Back in the day, when I was practically brand new to recovery I attended a lunchtime AA meeting. In a nondescript conference room on a college campus, I sat quietly and listened while old timers went on about their years in Twelve Step and how much life had gotten better for them over that time. Then this wiry little guy, younger than me, gathers up the courage to ask a question that quite frankly shocked all of us.
“You talk a lot about ‘being grateful’,” he said, “but I have nothing to be grateful for. My life is sh*t right now.”
I’m sure my eyes were wide as I looked around the room. Not because of the cussing, (personally I cuss like an educated sailor) but because I was hoping to see some wise old man with hundreds of years of sobriety as eager to help this kid as they were to go on about their personal successes over the past hour.
No one spoke.
The silence grew to become more uncomfortable than I could stand. Finally, II said something. Normally someone as new as me wouldn’t be allowed to say anything. But the oldtimers were struggling to find words. I was disappointed in their obvious distance from the first, painful days of sobriety. Maybe, since I was closer to those Desperation Days mysef, I might have something to offer.
“Start anywhere you can,” I told him. “If a car cuts you off and stops in front of you making you slam on your brakes, be grateful you didn’t smash into him.”
The expression on his face changed. He seemed a little less desperate, yet a little more confused so I continued.
“The point is to find SOMETHING to be grateful for, no matter how bad it gets.”
His face relaxed a little, freeing his lips up to curve an almost imperceptible smile. I smiled back at him, larger, trying to be reassuring. “It’s the most powerful tool we have.”
“Gratitude is the most valuable tool humans have to create a life we love living. No matter how far into the chasm we may have gone, gratitude is like a magical three rung ladder that allows you to rise up out of the hole by simply moving what’s at the bottom to the top.” ~Gayle Nicholson
So here are a few more ways to be grateful when your life is going to hell:
Decide that every cloud has a silver lining and you are going to see it even if you have to shove your fist down that cloud’s throat and turn it inside out! Then go do that. Be a mercenary for the discovery of the silver lining and stop at nothing until you find even the tiniest speck of something to be grateful for. You might even have some fun in the process.
Keep a journal of the good times and the bad. When you’re going through bad times now, look back for a time when it was worse and you made it through. Be grateful that you’re not still where you used to be.
Look a homeless person in the eye. And while the tears sting at yours from what you see there, be grateful you are not them.
Express gratitude without reservation. When someone tries to do something nice for you and screws it up, be grateful for their intentions, don’t focus on the results.
Remember that most of the “hell” we go through in America are #FirstWorldProblems and simply be grateful that you don’t have #ThirdWorldProblems. Do you have internet access? Running water? You have far more than far too many. Be of a grateful heart.