Practicing Gratefulness


Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside. No matter what is going on outside of us, there’s always something we could be grateful for.- Barry Neil Kaufman

When you have destroyed your life to the point of what you think is unrepairable, where do you go? How do you even begin? What steps do you begin to take? Desperation drove me to do ‘whatever’ was suggested is my story. Even making gratitude lists!!! I’ve heard of these, what I would have referred to in the past, “stupid lists” since I arrived at AA in 2004. But never would I have thought these fluffy, psychobabble, silly things would be helpful. I’ve been such a cynic. I have called myself a realist, but in truth I have been a pessimist. I prepared for the worst because it WAS coming, nothing good was coming….. that happened to other people.

So when my sponsor suggested that I make a daily list and send it to her and she’d send me hers, in this new journey in sobriety…..I could have rolled my eyes all the way down the street. I was so damn annoyed!!! But when you are as beat as I was… you just do it anyway. Her lists were nothing short of amazing and wonder. Mine, on the other hand, coffee, my astringent (they were afraid I was gonna drink the crap in rehab so I just got it back), my pillow, and talking to my son. At least I could see something.

But it did get better, I got better. Lots of stuff happened and that would be entirely too dang long for this particular blog but I began to see things. I began to actually look for things throughout the day to be grateful for. A call from a friend. A beautiful sunset. A day without a migraine. A patient not cussing me out or hitting me (I worked in a fully locked unit so let’s just say my patients were a trip and sometimes I was the ride). A day without a fight with my husband. God’s grace. Becoming conscious of His Power, hell becoming conscious. My eyes were beginning to open to the wonder of life through the eyes of gratitude, from these little lists. That’s not all of course but I do believe now in hindsight they were a game changer for me.

Then the bottom dropped out about the time I thought I was catching my stride. After a month and half of inpatient rehab and 5 1/2 months in sober living I was going to move back home closer to my son and husband but into my own apartment. But like I said, what do you do when you have damaged your life beyond repair? What happened to me is I was handed divorce papers. I was heart broken. But I changed nothing in my daily routine. I continued to pray, meditate, talk to others that I trusted and most of all I continued to look for things everyday to be grateful for. Just like the quote says, “no matter what is going on outside of us, there is always something to be grateful for”.

I became grateful for God’s plan for my life. That all I had to ‘do’ was the moment that I was actually ‘doing’ at the present second, and knew that I could handle that. I couldn’t possibly handle everything I was going through, so I just didn’t. I just breathed it out. I focused on just what was good. Not what I messed up, not what I could no longer fix, not what I could have done differently in the past, not what was going to happen in the future, not what I wanted or thought I needed…… I focused on the moment I was in, mindfulness and being grateful. Grateful for everything that I had been through, the lessons I had learned, the mistakes I had made and the truth I had learned from them, the memories that we had shared good and bad because that energy was always and forever expended between the two of us, for who holds the future because it is far better off in His hands that it would ever be in mine. There were dark moments, sad moments, hard moments, and painful moments but they were all temporary although they didn’t ‘feel’ that way at the time.

“No matter how hard you try, you cannot get rid of darkness because it does not exist. It is nothing but the absence of light. In order to effect darkness you must do something with light, because the light is the only thing that actually exists.” -Teal

Developing the practice of gratitude in my daily life, for me, was one of the many things that brought light into my darkness. Not just the list though, that’s way too simple. Being grateful for something is more than just an attitude towards something, it takes action, awareness, care, concern, compassion, responsibility, respect, attentiveness….. get my drift??? It has paid huge dividends for me by bringing light into my darkness. I had no idea that gratitude could be such a game changer or at least it has been for me. It has immensely helped me and 4 months later after I thought I might just die without “him” I am once again whole. Completely grateful for the entire journey and hopeful for what is to come.

Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude. – A.A. Milne

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Home


“Home is the place where we can be ourselves and accept ourselves as both good and bad, beast and angel, saint and sinner. Home is the place where we can laugh and cry, where we can find some peace within all the chaos and confusion, where we are accepted and, indeed, cherished by others precisely because of our very mixed-upedness. Home is that place where we belong, where we fit precisely because of our very unfittingness. Humility allows us to find the fittingness in our own imperfection.”- Ernest Kurtz

302 Prairie- I can remember the peeling wallpaper and cloth backing, the mix matched carpet, the lime green kitchen, the smell of the hardwood floors, the creakiness of the porch, speaking of the porch…. the old porch swing. I remember all of it, as if I was just there. This is all before the remodel and I remember all of that too. But it was Home for the first 30 years of my life. Sounds odd, because I moved 19 times from 1995-2007. By that time I had not lived there in 12 years, one failed marriage, many geographical changes but Home was always 302 Prairie. It was never just an address, it was where I felt safe, loved, accepted, encouraged, and most of all it had my heart. But isn’t that why we call it home?

