Every morning for the past eight months, I've woken up and written a gratitude list. What started out as a daily assignment from my Sponsor (that I begrudgingly accepted), has morphed into a beautiful centerpiece for my recovery from alcohol.
Initially, when I started jotting down these obligatory lists, they were akin to boring grocery lists. You know, just covering the basics - my health, roof over my head, food in the fridge, my family. Coming up with 30 things to be grateful for seemed like an impossible task. At the time, I just couldn't glimpse my life from a place of gratitude. The practice seemed fake and hollow to me. Upon reflection, I can safely surmise that my inability to see the good in my life had absolutely fueled the bulk of my drinking over the last decade or so. I didn't want to make the lists, but I knew I needed to at least give it a try.
I started to flex my gratitude muscles by hunkering down and taking a good, long (and often uncomfortable) look at my life in a way that I never had before. I came to realize that somewhere along the line I had taken the word gratitude out of my vernacular and tucked it away somewhere deep and dark inside of me. I couldn't access it. I didn't feel it. I judged people who could. I viewed the world with contempt. I resented the assignment. It felt show-y. It felt against my nature. It felt awkward and forced.
Until it didn't.
Time was a major player in changing my perception of gratitude. Once I let go and quit worrying what my Sponsor might think about my lists, I was able to break this 9-letter word wide open and examine it. I ended up finding gratitude in the sludge and muck of my life too, not just the shiny or the beautiful parts. You know, the hard stuff, the tough conversations, scary diagnoses, and family drama. I learned to absorb these events and let them tumble around inside my head like they were jagged shards of glass getting churned up and softened by the rough sands on the ocean floor of my mind. The result? A smoother perspective that had been gently rounded by me and my willingness to be open and try something new.
I learned pretty quickly that gratitude was a process, not an event. And by accepting this simple truth, I opened myself up the the practice.
After a few months of diligently writing my daily gratitude lists, I started looking forward to them. I added linework and colors to the page, which afforded me the meditative time I needed to pluck gratitudes from my psyche and transfer them onto a slip of paper that would serve as a supportive document to my existence here on earth.
Earlier this year, I invited six sober women that I admired into my gratitude circle and we would share our own lists via email every single day. Insightful, smart, humorous and tender truth bombs would arrive in my email inbox sporadically throughout the day and light up my world.
Sometimes the lists were about how God was working in someone's life; or how a major emotional hurt had been transformed by looking at the abundance, instead of the scarcity, in that woman's life; or sometimes the lists would consist of a blow-by-blow of a day well spent or the calling out of simple pleasures like good ice cream, a hot bath or clean sheets.
Once the gratitude circle started, my attitude about gratitude shifted. I was glimpsing humanity in a way that I had never been privy to before and this prompted me to look for opportunities in my own life to practice grace and seek solutions without drama. Bearing witness to the human condition through these women and their list felt (and still feels) sacred to me. The trust and sisterhood that has blossomed from this practice is astonishing to this lifelong skeptic. I finally unearthed the word gratitude from the confines of my carefully guarded soul and celebrate its existence every morning by putting pen to paper and cataloging it as proof of my life.
This simple practice has been key to sustaining my sobriety and recovery from alcohol. It's a significant tool in my sobriety tool box and I use it every single day.
And guess what? Yep, you probably guessed it. I'm so, so grateful.
I am so very GRATEFUL and honored that Tammi Salas shared her words and art with us. I have the privilege of sharing this practice with her and a handful of other beautiful and inspiring women. If you do not have a gratitude circle in your life, I highly recommend it. It is life-changing.