In a few days many of us will join together with others and celebrate a time of connection and of giving thanks for our blessings.
Many years ago, before I started recovery, Thanksgiving was the only day of the year that I gave thanks for my blessings. The rest of the year, I lived in the world of black and white, all or nothing. I was tossed back and forth by the waves of my circumstances. Either it was a good day, or a bad day.
I had completed the 12 Steps, and now I needed to “live a recovery program.” However, I needed some structure in order to do so (besides attending meetings and meeting with my sponsor regularly).
My sponsor suggested that I do a daily inventory. In this inventory I wrote several things, but included in those items were:
- How was I with others?
- What feelings did I uncover?
- 3 things for which I am grateful.
My recovery took off through this practice; and I have continued to do it almost daily for the past 10+ years.
Even though I completed my 12 Steps, I still needed and wanted to change (and still do). I became aware that I was having all of these very difficult feelings, and challenged interactions with my family, but simultaneously needed to find 3 things for which I was grateful.
Before, if something bad happened, EVERYTHING was bad. Or if something good happened, EVERYTHING was good. I couldn’t hold good, bad, joy, and pain all at the same time.
Early on, as I became aware of the very difficult emotions I was experiencing every day, I felt buried by my negative feelings. At the same time, the inventory compelled me to acknowledge what I was grateful for. I found myself writing my 3 gratitudes through gritted teeth. I often had difficulty coming up with one, let alone 3 because I was still acting out (responding in negative ways). Others around me were acting out, and I was very influenced by their behavior as well.
But over time, I started to often write more than 3 gratitudes, even around significant pain and difficulties in my life, and when I was around other toxic people. Many of those gratitudes came because I saw myself not getting drawn into others’ negative behavior.
Gratitude does not involve denying reality. It is about acknowledging and holding onto challenging realities, feeling the difficult (and joyous) feelings, giving thanks for other blessings that are going on in one’s life, and holding on expectantly for how God will work into and through our difficulties, resulting in something good. (Romans 8:28, NIV)
Gratitude also places me in the humble position of recognizing that any good thing in my life really does come from God. It is through Jesus that I can change, grow, and heal. I just need to keep seeking after Him; I will see things change, and I am filled with abundant gratitude for His presence in my life.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17, NIV)
May your Thanksgiving Day (and the days of your life), be filled with overwhelming gratitude.
Contributed by a leader at Celebrate Recovery on the Plateau.