In the spring of 2012, I attended a meeting in which the topic was gratitude. I was not sober at the time, nor engaged in recovery but was just trying to get people off my back. After a few people shared, it was my turn to speak. I felt confident that I had articulated my perspective on gratitude effectively. My confidence dwindled, however, once the next person began talking. The person started their share with, “Gratitude is not a feeling, it is an action.” In my self-centered view, this was an attack on what I had shared, because I had simply explained how grateful I felt towards aspects in my life.
Nine years later, I look back and laugh at the lack of experience I had with gratitude. At the time I had attended that particular meeting, I was unable to put together any sobriety time. I was living with my mom, bumming rides from family members, lying about my drug use, not working with a sponsor, attending meetings under the influence, and attempting to avoid my misery. What I have learned as a man in recovery over the last nine years is that gratitude is earned. Gratitude is not exclusively a feeling nor an action, but without the action, it is a fleeting and often limited feeling. Without the action, I have no context to understand or appreciate the feeling. Similar to my experience in addiction, I expect to feel really good without work or effort. I feel entitled to the idea that positive emotions like gratitude, should strike like lightning whenever I snap my fingers.
Haven taken responsibility for my life, I find a feeling of gratitude comes organically and naturally. Today I am grateful for my son, my family, my job, my clients, and my friends. I feel gratitude for these components of my life because I work towards an ideal in these areas every day. I was taught in my recovery to take responsibility of the things I can control. None of the things I mentioned are things I can control. The only thing I can do is attempt to show up in a manner that is based on transparency, integrity, and service. By practicing those principles, I am able to appreciate the amazing opportunity I have been given. My life is far more fulfilling than just not using. There is meaning and purpose beyond my expectation. Each day I am willing to work on myself and help others, my capacity to feel positive emotions, such as gratitude, increases. I have tapped an inner resource that has infinite possibilities. For that I am grateful.