When I first started listening to The Bubble Hour — a weekly podcast about recovery — one of the first episodes I turned on was called A Grateful Heart Will Never Drink.

I was only a few weeks sober and hanging on by the skin of my teeth. I suffered through a miserable day at work, boarded the subway for my daily 40 minute commute home, put in my earbuds, and pressed play on my phone. The hosts began advocating for a daily practice of gratitude as part of sobriety and recovery. I would say that it was only a matter of MAYBE three minutes before I turned off the episode and thought THAT’S SOME FUCKED UP KUMBAYA BULLSHIT, RIGHT THERE.

So… let me get this straight. You divine and usually super helpful ladies of BLOG TALK RADIO (said in a peppy British dialect and sometimes twice for no apparent reason) want me to be grateful that my life fucking sucks right now? I’m miserable and feel like I’m dying but you are suggesting that I act like I’m at Thanksgiving dinner every fucking day and talk about or list the things that I’m grateful for in my life? You must be out of your goddamned minds. The only reason I even do that on Thanksgiving is because it makes my Grandma happy and the faster I get it over with, the sooner I can start shoving a gallon of cornbread stuffing down my throat. But this isn’t Thanksgiving dinner. I’m sitting at the gates of Hell right now and Amanda and Ellie and Lisa and Jean and Catherine are telling me to hurry up and get grateful for the effing heat. I’m having anxiety attacks every few hours. I can barely figure out how to answer the phone and have a normal conversation with my mother because my voice is shaking from withdrawals and I can’t find any words and I’m sure I said something crazy like HI MOM I SPEAK ENGLISH BAD BECAUSE I REAL TIRED ALSO STUPID I CAN GO NOW? NO SALIVA ON TONGUE I GO MAKE SOUP NOW OK BYE. FJLDJFKL. But, yeah. Let me just take a moment right quick and talk about the lovely weather. Really glad I get to have a panic attack in low humidity! Grateful for the corner drug store because they have the medicine that makes me not feel like I’m going to throw up all day and night! Let me express my gratitude for HGTV because if I watch enough episodes of Property Brothers, I dream mostly about trying to find vodka bottles in drywall and less about me dying.

Gratitude is stupid. And they even said that those listening in early sobriety might think that what they were saying was absolute mumbo jumbo. AND I DID THINK THAT. And I skipped to another episode that was a little more upbeat called DENIAL EQUALS DEATH. Or something.

But the universe had its own opinion about what I really needed and, like rhythm, the practice of gratitude eventually got me. It was entirely unexpected. I had just become a member of an online support group called The Booze Free Brigade and got a message on Facebook from one of its members. For anonymity’s sake, let’s just call her Shania Twain. Shania introduced herself and then brought up the topic of gratitude. OMG THIS SHIT AGAIN. She mentioned that she had put together a smaller and more focused group as an offshoot and accentuation to the support we were already getting. In this group, we would post daily about the various things we are grateful for. The idea is that by sharing our gratitude, those little nuggets of hope and joy would then begin to grow and multiply and fill our hearts and the void that years of drinking had created.

I’m not going to lie here. Even as I said YES and thanked Shania her for extending the invitation, I still thought that maybe and quite possibly it was just an entire crock of shit. But for whatever reason at that very moment, my heart and mind became willing to try anything and everything. Because obviously whatever it was that I had been doing all of these years since my last relapse was NOT working. Shania sent me the invite to the group and suggested that I go back and listen to that god awful episode of The Bubble Hour that I started but never finished. And I did. And this time I really listened. And I tried to keep that very faint ember of willingness glowing as brightly as possible. I have since re-listened to that episode and it’s actually REALLY GOOD.

I met a bunch of other really amazing women in the group. Again, for anonymity’s sake, let’s call them Trisha Yearwood, Miranda Lambert, Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, and Shakira. All Grammy worthy superstars that inspire me daily and make me want to be a better man.

The first few posts were difficult. It felt really forced and I had a hard time opening up my field of vision to really take in what it was that I was fortunate enough to have in my life. But slowly that field of vision began expanding. And reading all of the country/pop superstar’s gratitude lists made me take note of things in my own life that maybe I was taking for granted or overlooking. Eventually, I started noticing that my days were brighter. Things were more colorful. I could walk down the street and acknowledge the beauty around me. And then that gratitude leapt from the pages of the online group and started taking hold of my normal daily life. I would tell people like my boyfriend just how grateful I was for him, for our life, for our house, for our family and friends, etc.

Everything. Just. Got. BETTER. And no matter how bad I feel on any given morning, a brief OR elaborate rundown of what I am grateful for never fails to make me feel better. And because I am so very conscious of the amazing things that I have in my life, I find myself not at all wanting to drink. Because I know I will lose those things. And because I am constantly marveling at the new direction my life is taking, drinking just doesn’t seem like anything that I have any desire to do. I’m already having a great time! Insert a few poopy days here and there but for the most part, life is good. HARD. But good. Good BECAUSE it’s hard. And because I’m feeling it. And I’m taking it on.

A grateful heart will never drink? The word ‘never’ is a lot to wrap your head around. Less likely, definitely.


