Gratitude List

luminoussunriseToday ten things I am grateful for (in no particular order):

  1. another day in recovery
  2. a spouse, family, and friends with whom I have a true relationship
  3. a sense of purpose in my career
  4. the opportunity to give back for what I have been given
  5. enough material resources that I do not “need” anything
  6. music
  7. living into the solution and not dwelling in the problem
  8. the possibility of putting myself in another person’s shoes before acting
  9. content with where I am today
  10. looking forward to the future process.

And perhaps the bonus is that knowing that today the AA Promises have all come to pass in my life of recovery.

Attitude of Gratitude, Today

crop hillisdeI am reasonably amazed at how incredibly blessed I am in with my life in recovery.  Today, I have an attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude List:

  • I am not dependent on alcohol and drugs to get through life.
  • I continue to learn to live life on life terms and enjoy the terms.
  • I am married to my best friend.
  • I have family and friends with whom I have a relationship today.
  • I am able to be of service to others without (known) ulterior motives.
  • I have a career for which I could not write a better job description.
  • I look forward to the future and do not regret the past.
  • I will retire in less than two years to a full and exciting life.
  • The only limits on what I can do, who I can be, where I can go are self-imposed.
  • I have an attitude of gratitude.

An Attitude of Gratitude in the Andes



I have been up in Hualcayán, Peru for the past several days. As I noted in my last blog post, the place is well off of the beaten path and does take quite a bit of effort to get to. So the trip took 28 hours to get to within a 90 minute further drive up an unpaved road. On my other blog, I wrote about that process.

Even though the temperatures get down into the low 30s at night, there is no heat, there is no hot water for a shower, we sleep in sleeping bags on a cement floor and the 3G wireless connection is tenuous, at very best (don’t know when I will actually be able to publish this piece) – but I am having an absolutely fantastic time.

  • The students I work with up here are truly fantastic. They want to be here, have incredibly positive attitudes in a less than ideal environment for Western creature comforts. I thoroughly enjoy working with them.
  • I am pleased that I have a real opportunity to not only apply my professional skills, but the project is also something that I believe in.
  • But the best part of my experience is getting out of myself and being able to engage with and learn from other folks. Here is a story about that: I was sitting in our lab with my coat and hat on for warmth last night doing some after hours work. A woman from the village and her daughter stopped by to have a conversation with the project co-director about various issues. I was downloading images from my camera taken earlier that day. When I looked up, I was startled to see Lorenia, the thirteen-year-old daughter standing beside me, looking intently at the photos as they flashed through iPhoto on my laptop screen. My first reaction was wanting her to disappear so I could continue with my work. That was not going to happen, as she pulled up a stool and sat down right next to me intent on my laptop screen. We ran through the limited conversation my Spanish allowed – age, family, school, the weather and so forth. She did not budge. So, I ran through pictures I downloaded of her classmates at the school celebration the day before, then photos from the village cultural heritage festival last year. Her mother was still in conversation and Lorenia was not going anywhere. I then went through photos of my nietos, nietas, esposa, hijos, hihas, perros, and more. I pretty much exhausted my iPhoto images that might be entertaining. I then booted my Rosetta Stone Spanish Language software and we played that game for a long time. The mother’s conversation ended and they left after about 2 hours. This is a story I will probably remember for a long time. Like many other experiences in life, I tend to remember those stories where I am able to get out of myself and relate to others. Of late, I have come to wonder if these events/stories will prove as memorable to other participants, like Lorenia.

Where does all of this come back to recovery? Last night the students were passing some sort of clear Peruvian brandy around the table where we eat dinner. The glass got to the person sitting next to me, a student I worked with previously, who knew I did not drink. She did not offer me the glass but passed it on to the next person. Another student suggested I might want some. I declined. No big deal to anyone.

But as I sit here now and reflect, I think of how, with one drink, all of the wonderful experiences I had in the past few days would go down the tube. As well, I would never come back to Hualcayán. Had I not been sober, I would never have gotten here to begin with.   I would never have been in the position to have the childhood friend of my step daughter who is the director of the project invite me to participate in the first place.

For all of the above I am truly grateful.


Attitude of Gratitude

laptopHaving an attitude of gratitude is often used as the recovery antidote for all of life’s problems.  The cliché is often used along the lines of – it could be worse, be grateful that you are sober/abstinent today and not laying in the gutter.  Another way of viewing this concept is from the perspective of the glass is half-full instead of half-empty.  These are all valuable and important understandings of having an attitude of gratitude.

