We are often told in the rooms to practice an “attitude of gratitude” during our recovery from addiction. When I first heard this I thought it meant being polite, and saying thank you when someone did something for me. Thanks to good sponsorship and trial and error, I have discovered the true meaning of gratitude, and how making lists can change my perspective.
My sponsor absolutely loves giving me little assignments to do outside of my step work. At first, I thought that they were just pieces of paper that could leave in my glove compartment or use as a bookmark in whatever I was reading at the time. Until one day, when the pain got great enough, and my unrealistic expectations were taking hold of my life. I pulled out a piece of paper she had given me that she called a gratitude list, and decided to try it.
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Recovery Gratitude List
For my recovery gratitude list, I was required to write down ten things I was grateful for. So I wrote down the basic external things that came to mind, my house, my job, my car, my family. Then I stopped. It struck me that I hadn’t really felt appreciation for anything very deeply at all up until that point. Good things happened, bad things happened, and I never really stopped to appreciate anything. I was so wound up in getting more and doing more and becoming more that I hadn’t ever really been grateful for anything.
Some may say that these are basic human instincts, but after that first day of making my gratitude list, my perception slowly started to change. I found that day by day, I was writing down deeper and more personal things. Things that were meaningful to only me like finding trust in a higher power of MY OWN understanding or being surrounded by friends and family and actually enjoying it. I started to be thankful for the willingness to pray in the mornings, and even for the sweet old woman who smiled at me in the grocery store.
Making a gratitude list changes our perception on life. It opens us up to the little things that are so easy to avoid in the hustle and bustle of day to day life. Although we may not stop and smell the roses in that moment, we get the opportunity to reflect on them at a later date.
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you?”
– William Arthur Ward
When my sponsor handed me my first gratitude list template, it had written at the top of it, “life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it. We are in charge of our attitudes, and God is in charge of our lives.” Adopting an attitude of gratitude can take practice for many of us. Here are a few little tips that I use to remind myself throughout the day to be grateful.
Carry a gratitude token
It might sound cheesy but carrying around your own little gratitude memento can help you stay thankful in the moment. I have a cute little squishy ball on my keychain that was given to me as a gift. Every time I see it or touch it I am reminded of the thoughtfulness of that friend. This, in turn, reminds me to be thankful in that very moment for the other gifts in my life. There is nothing wrong with having a little push to be grateful, and when I’m stuck in traffic or waiting in a long line at the store, I can always look at it and smile.
Practice Positive Thinking During Recovery
Whether your roommates are bugging you, your job is stressful, or your car is acting up, try to think of every situation in a positive light. Before you got sober, you may not have even had those things. It helps me immensely to change my wording from “I have to do this” to “I get to do this.” I get to fix my own car with my own money that I worked hard for. Positive thinking stops our unrealistic expectations on situations.
Seek it in Others Around You in Recovery
The best way to adopt new thinking is to get around people in recovery who already have it. I find that when I surround myself with people who only speak highly of themselves, their god, and others, that my mind tends to do the same, and vice versa. There is no shame in the rooms for latching onto the winners!
Share it with others
There is no better feeling than to make someone feel truly good about themselves. We should never be shy about this. If someone helps us, they may never know how much until we tell them. Being consistent with the giving will open our hearts to receiving.
Life can be a dark place, and we alcoholics know that better than a lot of people. Once we have found a new way of life, we owe it to ourselves to hold onto it anyway we can. Making a gratitude list can open our perception to the beauty around us.
When we become accepting and willing to put the will of our higher power before our own, we can see all things as a gift. Regardless of whether we can see the outcome immediately, we can remember that we have survived our tumultuous past. We were kept alive for a reason, and every day that we wake up should be treated as a gift to be thankful for.
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