When I started attending AA meetings, some people would introduce themselves as “grateful recovering alcoholics.”
I thought they were crazy.
It was hard for me to be grateful early in sobriety. It was hard for me to recognize anything to be thankful for.
But slowly, that awareness grew. Some things were simple: spouse, children, parents and siblings, church family, shelter. Others took more a little more work to recognize: a part-time overnight grocery store job, the care and concern of the people who fired me, those people at the meetings who kept saying the same thing every day.
And at some point along the way, I don’t even remember when, I started saying, “I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.”
Being grateful is not always easy. Sometimes, the circumstances of life can seemingly drown out the good that exists. Sometimes, our focus is so much on the present that we cannot step back to view the bigger picture.
Sometimes, we have to say, “I’m grateful,” through gritted teeth.
When my partner does not live up to my expectations in our relationship, I am still grateful to have her in my life.
When my child is undergoing several medical tests that may or may not reveal something serious, I am still grateful I am blessed with children.
When my job has several tough days in a row, I am still grateful for work.
When I think I might want a drink to drown out the noise in my head, I am still grateful that I am experiencing emotions.
When I am so busy and overwhelmed with life, I am still grateful to have life.
When my shoelaces break, I am still grateful to have shoes on my feet.
Every Sunday, my home church does a prayer time called Prayers of the People. Yesterday, the church wrote out prayers of thanksgiving in addition to the normal weekly prayers. On my prayer card, I listed some of the experiences I have endured this year. It has not been easy.
But I could still say I am grateful. I am grateful that hope exists in the midst of grief and despair. I am grateful that a church family could and would surround me and hold me up on my weakest days. I am grateful for a youth group at our church that exhibits a maturity and spirituality far beyond their years.
So yes: I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.
I am grateful because I am sober today.
I am grateful because I can recognize things to be thankful for. Even on the hard days.
Thanksgiving can be difficult. Let’s face it: all the holidays can be difficult. Trying to maintain sobriety on a regular day is hard enough, but trying to maintain sobriety when given time off of work, shopping amongst crazy throngs of people, and dealing with family drama reserved for this time of year can seem almost unbearable.
So let’s start being thankful right now. What are you thankful for? Start working on a list. Remember it when things get crazy at the end of this week.
No matter how tightly you have to grit your teeth, open your mouth, and grumble the words with me:
I am grateful.