I first heard the phrase “develop an attitude of gratitude” in an AA meeting I attended in my first year of recovery. My immediate reaction was “Isn’t that sweet.” Then I dismissed it as one of those pathetic AA expressions. Even though alcohol had totally kicked my ass Rodney King style, I was still carrying around with me this false bravado that placed me above gimmicky expressions.
Then, a few days later, I heard my sponsor say that he was “cultivating an attitude of gratitude.” I stifled a gag and thought, “Hell, they’ve gotten to him to…although I like his word choice better.”
Here I am nine years later cultivating an attitude of gratitude. What the hell happened to me? Sobriety. It works wonders—even on fools like me. Yep, I’m kinda a gratitude junkie now. I even got my girlfriend using now. Before we turn off the lights at night, we take turns saying our gratitude out loud to each other. I get a body rush of good feelings hearing each other go through the day, honoring the things that our Higher Power had blessed our lives with.
Gratitude softened me to life and strengthened my connection to it. I was sleeping better and walked through my days with a heightened sense of appreciation.
About a month into it, the control freak in me raised its condemning head. Alcoholism may really have a genetic link. I thought of my drunken ancestor staring gloomily into the cavefire growing more and more irritated with his tribal homebuddies. (In the picture above, my tribal ancestor is on the far left.)
“How long is she going to go on tonight? That’s her seventh gratitude. She’s like a gratitude relay runner who never passes the baton.”
With the patience that 10 years of sobriety can bring, I said to her, “You know, it might be better to just keep our gratitude to our top three for the day.” Realizing that I was sabotaging what I had created (What a surprise for an addict!), I decided to soften my comment with, “That way we can…uh…go into a little more depth.”
Fortunately, by the grace of God, I have been blessed with a girlfriend who laughs easily about herself and has taught me to do the same. Just after the “more depth” comment, we both burst into laughter. Yes, one of my most enduring gratitudes is for her.
Bill W. spoke of gratitude in the 12 x 12 suggesting a “genuine gratitude for blessings received and a willingness to try for better things tomorrow will be the permanent assets we shall seek.”
Many times Bill W’s name has come up in my gratitude. It’s like a verbal hug to Bill and to all my fellow travelers who have helped to “relieve me of the bondage of self.”
If you don’t already set a time aside during each day to practice gratitude, consider Bill W’s words. Consider spending a few minutes in gratitude with your partner before turning the lights out. Life can become pretty chaotic. When it does, my girlfriend and I occasionally need to remind ourselves of the commitment we have made to each other by saying, “Let’s do some ‘tude.”
If you’re a single traveler at this point in your life, try writing in a gratitude journal before lights out. When life grows dark, it will be a great way to realign your thoughts and heighten your awareness of just how blessed your life really is.
Well, night night to you, my fabulous fellow travelers. May your path be illuminated by the radiance of God’s grace.
If you would like to work one-on-one on with me concerning an issue that is robbing you of your happiness such as depression, anxiety, relationships, negative thoughts, or esteem, contact me. I’m at rjhandley.com. Google my name if you’d like to find out more about me.
RJ Handley, Spiritual Life Coach