Having an Attitude of Gratitude in Recovery

The Sunday School session I attend at my church is called The Wilderness.  We discuss books and topics from a more social activist and progressive end of theology.  I was a slightly put-off when the title of our current study book was first announced  Happy: What It Is And How To Find It by Matt Miofsky.  Each of the four week’s of study is accompanied by a 10-minute presentation on the week’s chapter.  I got past the title to learn the book is really about finding serenity in our lives – albeit what I perceived as a rather basic discussion.  I must confess to a smugness because of what I perceived as my advanced training in this area after 30 plus years of sobriety through the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Steps.

But this past Sunday’s chapter Beyond Circumstances particularly intrigued me as of late I have been dealing with my own particular circumstances.  The classmate who led the discussion this week passed out pieces of paper because in reviewing the video presentation for this chapter, the author provides a list of things of which we might want to take note.

Here is the list the author suggested in the video for not letting circumstances adversely impact your serenity and peace:

  • learn to live in the present
  • change your perspective
  • live a life of gratitude
  • keep track of what I am grateful for today
  • let go of control.

Now anyone with a modicum of familiarity with the 12-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous has heard all of these list items hundreds of times in the meetings they attend, the literature they read, and the steps that they work!

The discussion in our class was far-reaching and insightful.  Out of the 20 or some folks in the room, only three kept a gratitude journal.  There was a rich discussion on the conflict of letting go of control in a variety of situations.

I am incredibly grateful to the 12-Step Program for the peace and serenity in my life today.  And as Step 12 suggests:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics (or fill in the blank of other addictions/issues), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What an incredible gift of sobriety!!

Happiness in Recovery

weddingWhoever is happy will make others happy, too.
–Anne Frank

A bunch of years ago I heard the then sheriff of Hinds County Mississippi comment something like “Whether you are a corporate executive or a prisoner doing long time, each person has 24 hours in their day and will make decisions about how to use that time.”

I attended recovery meetings for a while with a fellow who always commented that he considered each day he stayed sober as one day closer to his next drunk.  He was a very unhappy man.

Folks such as Anne Frank are often used as examples of finding meaning and happiness under the most adverse of circumstances.  With the recent publication of her unabridged diary that contain the less perfect side of the young woman, I find her even more human.  Ultimately, I see in folks such as Anne Frank, not from the perspective of perfection, but having a desire to live in a glass that is half full and not half empty world.

In recovery, I also have a choice.  I can either focus on the things I do not practice today, such as drinking or feeding my eating disorder, or I can focus on the freedom that comes when living in recovery.  I can focus on the problem or the solution.  I can tell you about what is wrong in my life or have an attitude of gratitude for the positive.

I have come to believe that when I choose to focus on the negative, it is most often because the problem can be a comfortable place to dwell.  If I complain about not having the time to do x, y, and z, that can be too easy as I am not challenged to seek solutions to a hectic and over-scheduled life.

But I am also coming to see that the longer I stay in recovery, the less comfortable, living in those problems becomes.  That is, the negative, the playing victim, resentments cease to be the “easier, softer way” of living.  Or as one of the AA Promises relates “our whole attitude and outlook on life will change.”

To me, that change is a cause for celebration and one of the true benefits of recovery.

Happiness in Recovery

My HipstaPrint 4[2]Happiness has become a national measure by which well-being is measured.  I equate happiness as the opposite of sadness.  Happiness is equated with mountain top or pink cloud experiences as opposed to laboring in the valleys.

In recovery, I am less interested in happiness and more interested in being content – of being able to live life on life’s terms, of living in the moment.  If asked “Are you happy today?” my response would be that my state of being goes so far beyond happiness.  Today, I thoroughly enjoy and savor my existence.  As I commonly state in recovery meetings “I have not a complaint in the world today.”  That does not mean that everything is wonderful and completely going my way.  Rather, today I can take responsibility for my existence, I can reap the rewards of being in relationship with other people, of working hard at my job, and taking time to enjoy the process.  Today’s contentment is not contingent on money, material possessions or what other people think about me.  Contentment is completely an inside job and a true benefit of recovery.