I never called another place home until 2007. This place too had my heart and all those things that Ernest Kurtz spoke of: laughter, tears, a place I found peace…. I belonged. I remember the day I realized I was no longer calling my childhood home “Home” anymore. It was a big realization for me that I had found a new place to “be”. Be me, faults and all, good qualities and bad. I remember being shocked because I would call my old home by it’s rightful owners “Mom and Dad’s”. In finding a place to be, you find out a lot about yourself along the journey of life. Deep fears and insecurities, character flaws that show when only the “safe” people are around, it can become this protective little bubble of your internal world. At least mine did. But what happens when that place is no longer home anymore?

I can remember the day I moved to this town playing “I’m Moving On” by Rascal Flats on repeat. Although, I am not playing that song on repeat, that is what I am doing with my life. Those reasons I had to call that place “Home”  no longer exist. They are fond memories that no one can ever take from me, but yet they are still just memories. Even the hard memories, the tragic ones, the difficult times, and even the memory I have when I realized it was no longer “Home”.

I said it earlier, I found a place to “be”. I’m not sure that place has to have an address attached to it. Maybe an internal condition of being ok with who and what I am, what I have done and what has been done, seeing the past for what it is, the future as full of possibilities and my present is where I exist with everyone and everything that is in my presence. What I have come to learn is that my “ok-ness” doesn’t have to come from the acceptance of another nor do I need to be cherished, so I guess I am in disagreement with that part of the quote. I can have the things Ernest spoke of right here where I am sitting, wherever that happens to be. I can have love and laughter, I can have peace inside the confusion and chaos of life, I can have an acceptance for my mixed-upness and it doesn’t have to come from another person and in fact it shouldn’t. I can fit precisely where I am sitting because I have an Inner Resource that gives me all of these intangibles and more. What I am saying is, My definition of “Home” has changed.

Home is where I am.

 

-Big Girl Panties


Resentment is the number one offender for us chronic alcoholic’s like myself, that’s what it says anyway. In fact, the Big Book states that it’s SO BAD that it compares it to death 4 times in one paragraph: grave, fatal, shut ourselves off from the Sunlight of the Spirit(that in itself is death), insanity returns and we drink and with us to drink is to die. You could actually split that up into 5 times if you’d  like, but regardless of the way you count it, it’s just bad!!!

They say it destroys us, first spiritually and it’s all downhill from there. We run on self-will, though WE don’t think so, which is just all ego. Which just means that we won’t listen to anyone telling us that says we are operating based on our emotions, self-centered fears or delusions. It will erode our spiritual connection with our Higher Power and our fellows.

So what happens when you know you are the target of someone else’s resentment? What do you do when someone continues to retailiate against you? Pot shots, hateful words, malicious gossip, snide and contemptuous comments….. But you are Awake in Spirit enough to know that their only hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience. What do you do now? That’s what they call “when then rubber meets the road”! Do you put the Spiritual Program of Action to work in your life that you talk about in meetings or do you subscribe to you deepest darkest insecurities, protect your pride and take matters in the hands of self?

“…..we begin to see that all people, including ourselves, are to some extent emotionally ill as well as frequently wrong, and then we approach true tolerance and see what real love for our fellows actually means. It will become more and more evident as we go forward that it is pointless to become angry, or to get hurt by people who, like us, are suffering from the pains of growing up.” 12 and 12 pp 92

I was told early on in my sobriety that I can chose mercy or justice. The literature tells me that I am basically incompetent of telling the difference between justified and unjustified anger(though my head would argue that point even today).  I was also told that it’s either justice for you and justice for me or mercy for you and mercy for me. Since I am extremely grateful for the mercy I have been given, I guess my choice is really a no-brainer!! I have no right to “feel” justified (because feelings aren’t facts anyways). So I must chose mercy for you.

Please don’t think that I’m some sort of Saint, it took me 3 days of meditation, reading literature and consultation with my sponsor and a few other spiritual advisors to come up with this conclusion. But the moment I did, a peace came over me!!! I typically hate character building and walking through uncomfortable situations but today, I’m ok with this. My mind may change tomorrow😊

In the last analysis, this person needs love, compassion, forgiveness, and the hand of AA. Sometimes the still suffering alcoholic is sitting “in the rooms” right next to you and let’s just face it…… Sometime it’s you or me for that matter!!!

