Before I got sober, I was a pretty negative person. In my world, the glass wasn’t half-empty, it was all the way empty. My favorite mantra was, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” Finally, a series of events happened that led me to my drinking bottom, and I got sober in March of 2001.
For the first year-and-a-half of sobriety, I was so deluged with grief over an unrequited love and with anger over my upbringing, that it took 4 or 5 meetings a day to keep sober. Even then I struggled. It seemed impossible to crawl out of the vortex that was my reality. I kept getting sucked back in, so the 30-adult-years that I had been a drinking, angry, and bitter extended into sobriety for a few years.
Because I went to so many meetings initially, it was not unusual to cross paths with my roommate who was coming home from one. Here is our conversation one fall day.
“Hi Ana! How was the meeting?” I asked, knowing she’d been at the eleven o’clock.
“It was wonderful,” she responded gleefully.
“Really!!?? What was the topic?” I queried with great interest.
“Gratitude,” came the reverent reply.
Silence overtook me for a brief moment as I processed this, and then, “Gratitude AGAIN??? I’m so sick of gratitude!!! Can’t they find anything better to talk about?” I was so distraught, I was yelling and close to tears! Since I was hurting emotionally that day, I needed to hear a topic that would soothe me. Disappointment doesn’t even begin to explain what I was feeling from Ana’s revelation. I was panicked! “What if the topic at the nooner is gratitude? How will I deal with that?!” Guess what the topic was? Yep. Gratitude. I sat through the meeting, seething, upset they couldn’t find something else to discuss. I went home disgruntled.
This was the beginning of gratitude in my life, as it was not something I practiced… ever. I was horribly wounded from my past and deeply grieving a recent unrequited love. It was impossible for me to find gratitude or appreciation in anything. It always had been difficult. I was not raised to look on the positive side, a habit I carried into adulthood. It was beyond my comprehension to see the beauty and abundance that were available to me if I were to be grateful and appreciative.
Fast forward sixteen years from that discussion with Ana, to current day where I live in a constant state of gratitude. My eyes and heart see the world around me with awe and wonder. I hold a great appreciation for all things and people. Life is a glorious thing to experience… Wow! What a stark difference from who I was then and who I have become today!
It began with the unrequited love. The gratitude I now feel over that debacle is remarkable… a miracle! After seven years of grieving over a relationship that never was, I realized one day I loved being single. I wouldn’t be single were it not for the unrequited love that prompted me to leave my marriage. Hmmm. I admitted that the benefit of that non-relationship was I got out of a horribly volatile marriage that had lasted for twenty years. Even though it was dead for years, I wasn’t leaving because I didn’t want to be alone.
Recognizing this bit of gratitude was a life-changer for me! Since then, I have realized I am eternally grateful for the unrequited love because it got me sober, it led me to forgiveness for my parents, and it opened the way for me to be doing the forgiveness work I do today. You see, I work with clients individually, and I present to groups my six-hour program, Freedom from Resentment: The Art of Forgiveness. I have gained a life I absolutely adore!
What can be gained if you begin to appreciate a difficult situation you’ve experienced? If you become grateful for one small point about the experience, it can grow. Underlying willingness is necessary, as is a willingness to let go of your current feelings and to be open to what flows in. Once you are able to find that one little thing for which to express gratitude, more shows up. Gratitude begets gratitude.
If you struggle with gratitude, I invite you to do a 21-Day Gratitude Challenge. Every morning for twenty-one days, write down one thing for which you are grateful. Let the words flow onto the page. Use nature to praise, or the fact that you can open your eyes in the morning and get out of bed independently. At the end of the twenty-one days, you’ll be amazed at what has happened.