My home group is a 9am Sunday morning “Gratitude Meeting.”
Let me clarify this for you: I, a very over-worked and sleepy 25-year-old woman, wake up at 7:45 every Sunday morning so I can sit in a room with 50+ drunks and talk about what I’m grateful for. Why? Because it’s incredible. It is my weekly treat for my soul. Even on my worst days, gratitude is present. Gratitude helps me appreciate everything my higher power, AA and sobriety have given me.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is the state of being grateful.
It’s as simple as it sounds. Gratitude is about being thankful for what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t. Gratitude is the feeling I get after I see my family over the holidays. It’s also the feeling I get when a great pair of shoes is on sale. Gratitude is everywhere.
Why is Gratitude Important?
Studies show that practicing gratitude can drastically improve one’s quality of life. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology.
His research has shown a profound connection between gratitude and overall quality of life. Check out his talk on gratitude here. A study conducted at University of Kentucky revealed that students who practiced gratitude were less likely to lash out and retaliate, even when given negative feedback.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology linked gratitude to the resilience demonstrated following September 11th. It might sound corny, but gratitude is scientifically proven to increase one’s capacity for empathy, forgiveness and genuine connection with others.
How Does it Work?
I believe gratitude is a practice. For some, it comes naturally. For many addicts, it does not.
The addicted brain doesn’t always have space for gratitude. Luckily, sobriety opens up space in our hearts and minds allowing gratitude to make a home inside of us.
There are so many ways to practice gratitude. Implement it at the dinner table by having your meal-mates share one thing they are grateful for before digging in. Write more thank you notes, and not just after your birthday or Christmas. Go out of your way to be kind and gracious towards those behind the counter, whether it be in a coffee shop or a doctor’s office.
My favorite way to practice gratitude is “the list.”
I first heard about gratitude lists from the one and only Oprah Winfrey. I dabbled with writing these lists on and off for a few years but at some point, my addiction took over and I didn’t have the energy. After getting sober, I found my way back to the gratitude list out of desperation. Whatever it takes, right?
A gratitude list can be as small as one word a day. It is a powerful tool for staying sober, humble, grateful and hopeful. I keep my lists simple, just like the program taught me.
My Week in Gratitude Lists:
- Thermal leggings
- My job and my new found ability to show up on time, clear headed and ready to get shit done.
- The women who came before me
- La Croix, specifically coconut-flavored
- My Star Wars calendar with art work by Jeffrey Brown. January features Princess Leia. May she rest in power.
- Americanos from Magnolia Bakery
- My red shoes with the buckles
- A warm bed
- Split pea soup
- Terry Gross
- The scent of coconut
- My parents’ house
- Pickle, my cat
- Rose Quartz
- An evening off
- Free donuts at work
- My mom
- Vitamin D
- Liquid lipstick
- My books
- Bowtie pasta
- Exposed brick walls
- My sponsor
- Family. A mom who is cooler than I am, a dad who practices gratitude and patience, a brother who is 4 years sober.
Gratitude Works if you Work It
When I first came to AA I was a sour, cynical, fearful human being.
I was sure that the world was against me. Searching for the positives was exhausting. The only things I had to be thankful for were my dealer, the people I used for money, and the dive bar on the corner.
So the first time I went to my now home group I was severely confused. How could these people, who came to AA out of pain and desperation, find a way to experience such roaring laughter on a Sunday morning? What in the world was wrong with them? I wanted nothing to do with this cult of happy people. That is until I became one.
Week after week I found myself smiling more. Months later I found myself speaking up in the meeting, listing off the little things I was grateful for: an apartment with hardwood floors, a healthy family, a sponsor, my bicycle. Over time I started looking forward to my Sunday morning meeting. I delighted in grabbing a coffee before hand, arriving a few minutes early and giving out bear hugs to the people I’d finally come to love and lean on.
Now, I don’t know what I would do without the lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve connected with at my weekly gratitude meeting. If you’re in Chicago, GO. I will be there with a bear hug just for you.