M(3), 9/8: Not Either/Or, But Both/And


Today’s meeting was a study in contrasts.  First the topic:  we read chapter 19 from the book Living Sober, entitled “Being Grateful.”

In general this book is geared towards the person who is brand new to recovery, and is trying sobriety for the first time.  It is a fantastic reference for people just starting out and needing practical, how-to advice for everyday situations.

This chapter, however, is a great read for anyone at all:  newly sober, long-timers, really, any human being could read and benefit.  It outlines the various ways a lack of gratitude manifests in our lives, and why cultivating gratitude is so beneficial.

I read this chapter, and see myself as a work in progress.  Some of the examples it gives of displaying a lack of gratitude made me laugh out loud, because it described my behavior to a “T” while in active addiction.  I was happy to note the progress I have made in my recovery with respect to these behaviors.

There were some behaviors where I have made progress, but have more work to do.   The chapter states that cultivating gratitude is not “a prescription for mindless Pollyanna-ism,” and this concept really spoke to me.  I can admit, and believe I have spoken about the notion before, that there is a part of me that hears this whole gratitude lecture and immediately thinks of Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live:




Now I’ve learned enough to know that my thinking on this is wrong, but it’s a process trying to re-wire decades of maladjusted thinking!  I will give a recent example of how gratitude is a practice that works:

A few days ago, I was bitching and moaning to my husband that I can’t get below a certain number on the scale.  He goes on to give me a list of things I need to do differently in order to achieve this goal I desire.  I then become defensive and agitated, and proceed to argue with him why he is wrong.

Here’s the progress with respect to this part of the story:  I realize, probably 3 seconds into his advice, that I made the choice to bring this subject up for discussion.  And while I did argue with him, the debate was a fraction of the time it would have been in the past.  Finally, I wrapped up the discussion without it devolving into a full-blown fight.  Anyone that has ever seen me in heated debate will appreciate this progress a lot!

Okay, fast-forward about an hour or so, and I have decided to check out a walking trail that is halfway between my house and a meeting I attend regularly.  I checked my Fitbit at the end, and it wound up being a 3 mile walk.  I was pleased, and considered for a second how regular 5k distances have become part of my routine.  When I considered that progress, I felt even better than I did realizing I just walked 3 miles.

So the moral of the story?  Both scenarios are true:  I am struggling to get down past a certain number on the scale, and I have made great strides in my fitness routine.  Focusing on one fact will make me feel bad; focusing on the other will make me feel good.  Gratitude is really that simple a choice:  recognize all the good things in your life, or dwell on all you wish you could change, and see which one feels better!

The next person to share told me the greatest life lesson her Mom shared with her was that, in most cases, it’s not either/or, but both/and, with my above story being a classic example.  As someone who leans heavily towards an all or nothing way of thinking, this will be a take-away for me that I will keep fresh in my mind.

As I mentioned, the meeting was a study in contrasts.  After I shared and the woman who gave me the title of this post shared, the meeting took a major left turn.  I had a few newcomers (to my meeting, not necessarily to recovery), and they seemed to be in a state of agitation.  The first person to share spoke bitterly about his divorce, and how little he enjoyed being separated from his children.  In further sharing, he revealed that the divorce took place more than a year ago, so clearly he is struggling for acceptance.  From his share a number of people more or less piggy backed off his pain, and talked about their experience with divorce and raising children in a broken home.

So there was some heaviness at hearing the pain that my fellow attendees are feeling; at the same time, it made me even more grateful than when I walked in.  Grateful for the blessings in my life, grateful that there is a place for these people in pain to come and express it, and grateful that I recognize how positive my meeting typically is.  Hopefully these newcomers will come back and we will get them to feel the joy and gratitude we feel!

Today’s Miracle:

A little over a year ago, a newcomer came to my meeting with a few weeks of sobriety, on the verge of losing his driver’s license as a consequence of his alcoholism. He asked if I could take him with me to the meeting after he loses his license, which I did, and have continued to do, for the past year.  This morning when I picked him up he let me know that going forward he can, and will, legally drive himself, and challenged me to see who would get there the earliest next week.  I am so grateful to witness the blessings of sobriety!


