Alanon and Alcoholics Anonymous
Will Help You Learn to be Grateful
If you are a new member of a 12 Step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon, Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous you have probably been told at one time or another to create a gratitude list. However, if you are like many 12 step newcomers, you have been carrying around a lot of resentments and haven't been shy about telling your friends about them. To be fair, you really may have a lot to be angry about. Life may not have treated you fairly. It sure didn't turn out the way you expected it to. Other people in your life may have created continual chaos and even harmed you in serious ways.
What we overlook, though, is that most of us still have plenty of reasons to feel grateful. The problem is that you have been so busy concentrating on the problems that you haven't had time to see the good. You just haven't had time to realize all the reasons you have to feel grateful.
The first thing most sponsors in 12 steps groups will ask of you is to make a list of all the things that are good in your life. It is important to make this list when you are feeling the most resentment and anger. It is a type of antidote to those emotions. When you meet with your sponsor, like the two women in the photo shown here, you will discover that focusing on the good in your life will help lift you up and will bring you joy.
If you have recently had to deal with business failure, marital failure, depression, or other losses, you will certainly not feel like writing out a list of things that make your feel grateful. However, these are the times when we need a list like this the most. Putting the good things in writing, and looking back at what you wrote from time to time, will help you keep things in perspective.
You may also find it helpful to look at these books about gratitude from Amazon.com. If you are struggling in this area, these books will help you.
What to Put on Your Gratitude List
At first, you may feel as though you do not have a single thing that you can put on your list. However, if you think about it for a while, you will realize that there are a great many reasons for you to feel gratitude. Here are just a few ideas to get you started. Once you get going, you are certain to think of more:
Do you have a roof over your head ... any place at all that you can call home? After all, there are many people who are sleeping in the street, a car, or a cardboard box.
Do you have food to eat? Can you feed your children or others who are dependent on you? There are many people across America and around the world who will go hungry today.
Do you have a change of clothing? What about a job or hobby? How are you getting around? Do you have access to some kind of transportation that allows you to get places ... even if it is access to a bus, train or cab service? There are many people who are shut-ins without a job or transportation, and no way for them to get out very often.
Do you occasionally have a chance to enjoy life's little pleasures, such as a walk in the park, playing with a puppy, or letting a piece of chocolate dissolve in your mouth? This last one is certainly high on the list of things I appreciate having in my life!
What about your 12 step program? Has it helped you to stay sober, give up gambling, lose weight or fulfill whatever goal you had in mind when you joined? Make sure your group is on your list, too.
Finally, are there people in your life that you care about or who care about you? These friends should be prominent on your gratitude list. Don't forget your sponsor!
Organizing your Gratitude List
There are many ways to go about putting together your list. Many people who are new to Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12 Step programs have found it helpful to write down a few things they appreciate every night before they go to bed. It helps them to balance out their resentments and brings them comfort. Some people have even found that reviewing the list helps them sleep better, instead of worrying and fretting about all the things they feel that have gone wrong in their lives.
Try starting your own list, and adding things to it regularly. See if it opens your eyes to the good things in your life that you never noticed before! Soon you'll discover that life is full of opportunities for gratitude.
Once you have done that, you will have taken a giant step forward in your 12 step program.
(Public domain photo of two women is courtesy of photoxpress.com)