Living in Gratitude: Recovery after Drinking
I’ve spent a large part of my life, even before I started drinking, believing that disaster was inevitably around the corner at all times. I can’t even count the mornings I woke up with negative thoughts already beating down the door of my mind.
I know this kind of “stinking thinking” isn’t unique to me. Alcoholics and addicts seem to be particularly susceptible to negative speculation, especially when they are still actively drinking and using. A large part of that is also because alcohol is a depressant drug. As the last bits of alcohol leave our system, a lot of the depression tends to life. I think this also creates the “pink cloud” experience that a lot of people have when they’re brand new in recovery.
But the reality is that years of drinking and using and distorted thinking doesn’t go away just because we get sober. It takes real, concentrated effort to get to the root causes of this negativity and fear it takes working the Steps. I have found that the more I work the Steps on a daily basis and the more I talk to my Sponsor and pray, the clearer and happier my inner world becomes.
The way I like to look at it is that our minds are nothing but a tool for us to use. We can either use it to our destruction or to our success. Through time in the program, working the Steps, meditating and praying on a daily basis, I can personally attest to the fact that it is possible to gain control over the mind. Just like everything else in a spiritual life, it’s all about practice.
One of the greatest situations in which I’ve seen this new thinking-lifestyle work is when something difficult or even tragic happens. About three weeks ago I was in a severe car accident. The tire blew out while we were going around eighty-five mph on a six lane highway. The car slid, rolled three times and then managed to come back upright and crash into the guardrail that separated the lanes. Miraculously, no one was hurt but the car was completely destroyed.
I clearly remember getting out of the car, looking around at all the blood and glass, and making a very conscious decision to pray. I spoke clearly and simply to God in that moment, and asked Him to help me stay strong, calm and clear. And that is exactly what happened.
It’s that moment of thinking before we react that is crucial in having a calmer and happier life. If we have mostly positive thinking, it’s going to be a lot easier to stay positive in tragic or difficult situations that come up.
Simply put, it all comes down to perception. I have written before about alcoholism and addiction being a disease of perception, and the 12 Step literature mentions it too. In my experience and in the experience of others, it’s been found that there’s nothing quite as healing, calming and clearing as an attitude of gratitude. Finding the good in every situation and every person is a fast, effective way to connect with our Higher Power and react to life the way we really want to.
So, I have included a list of a few things that have proven to help keep me calm and positive, which has been an incredible tool to help me stay sober.
- Stop watching TV
- Eat a healthy diet
- Have fun!
- Release the need to control everything
- Spend time in nature
“There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.”
Ralph H. Blum