For me, a very important aspect of this gratitude is in the form of experiencing an entire psychic change in recovery.  My gratitude list for today includes:

  • I am grateful for the very concept of hope – that life can change and move in a good direction.
  • I am grateful for opportunities – that I can choose to live life on life’s terms and take advantage of all the possibilities that brings.
  • I am grateful for redemption, and a second chance – that despite my years of active addiction where I should have/could have been dead, incarcerated, disabled, I live today only with self-imposed limitations.

All of these go away if I choose to actively live into my addictions.

Living into the Solution

crop hillisde

Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. – AA Promises

This promise is perhaps the most foundational in my recovery.  One day at a time, I know that recovery is contingent on my making a decision to live into the solution and not dwell in the problem.  That is where attitude and outlook are key.   I know that I can take very simple steps to resolve conflicts, obstacles or challenges in my day-to-day existence.  One of those steps is making a gratitude list.  What I am grateful for today?  The first point always on my list is life.  Had I not gotten sober nearly 30 years ago, I very seriously doubt that I would be alive.  Even if I had somehow kept on living, my body, mind, and spirit would be completely shot.  I just cannot imagine how I could have survived all that time.  Another piece of that gratitude is knowing I have a choice of what I choose to do with that life today.  From my perspective, today I choose, however imperfectly, to live into the solution and not find comfort in the problem.  The problem is something I am very familiar with.  I can tell you about the problem from all sides and in great detail.  The problem is a very passive and familiar place.  Living in the solution requires my taking action not just talking about the problem.  The solution requires going into unfamiliar lands, making the box of my existence bigger to find answers.  I find that when my box of existence becomes bigger, I can see more options, be more in community with others, and live life more fully on life’s terms.

I am grateful for the ability to make gratitude lists today.

Attitude of Gratitude

swingDuring my active addiction, or when I am moving in that direction today, my thoughts can go to dwelling on the problem, what is wrong with the world, or how I am being treated unfairly.  While these might be real conditions, they are not answer.  Dwelling on the problem does not lead me to the solution.  Focusing on what is wrong in the world does not lead me to nurture what is right.  To dwell on unfair treatment allows me to play the victim role and not be accountable for my own actions.

Throughout my recovery process, I am reminded that the very simple tools I have been given are the most effective in my day-to-day existence.  A gratitude list is one such tool.  I have never made a gratitude list that has not turned my negative problem based thinking into a positive solution based outlook.  Yet, sometimes, it takes me a while to pull out the tried and tested actions that produce results.  But those tools are always there for me to take up . . .

The Grace of Time to Think . . .


Part of my mountain bike route

Today was stressful.  I walked into a “retreat” type meeting this morning and was told that the new hire who is to act as my assistant is being held up in a bureaucratic limbo.

me – For how long?

them – I don’t know.

me – But we have already been through the bureaucracy and gotten approval.

them – Yes, I know – but there is this new “soft-freeze” where every replacement hire must be approved again.  Plus you are starting the person near the top of the pay grade.

me – But we already got approval for the pay rate, right?

them – Yes.

me – I can’t keep working 70 hours a week doing two peoples jobs.  This is ridiculous.

them – yes, I agree.

My previous assistant’s last day was over one month ago as they moved out-of-state with their spouse.  So here is where I took all of this today.  I was immediately angry.  I know and “them” know that the hire is ultimately going to be approved, but it might end up sitting around for another couple of weeks, or perhaps even a month all the while I continue to do the work of two folks, blah, blah, blah . . .

. . . so during my days of active alcoholism, I likely would have become obsessed with the issue, not heard any of the other discussions at the retreat, some of which were quite good, left the meeting as quickly as I conveniently or otherwise could do so, feeling plenty sorry for myself, climbed inside the bottle, fed my anger and resentments, blown off the rest of the day, perhaps done something really ineffective and stupid, blacked out/passed out, and come to the next day without any resolution and feeling miserably hungover as well. . .

. . .  but today I recognized something different.  All of that “this too shall pass” “if the job were that easy there never would have been an opening” “live into the solution” “attitude of gratitude” and other recovery thoughts tempered my anger. So after I left the meeting, I composed a pleasant but matter-of-fact email to “them” noting I was hopeful the impasse would be resolved in short order, posed solutions and alternatives, but clearly affirmed that without an assistant I could not do the tasks set out for me over the next few weeks, and then I went for a mountain bike ride along the river. . .

. . . and I thought, and was grateful for the time that now intercedes between the event and taking action, where in the past I would have immediately drank, but now the voice of what I have learned in recovery takes the place of alcohol and leads toward a solution.  Makes living a lot easier.