Gratitude Season

Summer has ended. And with it the frenzy of celebrating in the sun, the garden parties, the patios, the BBQs, the long, lazy days on the beach. I love summer because it’s such an affirmation of life but fall makes me reflective and appreciative of this life that I’ve created. And there’s a tinge of nostalgia that goes along with cooler days and leaves falling off trees. I think about how lucky I am to have witnessed the seasons changing, sober, and how lucky I am to be aware of the world around me and no longer feeling like I’m looking in from the outside.  I reflect on how grateful I am for what I have.

The concept of gratitude used to be foreign to me when I was still in the throes of addiction. Some days I felt that I was entitled to what I had (money, houses, a family) but then other times, I was convinced I didn’t deserve any of it. Often I felt like a fraud, like I was just playing myself in some strange movie about my life. That is the ongoing dilemma of a person in active addiction—you just have no clear grasp on reality, no idea about what you do or do not deserve, not that anyone deserves more or less than another person. But when you’re under the influence of drugs you have some pretty weird ideas about how life should be, so an inflated ego and low self-esteem are par for the course.

Today, I’m able to take a step back and assess my life in the way that doesn’t cause me anxiety and confusion. And I can be thankful for what I have without feeling guilty, without feeling like a fraud, or like a prince either.

Photo by Freshh Connection on Unsplash

There’s an exercise in Positive Psychology (and in 12-step programs) where individuals are asked to write down all that they’re grateful for. It’s not a popular exercise, but the idea behind is to see on paper how much we have even if we have very little. It’s not popular because it seems futile to praise the air or the flowers, or hot shower, or the apartment or some other thing we take for granted. But if you think about it, you are always in a better situation than someone else and that’s enough to be grateful for. If you still have a place to live and a hot shower, then you’re ways ahead of someone who’s homeless and living on the street. If you can still notice and appreciate flowers, than you’re doing way better than a person who’s detoxing in a hospital bed. If you are in a hospital bed then you’re still in a better spot than someone who is dying of addiction in an alley somewhere. You get the idea. Research shows that one’s mood lifts after regularly making such a list, and many people swear by it.  Besides,  it doesn’t hurt to try. And as you go along, you can keep adding to your list—as it grows it’ll become clear how sobriety makes that growth possible.

Presently, my daily mantra continues to ring true:  In most ways, my life is ideal.  I am grateful for the summer I’ve had. I am grateful for a beautiful place to live in and for the lake where I went sailing. I’m grateful for my family. And for a profession that’s meaningful and challenging. I don’t know where I would be if I haven’t changed my life so drastically—and for the better—many years ago. But I have all the proof I need to see that it was the right decision, one that keeps on giving. One that makes me grateful for being on this planet. I encourage you to write down your list and see how much you too have to be thankful for.

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