gratitude1In very early recovery, my sponsor told me to write a gratitude list every night  at the end of my day. She said I should write down at least five things that I was grateful for.  It didn’t matter if I didn’t feel especially grateful, she said I had to come up with five things. I  always had two that were constant: I was always grateful for my sobriety and forever  grateful for having my son in my life (even when he was working my last nerve). You’d think  that I’d be able to come up with plenty more, but often times, I was so deep in self-pity and  busy being self-centered that I had a hard time coming up with three more.

Still, I did the exercise every night and it was a good lesson in counting my blessings when I  could so quickly forget that I had any. It was easy to forget where I had come from when I was sitting in my nice warm bed and my son was asleep in his room. It was hard to remember there was a time when I was unable to see my son because I couldn’t stay sober, when I was in a Salvation Army Rehab Center, losing my apartment, my job and facing jail for violating probation for a DUI.

Last week, I was talking to a friend who I have not seen in a long time. A couple of years ago she was in a very bad place, she had relapsed after some time in recovery and was back on the streets doing drugs and drinking. We all thought that this time was going to be her last, she looked like death warmed up, manic, thin and pale and there seemed to be no fight or desire for life left in her, she was deep in the addiction and even her own mother (who was also in recovery) thought that she was going to die. There was a warrant out for her arrest and she evaded the police for a good few months until she finally got arrested and was put away for six months.

Coincidentally, she had the same sponsor as I did and our sponsor gave my friend the same exercise as I had. Every night, sitting in her cell she had to write five things she was grateful for. As we were talking about it, we joked about what she must have come up with to be grateful for while being locked up – having a plastic spork that wasn’t completely useless was one thing, as well as a few other things that gave us a good laugh.

As I talked and joked with my friend, I realized how far she had come and the fact that any of us recover is a miracle. I forget that sometimes, but the reality is that some of us will never get ‘this’ and our disease will kill us, but for those of us who are willing to be honest and do a bit of work on ourselves, there is a life available  that is free from booze and drugs. This lady was living proof that even the most hopeless of us can turn our lives around. She now has 14 months of sobriety and as I went home that night, I was filled with gratitude for my friend, being able to laugh and talk with her and the fact that she was sober. She was very different than the last time I had seen her try recovery, that time she might have been sober, but she was definitely miserable – this time she was genuinely happy.

As I get further along the road of recovery, my gratitude list isn’t so hard to write anymore, sure there are bad days and there are good days. Seeing my friend sober, was a good day and she was right there at the top of my list.

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