The Gratitude List
It was something my sponsor said on Friday that inspired me to write this article. The Twelve Steps is and has to be the workbench of my sobriety because without the Twelve Steps I cannot stay sober. But I also have a toolbox on my workbench and that toolbox is filled with suggested actions to do on a daily basis and 'The Gratitude List' is an immensely powerful tool in that toolbox to enable me to perceive myself and life in a completely different light with amazing results. So I would like to share with you my experience of 'The Gratitude List' and what it means to me. If you're new to AA or are visiting this website because you think that you might be an alcoholic then I hope that this article may be of help to you. If you are like how I once felt when I walked through the doors of AA the first time and you're thinking that there is no way 'The Gratitude List' can help you then I hope this short story of my experience, thoughts and feelings will inspire you to the point that it's got to be worth a try at the very least. I often hear recovered alcoholics say that they also thought at the beginning that the program of AA would not be able to help them. It is too simple they cried, or I'm too far gone and my case is hopeless. They don't say that anymore just like I don't anymore.
When I joined Alcoholics Anonymous for the second time there wasn't an ounce of complacency left in me. Why? Because just as it describes in chapter three of the book 'Alcoholics Anonymous' my drinking, in time, got a lot worse. At the end it was the worst it had ever been as alcoholism is a progressive illness. The denial that I wasn't an alcoholic was over – once and for all. Step One reigned supreme in my mind. No longer could I delude myself that I could drink in moderation and have fun like the average man or woman in society. I knew in the deepest depths of my mind that I was a hopeless alcoholic for the rest of my days. The game of mental chess was over – Alcohol was King and I was a defeated pawn. But in hindsight it really was crucial for me to have a terrible case of the jitters to get full knowledge of my condition. It had to be smashed home to me, through bitter experience, that I could never, ever drink in moderation again.
But I was in a strong position as I knew exactly what to do to recover, fully and completely. I clearly remembered the first time I became a member of AA and I heard that I had to do four things to recover. Get a copy of the book 'Alcoholics Anonymous'; get a sponsor to take me through the Twelve Steps and to carry out a simple set of suggestions every day. I heard other alcoholics saying that if I did these things then I would recover from alcoholism.
I remember when I first thought about the gratitude list and what it could do for me. I knew straight away that it's purpose was to make me feel better about myself and my life. I drank ultimately to fix my feelings when I felt unhappy, frustrated, afraid, angry etc. I could clearly see that the gratitude list had the potential to make me feel better. All I had to do in the morning was to write down a list of all the things I had to be grateful for in my life and then to review my list at the end of the day and to add to it anything that had happened that day that I should be grateful for. There were plenty of things to put on my list. Some examples are as follows: Having a sober day the day before. Being able to see and hear. Having arms and legs. Having a roof over my head. Having food to eat. Having better relations with my family. Having a sponsor to show me the way to sobriety. My list went on and on.
The result – I felt immediately better after writing out this list in the morning and I would have a peaceful sleep that night after reviewing it. I stopped thinking so negatively and I had a more positive attitude towards myself and life. My initial reactions were that this is really helpful. Then I had the thought of taking the gratitude list principle further. This was a powerful exercise. Instead of just writing out the list of things I had to be grateful for I spent time imagining how I would feel if all these things I had to be grateful for were taken away from me. The result of this was astonishing. My level of gratitude was greatly amplified. I could feel this feeling of joy well up inside of me. I became more productive, responsible and happy. The more I practiced this the better I felt. I was on the road to recovery and I had made a humble beginning. All I needed now was this continued willingness and humility to change to be able to embark on the Twelve Steps to fully recover from alcoholism.
Sometimes my desires in life aren't fulfilled or life turns out in a way that I don't like that I have no control over and my negative emotions can creep up on me swiftly. This is like poison to me as I'm an alcoholic and I have to be constantly vigilant against my negative emotional nature. Doing a gratitude list has helped me a lot.