We all need love, no matter how damaged we are or ate up with self we are or how unlovably insane we behave because I believe that is the will of my Creator.  Trust God, Clean House, and try, to the best of mu ability, to practice the principles in ALL my affairs!!! No matter what I fail at in life there is always a step to clean it up and I thank AA for that and I thank AA for my God!

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Birthday Night


“Life will take on new meaning.  To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss.  We know you will not want to miss it.  Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.” Big Book – page 89

I had no idea what this meant 9 years ago when I really tried to get sober for the first time! I didn’t get the “giving of yourself” part of the program. I couldn’t understand why these people, that I barely knew me, wanted to bring me in their circle. I kept thinking, “they must want something from me” or “if they really knew me, there is no way they would let me hang around much less include me in this group”. I’ve said this before, I was just so angry. I hated me and kinda hated them for not seeing how they should hate me too.

My sponsors have always spent tons of time with me. I just knew I was getting on their nerves. Hell, I was getting on my own nerves! But these people kept answering my phone calls, taking time out of their lives to sit down with me and the Big Book, and inviting me to “get in the truck”. I didn’t know that I had the option to say “No”. I thought they would kick me out if they did. I didn’t understand that by spending time with sick-ass me was helping them, too. They would tell me, “thank you”, and I was so confused! I would say, “Why are you thanking me? What did I do?” It was totally lost on me why they would do any of this for me.

Well, I can tell you I fully understand it now! About a year ago, God must have known how very very sick I was! He sent me 3 sponsees in a very short time frame. At the end of last year, when they were all on their 4th step at the same time, I was shocked! It had been a long time since I had gotten a sponsee past Bill’s Story, much less all 3 to start clearing the bogged down channel between them and their Higher Power!

Last Saturday, I had the honor and privilege of giving all 3 of these women their 1 year chips at Birthday Night! Before Birthday Night (BN), I felt weird having to do this 3 times, like a braggart or something. I hate speaking anyway, don’t like that type of attention. But I spent some time in the afternoon in meditation and prayer about BN and when the time came I was ready. None of these ladies getting a year sober was my accomplishment, responsibility or my fault. HAHA God used me for His purpose in these womens’ lives and with their willingness and surrender to the process on a daily basis.

“You are going to meet these new friends in your own community.  Near you, alcoholics are dying helplessly like people in a sinking ship.  If you live in a large place, there are hundreds.  High and low, rich and poor, these are future fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Among them you will make lifelong friends.  You will be bound to them with new and wonderful ties, for you will escape disaster together and you will commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey.  Then you will know what it means to give of yourself that others may survive and rediscover life.  You will learn the full meaning of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”Big Book page 152-153

I am bound to these women with new and wonderful ties! BN was freaking awesome! I have fully experienced this paragraph in the book in my life and I am forever grateful!

Aside

God said “YES!”


“‘I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?’
“Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find the fellowship, and so will you.”
Big Book, page 152

I had absolutely no faith in this statement the first time I heard or read it. How can this be? Life without alcohol is bound to be not only impossible, but also incredibly lame! Well, I was wrong! Admitting I am wrong still isn’t easy for me but about this…..I’m ok with!

While drinking I had little desire ever to be a mom! Didn’t really think I would have what it takes. By the Grace of God I didn’t have a child while I was still writing my alcoholic biography. But after I got sober, it was a different story. I ended up with this desperate drive to be a mother. Problem was, I had very faulty plumbing. I won’t go into all the medical details of that, but I was told at the age of 20 I better have children young or I may not be able to. After extensive scar tissue from a few surgeries and minus one ovary, I didn’t have much to work with, nor did science…..but God had all he needed.

We tried fertility meds, treatments, charts, sonograms, weekly shots and lots of getting down to “business” for over a year without so much as one positive pregnancy test. I was FLPPING NUTS! Obsessed! Just flat insane about it. I remember clearly the day we stopped all of this insanity because I finally had this overwhelming peace in the pit of my soul that God was going to give me a child someday. I knew that I may not be able to conceive and carry this child but I would be a mom somehow. See, I believe in a God that will give you the desires of your hearts.

So I gave up! Surrendered! I knew I had been demanding, one more time, that God give me what I wanted when I wanted it, instead of letting God have control. Well 5 months later, while putting on a bridesmaids dress (that I was spilling out of) that had fit fine 4 weeks before, my husband pointed out some things to me. He had the nerve to suggest I might be pregnant. I ranted and went left on him about “how dare you even suggest that, you know everything I have been through. It never worked before and there was no way that could be possible blah, blah, blah!” He went to get a pregnancy test and lets just say he was right!

