"My name is Harry and I'm a grateful recovering alcoholic."
---a what? I thought. Grateful? Grateful? What bullshit!
It was one of my first AA speaker meetings I was required to attend while undergoing treatment in rehab. The first speaker introduced himself as a "grateful recovering alcoholic," and I heard almost nothing else. I couldn't get my head around that word "grateful."
Grateful? Yeah, man, I am just tickled pink to have the disease of alcoholism (which I would later learn to call "addiction"). Who was this guy kidding anyway? He was, at the very least, I believed, kidding himself.
By then I had gotten far enough along in treatment to admit I was an addict, but I still hadn't quite gotten around to accepting it. I was still in a self-pity/rage fest about life, the universe, God, or whoever singling me out for this particular gift: Addiction. I mean, how could something like this happen to a nice guy like me?
There was no need for me to total up all of the things I was damned ungrateful for. I had that list carved in stone and chained to me so that I dragged it around and had it weigh me down wherever I went.
Loved ones I had hurt
Pets I had hurt
Employees I had hurt
Endless valuable things I had trashed
The money I had wasted
The money I failed to make, opportunities lost through loss of productivity, all of the stories that never got written.
This helpless, hopeless, dark little universe in which I was confined; a place where the world was shit, nothing worked, there was no such thing as a temporary problem, a world in which I was convinced everyone hated me, and where I punished those who still dared to love me.
It was a world in which I stayed in bed for two weeks trying to figure out how to kill myself without making a mess, and failing.
Yeah, I had my anti-gratitude list up and running all right. Any time I needed an excuse to use drugs, all of my reasons were right there in glorious black and blacker. Gratitude my ass!
Time passed, I didn't use, I went to meetings, I got a sponsor, I listened at the meetings and did what my sponsor told me. Learned a few things, too.
1. If all I look for is shit, shit is all I'm ever going to find.
2. If in the center of a perfectly clean wall is a fly speck, and all I do is focus on the fly speck, the universe will appear as though it is covered in filth.
3. That my focus is governed by my attitude, and my attitude is one of the things I can change.
5. That my disease considers me a crap magnet. It figures once I'm covered in enough crap, I'll use.
6. It's tough to clean a septic tank when you're sitting in it.
I also learned how to move my focus off the fly speck by doing a gratitude list. I've covered this before, but Blogger doesn't make going through the older posts very easy, so here it is again:
How To Do A Gratitude List
There are many different ways to do a gratitude list. This is the way my sponsor taught me thirty-three years ago.
Take a letter-sized piece of paper, draw a line down the center of the paper. At the top of the left-hand column, write your clean date (If you don't know what your clean date is, go to the NA link, find out where the nearest meeting is, and go there now.)
At the top of the right-hand column, write today's date.
Back at the left-hand column, write down the names of everyone you truly loved on your clean date. Didn't take me long at all because I loved no one, including myself.
Over to the right-hand column, write down the names of everyone you love now. That usually takes me most of a morning.
Back to the left hand column. Write down the names of everyone who, on your clean date, you felt or believed loved you. Again, I drew a blank.
Over to the right-hand column, write down the names of everyone who, today, you feel or believe love you.
I usually don't have to do any more than that to both eat up a morning and end up feeling wealthy in love. However, if you need more, do the same thing with your physical condition then and now, relationships then and now, possessions, occupation, outlook, and so on with every aspect of your existence.
This coming December I will have been clean thirty-four years. I am living on borrowed time, and the best thing about borrowed time is, you don't have to pay it back. For that and for many, many other things, I am grateful.
Two final things to remember: (1) Grateful addicts don't pick up, and (2) If the world didn't suck we'd all fall off.