  1. Love this John.
    I’m gonna have to start noticing those country superstars on the BFB..who knew?
    Meanwhile…I have been a member of an email gratitude group for over a year now (which includes a few of those original gratitude superstars from that podcast you mention) and it has been the most amazing and transformative practice of my sobriety. I haven’t missed a day, and while, many times, my gratitudes are hard won, I can always find them.
    The way they have trickled out into my larger life has been particularly wonderful.
    Right now I am so grateful for this post because i know a lot of people will see it and be moved to start new lists, maybe even join in with the one you are positing.
    Gratitude practice can truly be life-changing…..anyone who is even slightly considering this…..GO FOR IT! You have nothing to lose except cynicism and an ungrateful heart. Not only will your sobriety be enhanced, but your life will change.

    1. Hi, I’ve been following your blog and have one of my own called ‘Granny Gets Sober’. First of all I need to mention that you are frickin’ hilarious!! I just love your black humour and straight from the hip honesty. I’ve belly laughed because of you many a morning and have to say that coffee spurting out my nose is a great way to start a day. Please put me on your Gratitude Email list. Thanks and keep it up. Two months in here! – not one for anonymity. xx

  2. This post is hilarious! You crack me up. Listened to the same Bubble Hour podcast, evidently on a pink cloud kind of day because I was completely into the Kumbaya magic when I heard it. Tried to get my family to buy into my new daily gratitude scheme, but they never really got into it. In fact, after I gave up on the idea, my teenage daughter told me she was grateful we weren’t doing the gratitude list anymore. 🙂 So I would definitely participate in a daily email. Great idea!

  3. I would like to join your email chain. I’m grateful I found your blog and it’s worth a shot! Woot woot.

  4. I’m still at the newbie “try anything— must not drink” stage so I’d be interested in gratitude blogging. It is something I intellectually believe in and think should be a regularly part of my life I am not so good at consistently doing. In fact even though I believe in it, the times people say “I’m a grateful alcoholic” in meetings are the times that make my stomach clench. Crazy huh, I can listen to the horrid drunk stories but hearing they are grateful makes me uncomfortable… hmmm not sure if that means I shouldn’t be on a gratitude list after all or I SUPER need one…

    Have I mentioned I’ve been rambling a lot since getting sober??

  5. I would gratefully participate. I can’t get anyone near or dear to me to do this with me so I can’t think if a better group of peeps than some sober sis and bros who get it.

    1. I am in the same boat as you – can’t get anyone close to me to do it too and my family doesn’t see my problem with alcohol as a problem. That’s hard- I feel for you. I think this type of interaction will be great for us!

  6. Hi there, I’m new here. Just wanted to say I love your blog! I’m on day 9 today and think a gratitude list sounds like a great idea.

  7. That would be SO wonderful! I am definitely in. Day 37 and feeling the blahs…your post just made me sit back (actually straight up!) and look at all my blessings in life and how much better overall my life has been these past 37 days. I definitely have had a few crummy days, but there is NO comparison to the dark hell I was in while drinking. Acknowledging what you are grateful for every day helps you stay aware and mindful. I needed your words tonight and I hope you do the list! Xo

  8. I like your last line. “Give it some thought.” And so . . . I have been thinking about your excellent post (as usual) since I read it this afternoon. And it has caused me to think already of SO MANY things I am grateful for in just these few hours! I have checked back a few times to see if other people are interested and the list is growing already. So I thought I really better chime in quickly. I would like to participate. I even had a chuckle because I think I know which podcast you are talking about. Now I may get the details mixed-up a bit, but is that the one where one of the hosts or a guest talked about a meditation session she was having in her apartment? She was hosting a Buddhist monk (I think) who was leading the session when the noise of a garbage truck interrupted the session. Afterward, the person apologized to him for the noise and was so embarrassed, but his reaction was something like, “How wonderful to have a truck to come pick up your garbage on a weekly basis.” She was astounded and said she really learned something about gratitude. I remember when I listened to it in my very EARLY days, and I did not get it at all, because I was struggling just to make it through every day, but now at Day 58, I get it! I think it is a really good time for me to start practicing gratitude. And I think more communication with others would be really helpful. Thank you for the wonderful idea!

  9. Well you know I’m in! Normal drinkers have no idea what we feel like especially that first yr..just to be able to drive after 5pm was something I was truly grateful for!( and NOT be a drunk driver). So many other things too many to mention

  10. That sounds a great idea and I would be willing to give it a try! It sounds a simple but effective idea to help us concentrate on the good.

  11. I would definitely be interested in this!!! At day 47, I’ve had a lot of great days, but I’ve also had those anxious, irritating days when nothing seems to go right….those were days drinking helped me forget. So, having something like this to use to reflect on all those things that are good would be excellent. I’m in.

    1. Sorry I tried to leave a comment yesterday and not sure if it came through. And now I hit “post” above too quickly. I am interested! Thank you!

  12. That is a great idea. I belong to an online support group for women, wfs and I have learned on there that when you are down, think of 5 things you are grateful for in that moment. It changes your attitude pretty quickly. My daughter and I make a game of it sometimes when one of us is down. You are a pretty smart and talented man.

  13. yes! I am on the family beach vacation that lead me to drink again two years ago, after 7 months sober. grateful for so much- but writing it down? never done it, probably should:) em

    Sent from my iPhone


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