
I find that on the days I wake up and do my daily practice of prayer and meditation, I go through my day with a more grateful heart. Taking a moment to pause in the morning to ground myself in the day and turn my will over to the care of my Higher Power sets me down a path of serenity and gratitude no matter what the day holds. The days that I get out of bed in a rush and bypass saying my prayers or sitting for a moment in silence always seem to go sideways and I lose sight of what is really important. Now, I am not saying that I practice a perfect program by any means, and some days it is just too hard to sit still and breathe without becoming frustrated or impatient. What I do know is that when I am spiritually fit and have a conscious contact with my Higher Power, remaining grateful is much easier than on the days that I take my will back and shut my HP out.
Whatever way you decide to practice your gratitude, Thanksgiving can be the holiday when we all take a moment to pause and reflect on everything we have to be thankful for. Getting to the place in my recovery where I have an “attitude of gratitude” has not been easy and some days I just plain don’t want to. What it really comes down to is how my perspective has shifted from “me against the world” to “I am a part of the world”. Recovery has taught me to look for lessons in the difficult times and to appreciate every single moment, because I never dreamed I would be where I am now. AA has given me a second chance and I need to remember that not everyone is this lucky. No matter where life takes me, there is always something to be grateful for and I carry that gratitude close to my heart.
I wish all of our Alumni, friends and families a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. May you all continue to be blessed on this journey of recovery.
Meet the Author:
Jenn Worthington, Alumni Relations Coordinator