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.