I met my little miracle baby 6 years ago yesterday! I was scared to death my whole pregnancy and the first year of his life. My blonde headed, blue-eyed little devil has brought me more joy, laughter, and life than I could have ever imagined. Thank God his parents are sober! I hope he will never see the people we used to be! By the Grace of a loving, forgiving God he wont!

So when I read, “The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead.” I know what that means because I have felt it, lived it and I know there is more to come. And for that I am as grateful as I know how to be!

2947 days sober


“It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.” Carl Jung

Have you ever heard of the 99 vs 1 philosophy? It’s not listed on the internet anywhere, I checked……however one of my mentors in AA told me about it years ago when I called to verbally vomit on how all was wrong with the world. It’s when I focus on that one situation, problem, resentment, obstacle, fear, etc. that is going on in my life despite the 99 things that are right. I will give my permission let that “one” thing ruin my attitude, mood, my whole stinking day instead of looking at how things really are.

My life is simply amazing!!! I’m not bragging, it’s just that I have an awesome family, friends, husband, child, job, sponsor, sponsees, etc. I have moments of complete peace and serenity. I am sober by God’s amazing grace! For the most part I am as grateful as I know how to be! But then, dun dun dun ……One thing doesn’t go to my liking, live up to my expectations, changes the direction that I told God to make the wind blow and I am stuck on that ONE thing and can see nothing else!

So what did I choose to focus on yesterday? The feeling that I have friends that have walked out of my life. Notice I said feeling not FACT! I HATE it when people leave and these people in particular haven’t really gone anywhere! People have come in and out of my life and AA throughout my whole sobriety, you’d think I would get used to it! Just accept it! Let go and let God and all that CRAP! But I am not letting it go, I have let set sadness, pain, disappointment, and resentment in, at times. Not all the time…..it just creeps in and out. See these people in particular were ones that I considered FAMILY! My husband’s best of friends! I just don’t get why they leave? Or why them deciding that AA is not for them anymore means that WE aren’t for them anymore. It’s not like I am going to dunk them in the AA baptistry and douse them in AA holy water! If you don’t want to come to AA anymore then don’t come, but why does that mean that our relationship has to change?

If that is the only thing that is bothering me, then I think I will tell myself what I tell my sponsees at times…..”Suck it up, buttercup!” Blogging this just now opened my eyes that I am just wrapping myself up in my little blanket of selfpity! I already know I don’t like change, this is not news to me! So I am going to trust in the FACT that God knows what is going on with me and He will give me what I need.

“Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well” BB page 63

So in the last analysis….I had a great holiday season. I spent many memorable moments around the people that I love the most. Christmas was fabulous! My son is one month shy of being 6 years old, so it gave me great joy to watch the wonder in his eyes, as well as the greed! HAHA!!! My husband and I both celebrated our sobriety birthdays in December. He has 9 years and I have 8. I have everything to be grateful for and should stay in that place of infinite gratitude however, I AM alcoholic!

 

Halloween Eve


I guess I’ve been a little nostalgic the last day or so. My first sobriety date was 10/30/04. I started this journey 9 years ago!!! Crazy that it has been long! I don’t see my relapse as having lost something, I really gained more experience and was truly able to concede to my innermost self that I am definitely alcoholic! So no regret! I had no idea 9 years ago what I was getting myself into but I was certain that I didn’t wanna live and be like I was. I was just dead on the inside.

Busy busy busy! But that is what a life of sobriety has given me…. A FULL Life! I’ve grown up and learned how to be a lady, although I don’t always act like it! I learned how to be a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and especially how to be a friend! I wasn’t really any good at any of those before sobriety. I guess I had my moments at times but I was never someone you could truly rely on.

“He will show you how to create the fellowship you crave.” Big Book page 164

AA has taught me how to suit up and show up in all areas of my life; work, family, service work, friendship etc. As a direct result of that, I have a very full life and many precious friends. That is 9 years worth of relationships that I have had the joy and sometimes the pain of developing. Some are here, some have moved, some don’t come around much, some aren’t sober anymore, and some have passed away. I wouldn’t trade any of those precious moments with any of those people for anything!

What’s funny to me is, I never would have thought that all of this that I have is what I truly wanted. But I also have learned if I wanna keep what I have, I have to continue to do “the work”! Practice the principles in all my affairs. That’s what the 12th step says.

“Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to you fellows. Clear away the wreckage of you past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.” Big Book page 164

Pretty clear directions of what I have to do to continue to grow along this spiritual path that I am on. That’s why my name is trudgingdestiny. It’s what I am doing everyday….. By the Grace of God.

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