Category Archives: 12-Step Programs

Gratitude Lists

Many of us concentrate on what we want, instead of what we have. Our Western society is based on consumerism — manufactured desires for the next great thing. Many billions of dollars are spent supporting the frame of mind that keeps us wanting, and spending, and wanting again. The same is true of other parts of life. Popular entertainment and society combine to make us believe that certain things mean success and that we need those things to be happy. Along those lines, it is worth noting that people in Third World countries tend to report that they are generally happy more often than people in the US, despite their much lower standards of living.

We may have been allowed to grow up believing that only a certain amount of effort is needed in life, and after that we’re entitled to reap the benefits—regardless of reality. This is guaranteed to make us bitter when the rest of the world doesn’t see things that way. Or we may have been led to believe that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never be good enough. This often leads to a feeling of defeat that pretty much guarantees the prediction will prove to be true.

Some people spend many years searching for more, more, more, in the hope that the spotlight, more power, more money, more prestige, more “stuff” will overcome their feelings that they are just not good enough. Fortunately, it is possible to learn that isn’t the case, and that those things never will be the answer.

We can often improve our mood, demeanor and serenity by bringing our thoughts back to the fact that we may or may not be responsible for the ideas that have been poured into our heads, but that we are responsible for how we choose to deal with them.

Sitting down with pen and paper, and concentrating on writing a list of things that we’re grateful for can offset the idea that happiness is dependent on things outside of ourselves—that we can buy happiness, or that someone else can fill us with it. It can help us to appreciate what we already have, and also to decide what’s really important and what isn’t. In my life, I can choose to have an “attitude of gratitude,” or I can let my demons drag me around by my wants. It’s up to me.

A Possible Topic For Meditation Or A Meeting

I was at a meeting on Saturday (online, of course). We had a discussion of the good things that have come from the pandemic. I’m not going to mention specific things that were brought up, because I don’t want to do your thinking for you. However, I challenge you — and perhaps your group — to consider the matter in some detail.

It’s easy to bitch, moan, and complain. “It’s not fair!”, “Someone should…”, “Why me?”, and similar laments are the default setting for us addicts and codependents, and stresses like we’re suffering these days — so alien to so-called normal behavior for most of us — can bring them out in abundance. One of our default behaviors is to automatically look for the worst scenario and then fixate on it. The pressures of confinement, especially close confinement with family and partners, money worries and the other things that plague most of us these days are guaranteed to challenge our sobriety and strain our sanity (in the sense spoken of in Step Two).

So let’s pull our minds out of the mud for a few minutes and really consider carefully the possible things we’ve gained or have the potential to gain from our current circumstances. I’ll bet if we actually stop and think about it mindfully, we’ll discover that things could certainly be worse and that some things may even be better.

Thought For The Day

“In recovery, the wish to keep indulging without consequences doesn’t vanish suddenly. How many of us hoard, ruminate, fidget or pump ourselves full of coffee or nicotine, or go the other way with exercise or rigid dieting? Old habits die hard, you say? Consider that quitting may not end our problems–some say quitting exposes our problems.”
~ Joe C., Beyond Belief — Agnostic Musings For 12 Step Life