In Service of Gratitude
I was recently reminded by a friend how cunning and baffling this disease is. Specifically, how easy it is to forget what works. To stop using the tools that work. It’s easy to forget I need them. To remember how bad it was. To remember to notice how good it is.
To continue with this good life, I can’t forget how bad it was. My disease will minimize my past. I can’t let that happen because if I do it’ll all come back, just the way my disease wants it to. If I intend to not go back, I need to have ways to insulate myself against that first drink, ways and means. I need to not waste my mind’s time. Picking the scabs of resentment, dreaming of how poorly I am being treated. Fantasizing that maybe a drink will help. Because after that first drink all I want is one more…
I don’t want to ever get to a place where I have forgotten how bad it was, how bad it can be again, or how bad it still is for countless others. That I’ve been given the gift of sobriety. That I may be able to share that. That I have to share that. I show my gratitude by trying to be an example of what sobriety can bring. I want to spend my life trying. I can’t forget that people like me are out there suffering… hopeless, frightened, hurt, sick. If I forget, I risk joining them, again.
Forgetting is a double-edged sword. I become less at peace with the world and I become less able to help others. The minute I start thinking I am not getting enough or getting too much, I am in trouble. I am getting what I am getting, period. It’s not going to be ok when… it is ok. A quote that is very familiar in my recovery program is, “Acceptance is the key.” Whatever it is is ok, now, in this minute. The minute I stop being grateful is the minute my usefulness begins to diminish.
My life is really good and the less time I spend thinking about it, the better. I stay in a healthy place. If I stay in a place of acceptance and grace, I am more likely to have something to offer others. If I’m strictly in my head and worried about myself… I got nothin’. Like a flower blooming, opening to accept the Sunlight, the world can see the beauty of that flower and the flower can feel the warmth of the sun. But until a flower blooms, all that beauty is kept hidden, unfulfilled. Is a flower grateful for the sunlight? It would seem so. Is the sun grateful for flowers? Hmmm. They sure work well together.
I think gratitude is inherently an action word, and if that’s true, gratitude is service work. And it does take work. Whether I intend it or not, if I live there, being grateful manifests in positive ways, not only in myself but externally as well. If I’m where I should be I have something to offer. If I’m not, I don’t. Simple as that. And if I don’t help, I don’t feel good about myself, which further degrades my self-worth. I become less satisfied with everything if I’m unhappy with myself. I spent a long time living in self-pity. I called it self-loathing, thinking that sounded more manly. But let’s call it like it is (was), “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization” is another famous quote. I had nothing to offer, at least not anything anyone wanted. If I keep myself grateful, if I remember to do what it takes to be grateful, I am better able to share my recovery.
If I’m grateful, I will remember when I wasn’t, and that’ll help.