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!
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 12 step program, AA, Addiction, Alcoholic Anonymous, fellowship, Meeting, Miracle, Monday, Recovery, Sobriety, Support group, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.