Thursday, March 19, 2009


When I was new to 12-step, and people around the tables spoke of being grateful, I smiled and nodded, but inwardly, I considered them a few herbs short of a spice rack. I was convinced they had to be, no-one in their right mind could be grateful for the kind of life I was leading at the time. I was so consumed with rage and self-pity, there was no room for even a drop of gratitude, let alone the great sloppy amounts they seemed to be feeling. I didn't really truly grasp the point of working to feel grateful, either, that seemed nonsensical. You either feel grateful or you don't, why fake it?

I didn't understand that what I was trying to do, was unseize my attitude, so I could shift it a few degrees in another direction. Gratitude is the penetrating oil that gets in between the pieces of our hearts that have been seized in anger and in pain, and makes it possible to begin slowly, painstakingly, working them loose.

I was one of those annoying sponsees who can't take anything on faith, I wanted to be given a good reason to do whatever was being suggested to me. I wanted to know why I should do this foolish-sounding thing. I was profoundly resistant to taking suggestions from anyone. I look back in wonder at the patience and loving support of the people in those first meetings I attended, and feel enormous gratitude now. But then, I found it ludicrous to hear that I needed to muster some gratitude. I was at such a low point that I couldn't think of a darn thing for which I could feel gratitude.

One of the dictionary definitions for gratitude is "recognition."
I like that. I had things to be grateful for all along, I just didn't recognise them. I was too busy focussing on my misery, and the alcoholic, to be able to see. I walked blindly past, wringing my hands, fuming and moaning, unable to recognise those gifts in my life.

I had to start on a pretty basic level, making gratitude lists - I don't have family to be grateful for, ok then, I made my group my extended family, and was grateful for them. I'd pushed most of my friends away over the years of living with alcohol and abuse; program allowed me to begin re-establishing some of those connections. I was grateful for my dog. I was grateful for my art. I was grateful to live where I did...once the seized pieces of one's heart begin to move infinitesimally, they seem to carry their own momentum, and liberal applications of more gratitude breaks us wide open.

An open heart surrenders and accepts. That way lies wisdom, and peace. Serenity.

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