Gratitude in Recovery

When I first started coming to meetings and people would talk about being grateful for this trial in their lives, it made me puke in my mouth a little.  I would feel anger flash over me before waves of shame.

“I am not ever going to get there,” I thought.

With Thanksgiving coming up this week, I thought it would be appropriate for us to discuss gratitude in recovery.

For me, like most aspects of recovery, finding gratitude has not been a straight path nor a quick one.  Gratitude has appeared from seemingly unrelated practices and unlikely places, and it has come in its own way and its own time.  I couldn’t force it.  I just had to work my program and wait.

But as time passes, gratitude has become an underlying, almost tangible presence in my life.  When I try to pinpoint where it came from, I believe it has come through a daily practice of mindfulness and meditation, as referenced in Step 11.

Eckhart Tolle has said,

“To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.”

A daily practice of breathing and stillness has reconnected me back to this essence of myself–the timeless, eternal part of me.  This “Being underneath” transcends any of my personal circumstances.  It is not defined by “my story,” my physical appearance, my marital status, or my social or financial status.  This “stillness,” “love,” and “joy” is the Divine in me, and it has existed forever.

When I choose to resist the pull of the relentless treadmill of emotions and reactions, stimulus and response, I realize I do have choices that transcend my temporary circumstances.

When I take time to breathe, meditate, and allow myself to become fully aware of the Being underneath, I am absolutely overcome with gratitude.

I exist!

Here I am, breathing, thinking, feeling, perceiving…I am alive!  Isn’t that amazing?!?  And everything I am experiencing, the good, the bad, the painful, the exquisite…it is all a gift.  I am in awe of being alive!

This is the deepest gratitude I feel in recovery today.

Step 11:

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

As I seek each day to create space in myself for stillness, my Higher Power reminds me of who I really am, and the gratitude begins to run like a vast, sustaining river underneath all the emotions that I experience day to day.

Whether it is fear, trauma, joy, sadness, frustration, laughter, or pain…it is all a part of this brutiful life, and it overcomes me that I, even I, get the chance to experience it all.

I hope this didn’t make you puke in your mouth.

Please share your thoughts and experiences about gratitude as you work your recovery One Day at a Time!


11 thoughts on “Gratitude in Recovery”

  1. I love this. And I want to echo that feeling I had in my early recovery of shock when someone would say she was grateful for sexual addiction in her life. I generally didn’t believe her, or I thought she was fooling herself. But, I have come to a different place now that I’ve been working my own recovery. I can say now that I am grateful for the crisis of sexual addiction in my marriage. Because it gave me the opportunity to choose so many things I had never thought about before. Confronting sexual addiction gave me an opportunity to take a hard look at my life, the ways I was responding to situations (both in my marriage and out), the lack of boundaries I had (both with my husband and with other humans in general), and the thoughts, ideas, paradigms, and assumptions I operated under. And I got to choose if all of those things were really healthy for me, and if I wanted to change them or not. I am still choosing every day how I want to engage in my various relationships (including with my spouse, my children, family, friends, even strangers, and most importantly my relationship with myself and with my God). I, of course, ALWAYS had those choices and I even thought I was doing a good job making healthy choices. I wasn’t always making the most healthy choice it turns out, but I was doing the best I could at the time. And that’s why I feel compassion for myself (and others who feel the way I felt) at the beginning of my recovery when someone would say she was grateful for sexual addiction. Feeling that shock and disbelief was just what I felt at that time and that’s ok. That’s just where I was supposed to be then. And being grateful for the crisis of sexual addiction is just where I am now. And that’s okay too.

    1. I love how you talk about accepting where you’re at. This was one of the hardest things for me in early recovery. Half my pain was from the trauma of what my husband did and half was from the shame I felt about how traumatized I was! I kept shaming myself and telling myself that if I was a “good” person, I “should” be feeling some other way…faithful, grateful, forgiving, etc. Another gift of recovery that I am grateful for is just what you shared…finally understanding that embracing where I am as exactly where I am supposed to be is where peace lies. This concept has blessed me in all aspects of my life, and I rarely “should” on myself anymore. 😉

  2. I still remember the day I felt gratitude for this trial. I actually laughed out loud when the words came out of my mouth as I prayed. I couldn’t believe it.

    I love all of your thoughts on Step 11 because that step has proven to be vital in my daily life. I love using my “Insight” app and tracking my meditation practice. It’s full of guided meditations and a handy timer. My husband has it as well and we connected through the app, so we can see each other’s progress. It has been cool, and we laugh about how we would have never thought to meditate before. Now it is an important part of our day.

    I like to combine my prayer and meditation practice. It sets the tone for my day, and when I miss it, I can really feel it.

    Meditation helps my anxiety as well.