Posted on September 8, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. First off~ thanks for being of service and driving that gentleman and it made me smile that is still sober, still going and will be there next week! That is awesome b/c you played and were part of his year of sobriety! AWESOME!

    I am an all or nothing gal too~ and your scale conversation made me smile too! Hang in there… it will budge but even if it doesn’t, how awesome a 5K walk is easy peasy! That too is very awesome! I will put that chapter on my reading list for recovery this week!


    • Oh, please do, I am not doing the chapter itself justice, it really gives a lot of good reasons to working on practicing gratitude. I am thinking about (not yet committing to) a gratitude journal of some sort. I hear a lot of people talk about the good it does them, so if I do I’m sure I’ll be writing about it!

      Thanks for the kind words, I will miss his company on the (admittedly short) commute, but I am so happy he plans on continuing to come to the meeting 🙂

      I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the chapter, MB!


      • I have a lil book on my night stand to write 5 things I’m grateful that day. Umm I wrote in it 3x the last 2 months- lol I always forget. In in zombie land when I finally crawl up to bed but it’s there!


      • Well, at least you have it sitting there. And for sure, I would NEVER write in it right before bed, I am always half asleep 🙂

        I guess if I do it, I will need to think about timing, so thanks for this comment!


  2. Hi Josie – My meeting today (with the Happy Sober People) was also about gratitude. As people shared around the room, so many instances of gratitude for such a variety of things – big and small. One in particular stood out to me. A woman shared that as she was driving down a busy street, she glanced at her thighs at the red light. She was appalled at the amount of cellulite she noticed and declared she must put her shorts in the drawer and pull out the long pants. As she continued on her way she glanced to her right and watched a man make his way on the sidewalk in an electric wheelchair. He had no legs. Gratitude.


  3. Trish! So glad to hear you went back to the HSP meeting, and how great that our topics coincide! Wow that was a great share from that woman, I could have used her in my meeting today. I’m wondering if some of the miserable folk from your other meetings migrated north to mine today 🙂

    Thanks for including this story in the comments, it is a great example of gratitude in action 🙂


  4. I have tried periodically to keep a gratitude journal – like momma bee it’s on my night table, but hasn’t been written in lately! – but I do find even occasionally writing in it does change my outlook. It is, as you say, putting the focus on the positive. I find, over time, that feeling grateful spontaneously inside just happens more often when I am in the habit of keeping it. And sometimes, during the day, I will think, oh, that would be a great thing to include in my gratitude journal! – it’s like I begin to notice more things that I am grateful for. And sometimes, even when not writing them down, I think of five things in my head as I’m lying in bed waiting for sleep… it’s a good way to close the day 🙂


    • I totally agree that, in theory, closing the day by writing down a gratitude list is a wonderful thing. The trouble for me, same with Momma Bee, is that there is no way I will be alert enough to do it right before bed! On the other hand, I could commit to it as I’m settling down in the Family room at night, before I get too tired. That’s more feasible for me, and it would be a lot more than I’m doing now (aka nothing).

      This is all awesome food for thought, thanks for this comment. Oh, and also, what you said about it happening more naturally when you consciously practice gratitude… the book talks about this exact thing! It’s not natural at first, but becomes easier if you make the effort.

      Thanks so much for helping me refine the parameters of my gratitude list resolution, I’m sure I’ll be writing about it soon 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Agree that’s very cool about the guy you’d been driving to meetings. Wonderful.

    And 3 mile walks. I love that. I know what you mean about realizing the progress and seeing more clearly how the only way to do it is to, well, do it. And also how the upsets still happen on account of being human and all, but they feel more manageable somehow. That’s in how we respond and what we put into it. The progress is so real, so amazing sometimes. Grateful for your examples and to hear the appreciation in your words. It’s good medicine. xo


    • This comment is exactly what I needed to read today:

      “…realizing the progress and seeing more clearly how the only way to do it is to, well, do it.”

      I can’t tell you how much I needed to read those words today. Kristen, you are a God moment for me, thank you 🙂


  6. As usual, a lot of gratitude in your words, Josie. You are a shining light.



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