I used to hate when the topic of gratitude came up in meetings, and it seemed to come up all the time. Early in my sobriety I had two feelings about the topic of gratitude.
- I’ve got little to be grateful for because I can’t drink alcohol like a normal person. I’m going to miss out on so much.
- I’m not the one who should be grateful. I’m making a sacrifice so that everyone around me is better off.
Talk about some clouded thinking.
The truth was that I had a lot to be grateful for when I quit drinking. I hadn’t lost my job. I hadn’t lost my family. I hadn’t had a DUI. I hadn’t severally hurt myself (I came close a few times with a kitchen knife and my index finger, and nearly fell into a fire pit once). I hadn’t drank to the point that I’d done physical damage to my body (though I was well on my way I believe).
I had pretty much come out of it unscathed. I still had a great job, making good money. I still had my house and car. I was living very comfortably in a nice neighborhood. And yet, I longed for more.
And then there was the whole martyr syndrome. I’m not the one who should be grateful, I quit drinking. Holy shit is that delusional. No one owed me anything and my sacrifice, was really just me admitting that I had a problem, needed help, and getting it. But the mind of a person in the throws of withdrawal doesn’t work very well.
I had to rebuild connections in my brain before I’d begin to understand how clouded my thinking had been. Though I don’t know when it all changed, it was well over a year before I started to grasp the meaning of being grateful. Time brings clarity, and eventually, I understood that I have a lot to be grateful for in my life, and that nobody needed to be grateful that I got sober, except me.
We live in a society that is fundamentally based on false promises. Capitalism is based on a theory of perpetual growth. Growth comes in the form of products and services sold for cash. We are groomed from an early age to be consumers. The disease of wanting more is built into our systems.
And so I find myself wanting more. I find myself feeling dissatisfied with what I have. I forget that I need to be grateful for what I have instead of grasping at what I don’t. I spent a fair amount of time today, thinking about what I don’t have in this material world. Thinking about what I want to buy, the lifestyle that I want to live. I want to be independently wealthy and have a winter house in Charleston, SC and a summer house in Camden, ME. Oh, and I don’t want to work anymore.
Here’s the reality. With hard work and good fortune, I’ll be solidly middle class for the rest of my life. I’ll never be independently wealthy. I will probably never have two houses, let alone in two gorgeous towns on the Atlantic coast. And that’s okay.
What I do have is a very comfortable life in a comfortable house with a family that loves me. I’ve got my health and I expect to live to a ripe old age if nature takes its course and I’m lucky. And for all that I’m grateful.
I can visit these picturesque Atlantic coast towns on vacations. And it’s okay to have the fantasy, but it’s not okay to let the fantasy bring on a case of the “I don’t have its”.