By David S.
Let’s talk about gratitude.
In keeping with the usual style I’ve adopted for this series on Spiritual Principles (which I got from the book Alcoholics Anonymous), let’s look at the problem, and then the solution. The bad, and then the good.
A word to describe my attitude while drinking:
Most of us get a bad vibe from that word. We know it’s not a good thing to be. Here are a list of words which have similar meanings:
pathetic, pitiful, deplorable, distressing, lamentable, sad, sorry, hapless, miserable, misfortunate, piteous, pitiable, poor, wretched
Not good. Not good at all.
We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view. We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people… — Alcoholics Anonymous p. 52
Pitiful — an adjective.
The noun that names the quality we possess is pity.
Self-pity — we were full of it.
All these problems… They weren’t our fault!
Keywords from that passage:
Misery, depression, uselessness, frightened, unhappy…
Oh, poor me… Life is so miserable.
We have more problems than we could ever solve.
Things will never get better.
We complained, and we wept.
We shouted, and we raged.
We were victims.
Then We Took on the Solution
We acknowledged our alcoholism or addiction, and our helplessness.
Acceptance of our critical situations led to desperation, which empowered us to take action.
We accepted help from something we didn’t understand because we saw it work in others.
We took an inventory of our problems, discovered our part in the drama, and admitted our failings.
We accepted both criticism and grace, and found we could also extend grace and forgiveness.
…since they have come to believe in a Power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude towards that Power, and do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking. In the face of collapse and despair, in the face of total human failure of their human resources, they found that a new power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed into them. — Alcoholics Anonymous p. 50
Our burdens lightened and life changed before our very eyes.
We saw vast improvements in how we felt, and in our quality of life.
We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. — Alcoholics Anonymous p. 84
Our feelings of uselessness, sadness, and our pitiful, sorrowful natures began to shift. Gradually these feelings were replaced by something revolutionary.
How could we feel anything but grateful when all those terrible feelings were replaced by security, peace, and serenity?
We know our addiction or alcoholism is powerless to kill us anymore.
When a drowning man is dragged to shore, he is eternally grateful to the one who saved his life.
Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. — Alcoholics Anonymous p. 27
Gratitude Includes Acknowledgement
We know we did not accomplish this on our own.
Sure, we took some necessary action to get down to the root of the problem, but previous failures had taught us we did not possess what it took to eliminate our illness, or, in other words, to recover.
His alcoholic problem was taken away. That very night, years ago, it disappeared. Save for a few brief moments of temptation, the thought of drink has never returned; and at such times a great revulsion has risen up in him. Seemingly he could not drink even if he would. God had restored his sanity. — Alcoholics Anonymous p. 56-57
Gratitude — All This Continues
Life goes on.
Things come up.
We have the occasional conflict or crisis.
But, as my sponsor has often said when I’ve called him experiencing fear about daily life:
How many times has God let you down so far? Right. None. So, what makes this situation any different? It’s not any different? Right. Have you talked to God? Anything else I can do for you today?
Inevitably… Things work out.
The Promises in some new form come true again.
In Other Words…
When we are experiencing gratitude, acknowledging where these miracles of healing come from, and that real solutions to our daily problems are somehow appearing for us with a little faith and some minimal action, our attitude about life and people changes.
It stays changed.
We find gratitude and serenity even in tough times.
We know there is always hope and courage.
We are no longer prey to alcohol or drugs.
Nor to our emotions.
Life is fundamentally different, and we have changed fundamentally as well.
A woman I know recently put it so well that I’ll close with her words:
Life is good.
Even when it’s not good…
David S. is an alumnus of the SONTX Residential Program and served as a house manager. He is celebrating sobriety running the streets of Dallas.