Since it is Thanksgiving time it seems only appropriate to
talk about one of the most important tools in the recovery process - gratitude.
Being grateful for what we have, and keeping things in perspective, is
vital in the struggle to stay in the now and enjoy today as much as possible.
There are two aspects of empowerment that come into play here.
One is; that empowerment involves seeing life as it is and making
the best of it (instead of being the victim of it not being what it “should”
be); the other is realizing that we have a choice about where to
focus our mind.
To have a healthy, balanced relationship with life we need to see life
as it really is - which includes owning and feeling the pain, fear, and
anger that is a natural part of living - and then have a Spiritual belief
system that helps us to know that everything happens for a reason, that
allows us to choose to focus on the silver linings rather than buy into
the belief that we are victims.
Society teaches us to view life from a perspective of fear, lack, and
scarcity. Rather we view life from that place of fear or go to the
other extreme and deny that we feel any fear - either way we are giving
power to the fear, we are living life in reaction to the fear.
Growing up I learned from my male role model that a man never admits
he is afraid - at the same time that my role model lived in constant fear
the future. To this day my father can’t relax and enjoy himself because
impending doom is always on the horizon. The disease voice, the critical
parent voice, in my head always wants to focus on the negative and expect
the worst just like my father did.
This programming to focus on the negative was compounded by the fact
that I learned conditional love (that I would be rewarded or punished according
to what I deserved - which, since I felt unworthy, meant I had good reason
to expect doom), and that I had to learn to disassociate from myself in
childhood. I had to learn to go unconscious and not be present in
my own skin in the moment because emotional honesty was not allowed in
my family. All Codependents learn to find things outside of self
- drugs, alcohol, food, relationships, career, religion, etc. - to help
us stay unconscious to our own emotional reality, but the primary and earliest
way almost all of us found to disconnect from our feelings - which exist
in our bodies - is to live in our heads.
Since I could not be comfortable in my own skin in the now without feeling
the feelings, I spent most of my life living in either the past or the
future. My mind was almost always focused on regret for past or fear
of (or fantasy about) the future. When I did focus on the now it
was with self-pity as a victim - of myself (I am stupid, a failure, etc.),
of others (who victimized me), or of life (which was not fair or just ).
It was wonderfully liberating in recovery to start learning that I could
start to see life in a growth context. That I had a choice to focus
on the half of the glass that was full instead of giving power to the disease
which always wants to focus on the half that is empty. When I focus
on what I have, and have been given, that I am grateful for
of just focusing on what I want that I don’t have
me to let go of the victim place my disease wants to promote.
What works for me is to remind myself of the difference between my wants
and my needs. My Truth is that every day that I have been in recovery
all my needs have been filled - and there has not been a single day that
all my wants have been met. If I focus on what I want that I don’t
have then I feel like a victim and make myself miserable. If I choose
to remind myself of what I have and how far I have come then I can let
go of some of the victim perspective.
Ninety-eight per cent of the time when I am in fear it means that I
am in the future. Pulling myself back into the now, turning the future
over to my Higher Power, and focusing on gratitude, frees me to have some
happy moments today.
When I was about two years in recovery there was a time when I was talking
to my sponsor on the phone. I had just lost my job, the car had broken
down, and I had to move out of my apartment in two weeks. Talk about
tragedy and impending doom! I was laying in bed feeling very sorry
for myself and very terrified about how painful it was going to be when
I became homeless. After listening to me for a while my sponsor asked
me, “What’s up above you?” It was a stupid question and I told him
so. I was pissed that he wasn’t giving me the sympathy I deserved
- but he insisted that I answer. So I finally said, “Well, the ceiling.”
And he said, “Oh, so your not homeless tonight are you?” And of course,
everything worked out fine in the next two weeks. My Higher Power
always has a plan in place even when I can’t see any way out.
We all have much to be grateful for, to give thanksgiving for, if we
just choose to look at the half of the glass that is full. So, have
a grateful Thanksgiving.