M(3), 11/24: Gratitude as a Verb
The topic of my Monday meeting was gratitude, and yet I am fighting the urge to sit down and start complaining. Why? Because, despite a solid two years of avoidance, my meeting was subjected to a dreaded business meeting, insisted upon by someone who seems energized by complicating simple matters. What a completely annoying way to finish out an otherwise delightful Monday meeting experience.
But I digress. Now, where was I? Oh yes, gratitude!
Today is the fourth Monday of the month, which, in the literature rotation, is “chairperson’s choice.” Because this is the week of the American holiday called Thanksgiving, I thought it apropos to use gratitude as the subject matter, and so this morning we did a series of readings on that subject.
I was a bit nervous at the start of this meeting, as there were very few attendees. Mental note: the more I prepare for a meeting, the less attendees there seems to be. I’m not sure why it works out that way, but it has been pretty consistent throughout these 2 years, today there wound up being less than ten of us at the meeting. The combination of a low turnout, along with an unfamiliar anthology, left me uncertain as to how this topic might resonate with the group.
The first couple of passages were met with some awkward silences, but soon enough the small group got into the swing of things, and the sharing really took off. Whew! I did not have to sit and ramble on for 60 minutes by myself!
Of all the different things that were read, two really stood out to me in a powerful way. First, the idea of gratitude as a forward-paying action, rather than a passive thought process of things received. For those of us involved in a 12-step fellowship, gratitude as an action means reaching out our hand to the still-suffering alcoholic in the same way a hand reached out to us when we needed help.
But that concept can extend to so much more than the disease of addiction. Instead of writing down “I am grateful for the love of my family,” I could instead pay that love forward and show them that I am grateful for their love. Gratitude should be active, not passive, and the reading reminded me to be conscious of that, particularly with the holidays so rapidly approaching.
The second reading that stood out talked about people in AA considering themselves privileged, for the misfortune of the alcoholism turned into the good fortune of living in recovery. Boy does that hit home for me. For a very long time I bemoaned the fact that I could not “drink like normal people.” The holiday season in particular was a great time for the pity party to rage on, as I watched what seemed like every person on the planet drinking merrily.
Now that recovery from addiction and a sober lifestyle has taken root, I have a completely different outlook on abstaining from alcohol. I see how being sober allows me to be present in a way I never was before sobriety; how working the 12 steps of recovery has allowed self-transcendence and a new way of living life on life’s terms, and how embracing sobriety has brought a whole new network of people into my life, people whom I never would have met if I was still drinking. I can say, sincerely, that I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic.
Other people spoke of their plans for the holidays, and the preparations they are making to ensure their sobriety (bringing their own car to a function, arriving late, leaving early, planning to attend a recovery meeting, planning to spend time with other sober people). They spoke of holidays where they did not make these plans, holidays where they chose instead to drink, and how those holidays inevitably wound up being about the alcohol, rather than about family or friends.
In the midst of this sharing, a regular attendee raised her hand and said she would be speaking off-topic, because she needed to share a situation with friends who would understand what she was going through. This week she is hosting her in-law’s who have traveled from Europe to spend the holiday with her, her husband and her daughter. Having been sober for over a year, she said her in-law’s know something of her alcoholism, but not all the details: they know that she had decided to stop drinking, and that she attends support groups in the effort to not drink, but that is about the extent of it. So within the past year, they have drunk in her presence but have not pressed her on the subject, and all in all it has worked out satisfactorily for all. This visit, however, the in-law’s did something a bit different: they presented my friend and her husband (not an alcoholic, but a rare drinker… due to acid reflux, he will rarely consume more than half a glass of anything) with NINE BOTTLES of wine and a bottle of single malt scotch.
My friends in recovery reading…. can you seriously imagine? And this was the good stuff, by the way!
My friend handled it the best way she could: she had her husband remove the alcohol from plain sight for while the in-law’s are still visiting, and she had made plans for a non-alcoholic friend to take whatever is remaining as soon as the in-law’s return home. She just needed to share this story with people who would understand her plight, and, in this understanding could she finally find some peace with the subject.
Everyone who shared after her spoke of understanding, told stories of a similar vein, and how they handled similar issues in their own lives. By the end of the meeting, my friend had a new point of gratitude: the empathy of others in this meeting.
For anyone out there struggling with added stress of less-than-supportive family and friends during this holiday season, please know that you have us in the sober blogosphere, people who have been there, who understand what you’re going through, and will lend our support any way we can. You just need to reach out, and you can survive the season with your sobriety intact. If all else fails, this is a song I have used to amuse and empower myself when the going got tough, imagine all of your sober friends disco dancing with you through this holiday season:
The weather in Pennsylvania today definitely falls into the miracle category… it feels like summer today! You’ve got to appreciate these days when you get them, especially in November!
Posted on November 24, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged 12 step program, 12 steps, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, fellowship, Gratitude, Meeting, Miracle, Monday, Philosophy, Recovery, Sobriety, Substance Abuse, Support Groups, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.