If you speak to a group of people that have been in a 12 step fellowship, and have been successful in sobriety for any length of time you will hear one word again and again; gratitude.
Why is gratitude so imperative to sobriety?
Gratitude is the foundation for which a happy person builds their life. In the 2011 documentary Happy, a group of film makers go on a quest to find what makes people truly happy. The answer is one that many of us have already found; be truly grateful for what you have now. One story that has remained with me over time is that of a woman that was severely disfigured by an accident and lost most of her face.
This woman stated that it was not until she fully lost everything that she thought was important that she found true happiness. I put myself in her place. How would I connect to the world if I was not able to use my physical being to engage? Furthermore, why are we taught that our physical being is so important if clearly it is not? The answer I found was fear. If we are fearful about what we offer on the inside, truly in our souls, than we can hide behind the outside.
In our modern America, if someone presents themselves as beautiful on the outside, with many “things” such as money, fame, fancy clothes, are they really ever asked to show us what is truly on the inside? or are they able to hide everything they truly are (good or bad)?
Our society propagates the belief that we must constantly strive for more. More money, more things, more outside beauty, more friends, bigger things, bigger homes, bigger paychecks and this is marketed to us as the American Dream.
What if the true American Dream is not for more external items but for more emotional stability, joy, gratitude, and love? How can we fully know what we have to offer if it is constantly lost beneath the external? To live with gratitude is to be thankful for each moment in each day.
To be thankful for each smile and each laugh. To be thankful for the ability to make another person feel loved and to be loved, this is true happiness. To deeply feel and to be honest with others about our feelings is our gift to the world. To be honest, joyful and unafraid is our true offering, and in order to do that we must first know real gratitude for all that we possess.
Write a list of things that you are grateful for today. Fold it up and put it in your pocket. Take it with you where you go and ask a friend to do the same. Gratitude: pass it on.
Sarah Hindes, MSW