by Nancy L. Carr, Author of Last Call: A Memoir
Dan's Note: In some ways, I wish everyone could go through the trials of addiction and find recovery. (But not really. Addiction sucks.) It seems that anyone can share their personal transformation, but folks in recovery seem to have a deeper awareness of what that change means—and how to continue fostering it. Nancy's contribution shares the old AA cliché, but puts meat on the bones to it. The change in attitude affects her response to life! Enjoy - DDM
When I got sober twelve years ago this week (who's counting!?), I used to hear one saying at meetings and within my circle of sober pals:
Embrace an Attitude of Gratitude
I would say to myself, Seriously? What does that even mean?! Also I wondered why I needed to adopt that kind of perspective.
Part of the question why I needed to change comes by the way I think and feel—how I'm wired.
Typically, I'm wired as a mildly sarcastic person. I tend to have an annoyed outlook upon life. Sometimes I'm irritable. Even after getting sober I would bend a bit toward the snide, the snark. However, the longer I’ve been in recovery and the more I’ve dealt with changes beyond my control in life—whether it's career changes, family squabbles, seeing others relapse, losing people to this disease, and just other really shitty stuff—I have gravitated towards the attitude of being grateful.
It’s changed my outlook on life completely. An attitude of gratitude has given me a whole new way to view my struggles. I have been meditating a lot over the past six months. And I started going to Al-Anon a couple years ago. Writing and blogging certainly has enriched and enhanced my recovery. I don't know exactly where this transformation in my life comes from.
It could just be that I’m growing up!
Whatever the reason, a new, grateful approach toward life has enriched each moment. Let me share the ways it's changed me.
An attitude of gratitude has sent me to a higher plateau, a more mindful approach to being present.
It took a few years in sobriety to grasp all the nuances of just being okay with myself. Enjoying life and having no regrets seems to be my new mantra. Ironically, I often say it to those around me, “Have an attitude of gratitude!" I say it so much that probably annoys them—but if I’m saying it to them, I’m aware of it myself.
Keeping an attitude for gratitude now permeates my day. It guides my responses. It affects the way I live.
However, this isn’t to say that all days are rainbows and unicorns, because let’s face it, shit happens. When it does, I’m the first person to try and control the situation and start pointing fingers. I’m not responsible for my first thought, but I am for my second one.
How I respond to my second thought is what matters.
So, yeah. Sometimes it takes a while for me to pick up the phone and call my sponsor or grab my journal and start writing—but as soon as I release my power from the situation . . . things just get better.
Just the other evening I felt self-justified and defensive when someone pointed out the obvious to me (I hadn’t seen it, either). My perception completely shifted. It took a couple of hours to gather my senses, but I do know that the old me—the "me" from a couple years ago—would have held onto the resentment for days. I would have wallowed in my own misery and let it bug me.
Today, I’m grateful that I get to see life in a different way. The longer I’m sober and sane, the more I realize what a gift life is. I get to have others point out obvious character flaws or give me wisdom.
I get to have the attitude of gratitude every day as my teacher.