Posts Tagged ‘gratitude list’

sisters-beach240Sometimes I need a really big kick up the ass to remind me of just how lucky I am to be sober. Drunks like me die every day from this disease and by rights, I should be dead. You’d think that would be enough to keep me in an eternal state of gratitude? Yet somehow, I manage to piss and moan about something completely trivial on a daily basis. Even the most obvious ‘grateful’ scenarios, (like a beautiful sunset and the Mediterranean sea), can get spoiled by the addict in me  always wanting more…

I just spent a month with my family in England – something I’ve not been able to do in 19 years. During this time, I was lucky enough to go to the Costa Del Sol in Spain with my sister (who is also sober) and celebrate my sobriety birthday with her.

Now comes the part where I almost mess it all up. I wanted more – I didn’t want to leave! Thank God I have a program of recovery and so does my sister. We were sitting in her kitchen in England, the night before I was due to leave to come back to the USA and both of us were very upset. We were talking about how rotten we felt about the prospect of saying goodbye but somehow we started talking about our recovery programs and amidst all the self-pity, we managed to get our heads out of our asses and realize how lucky we were.

Boo ‘fucking’ hoo, so what! We hate to say goodbye  – at least we got to see each other in the first place AND take a vacation – how many people never see their families or get to go on a vacation? How ungrateful and selfish were we?

Our disease likes us to forget how bad it was and where we came from. Both of us had bottoms where we lost everything, we were hopeless drunks, chronic alcoholics, we lost our families, our homes, we lost touch with each other, yet here we were, clean and sober and moaning! That’s when I really felt immense gratitude for my sobriety, my sister’s sobriety and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous for giving us the tools to recognize our own bullshit.

I cried my eyes out the next day when I left and so did my sister, but having a recovery program allows me to take it one day at a time, and I’m certain we’ll be sitting having a cup of tea again in no time at all (and no doubt finding something to bitch about).

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bad dayToday isn’t going that great but at least I know that it could be worse, I could be drinking. I had to do something pretty scary this morning which involved facing an authority figure plus everyday ‘stuff’ has just been mounting up, I’ve got a constantly whirring mind, a knot in my stomach and I haven’t slept properly for weeks.

A few years ago, contemplating these things would have set me off on a colossal bender. Today things are a bit different, I have a program of recovery and tools that I use when I feel like I’m losing grip on reality.

It might take an hour or even a day of living inside my own head in complete terror before I pick up the tools – but I usually do. Of course I need a reminder sometimes of what those tools are, especially when I just can’t seem to get out of my own way.

If you are new in recovery and find yourself in a funk or are facing something that has got you jacked up, here’s a few things that were recommended to me:

  • Go to a recovery meeting and share about what is going on in your head – just being able to verbalize the ‘chatter’ in our minds can be a huge relief.
  • Talk to another newcomer at a meeting, the best way to get out of self is to help another alcoholic or addict, and helping sometimes can be as simple as listening.
  • Call your sponsor. (If you don’t have one, go to a meeting and share to the group that you need one).
  • Turn it over. Think about the problem/feeling/situation in your mind and mentally turn it over to your Higher Power. When I’m in a place where I’m looking for a specific outcome or I want someone to do what I want, I find it helps to let go of self-will by saying “Let your will be done not mine” or when I’m feeling particularly impatient, ‘In God’s time – not my time’.
  • Work the Step you are on. If you are working the 12 Steps, do some work or thought about the Step you are on at the moment. You could also write in a journal if you have one.
  • Go for a walk or get some exercise.
  • Get out of your head, watch a movie or go to the book store.
  • Keep your side of the street clean. Be honest. It’s easy to tell that white lie or mistruth so that we look good or we’ll get our own way, but the cornerstone of sobriety is the willingness to be honest in every area of our lives. It’s not easy, I was so used to being manipulative, selfish and dishonest that sometimes I’d catch myself lying without realizing I was even doing it and I’d have to stop and say ‘wait a minute, that’s bullshit, this is what is really going on’.
  • Progress not perfection. In early sobriety, sometimes progress meant actually getting out of bed instead of hiding from the world under the covers. Sometimes getting out of bed is all we can do, just don’t beat yourself up over it.
  • Gratitude for what we’ve got. In the grand scheme of things, everyone has problems, whether it’s money, relationships, health or job problems, it’s how we deal with them that matters. Being thankful for the things we have and not worrying about the things we don’t have or want. When I’m in self-pity, I write down 5 things I’m grateful for, even on the worst of days I can come up with that.

Just remember that no matter what, you don’t have to pick up a drink or drug today – we have alternatives. We have tools to deal with it, move on and get up tomorrow with a clear head, knowing we faced our demons and did the best we could and we did it clean and sober.

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.