Counting Blessings

audio by navarre

by Judy G.

Gratitude. It is one of the foundations of Alcoholics Anonymous. If you search for gratitude in Daily Reflections or the 24 Hours a Day reader, numerous entries appear. For example, May 7: “It is very important to keep in a grateful frame of mind if we want to stay sober.” In the fourth edition of the Big Book, the second story after Dr. Bob’s Nightmare is called Gratitude in Action.

There is much scientific research on gratitude and how it positively affects the neuroscience of your brain. “Gratitude has also been shown to lower levels of drug use and can help people recover from addiction. Neuroscientists have found that gratitude activates different areas of the brain, including those affiliated with forming social bonds” (from Britt Andreatta on the Conscious Company website). Social bonds are crucial when you are in recovery. There was an article in Psychology Today Magazine on September 30, 2015, called “The Opposite of Addiction is Connection.” Connection. Social bonds: The social bonds that are formed by gratitude. Gratitude actually helps keep us sober.

She said she had nothing to feel grateful for

When the COVID crisis hit and we began to shelter in place, I felt myself sinking into a state of fear and despair. I am single and live alone. It was a huge adjustment for me to spend so much time alone. When I felt myself sinking, I would tell myself, “Focus on the gratitude, focus on the gratitude, focus on the gratitude.”

I have so much to be grateful for. I have a roof over my head, I am not waiting in long lines to get food at a food bank, I have a job that could immediately switch to working from home, and I have a car to take me where I need to go. When I focused on the gratitude, the fear would dissipate and I would feel soothed.

I was talking about gratitude with one of my first sponsors. Early in her recovery, she told her sponsor she had nothing to feel grateful for. Her sponsor responded, “Do you have all your fingers and toes?” It’s so simple.

We all have something to be grateful for. When I write my gratitude list, I often include the simple things like the sheets on my bed, or the quiet. Once my sponsor asked me to read my gratitude list. He suggested that instead of saying, “I am grateful for this, I am grateful for that,” to say, “Thank you god for _______.” My first reaction was, “He can’t tell me how to do my gratitude list. I’m leaving A. A.”

Then I remembered hearing numerous fellows say they took their sponsor’s suggestions even when they didn’t want to, and it always worked out. So I started saying, “Thank you god for this, thank you god for that.” A few days after my sponsor call, I went into the bathroom and turned on the shower and instinctively put my hands together and looked upward and said, “Thank you god for hot water.” It’s the simple things.

He can’t tell me how to do my gratitude list—I’m leaving

There are many other physical and emotional benefits of gratitude, including helping to overcome trauma, which is also linked to addiction. Not to mention improved sleep and self-esteem. We choose what we think about. We can either fill our heads with negative thinking and comparing ourselves to others or we can focus on the gratitude. So try counting blessings. You will most likely feel a sense of wellbeing and connection rather than negativity and despair. It’s good for our sobriety. A grateful heart doesn’t drink.

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