    I think on Thanksgiving morning, I’ll set aside some time to meditate on my gratitude for *this* trial in my life. I feel like it catapulted me into a richer life -I didn’t think that was possible because at first it just felt like I was buried under miles of pain, hurt, shame, and trauma.

    1. I love the way you said “catapulted me into a richer life.” I feel the same way! Perhaps I could have grown and learned some of the things recovery has taught me back in my “normal” life, but I think it would have taken a lifetime of slowly inching forward to learn what I have been forced to learn by being “catapulted” into trauma. Thanks for sharing the “Insight” app. It’s always great to learn of more tools that can help incorporate working the Steps into daily life.

  3. I can relate to not understanding why in the world people would ever say they were grateful for this trial in their life. That was two years ago when I started going to my first 12 step meetings. It didn’t take too long for my eyes to be open to the joy and peace that Recovery does bring. Last night as my husband and I were gather around his family expressing the things we were grateful for I shared how grateful I was for the 12 steps and the opportunity it’s given me to truly see who I am to God. I have so much gratitude for the 12 steps, working them has given me a new life. I see people and situations differently then I use to. I am working toward a more joyful, vulnerable and honest life and for that I am grateful for the pain this trial has given me. I love the saying “pain is the path way to peace.” This has been true for me, but only as I work my recovery and connect with God, that the peace can be felt

    1. I think it is such a beautiful thing to be able to share what we are learning in recovery with family and friends. Being able to live and relate to others authentically is truly a gift and something special to be grateful for! Thanks for sharing this uplifting experience!

  4. I lived a pretty sheltered, safe life. I remember as a teenager and even in college asking my mom to explain the idea “no pain, no gain”. I didn’t get it. She tried but I still didn’t get it. Fast forward to about a month before disclosure, I was sitting in church and someone was talking about how life is hard, everyone has their challenges and everyone has hard things they are going to experience. Then he said, if you are sitting there feeling like you don’t have anything hard to work on in your life, then that might be your challenge right there. I remember listening and getting this overwhelming feeling that something BIG was coming, and it did.

    This trial knocked me off my feet, shattered me at my core, showed me very clearly that the foundation I thought I had was not built to sustain and give life. In that shattered state I was led through divine intervention to tools that have forever changed my life. I am learning to build my foundation of who I am on “the God of my understanding”. I AM SO THANKFUL FOR RECOVERY! The tools give me the strength to get back up when I fall and fail to be in line with my Creator. That is what I am thankful for.

    I now understand, through personal experience… NO PAIN, NO GAIN!

    1. I know–I thought I had been through some tough things before this part of my life, but this addiction blew me completely out of the water. I feel like I am now a true believer that “Pain is the Pathway to Progress,” and understanding that is my key to feeling gratitude through it all!

  5. First of all, yes to the “puke in the mouth” comment. That was my first experience with 12-step over 3 years ago because I went on step 4. Didn’t return for over 2 years 🙂

    However, I’ve caught the bug, and I am a total 12-step-for-life girl now. I can honestly say that I am grateful for this experience, even if it is costing me my marriage. (Recovery is not costing me my marriage, the addiction is.) I struggled for a long time before getting married with my own self-worth and I just didn’t understand God, or really believe that any of the miracles of forgiveness or love could apply to me. Working the 12 steps has really forced me to stop thinking about my husband and his addiction, and focus on myself and mending my own wounds through the power of the Atonement. Having those wounds healed, and clearing out my spiritual closets of my shameful secrets, has allowed me to finally stand up straight and hold my boundaries in every relationship, not just in my marriage.

    Lastly, I want to put in a plug for developing your own method of meditation. I always envisioned meditation as sitting in a quiet room with my eyes closed, taking deep, measured breaths. With two kids, I cannot imagine having the time to do that. What I have just discovered in the last few weeks is that my Higher Power connects with me when I am talking….often to myself. On my drives home from group or late-night grocery store runs, I will talk as though I’m having a conversation with someone (God, therapist, bishop, friend, newcomer, etc.), and I have had profound things come out of my mouth that literally make me stop in the middle of this imaginary conversation and thank my Higher Power for that insight.

    1. Thanks for sharing this Jess! I totally agree that we can learn to live in a state of meditation, even amidst the noise of busy lives. He is always there if I can quiet myself on the inside and surrender what is keeping me from feeling Him.

  6. It is so hard to get to the place where gratitude comes out of suffering. each person has their own story and their own way of feeling the pain and dealing with it. gratitude has been the lifeline that has kept me from sinking into despair. some days I fight to say, “I am so grateful for…” but the more i say it, the more things i find to be grateful for, and the easier my journey of recovery becomes.
    I am grateful for all of you out there going through your healing. I pray that we may continue to be grateful.

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