23 Nov Gratitude for Hardship by Sarah Frank, LMFT, ATR
Such is the course of life that we, at times, face challenges, struggles, disappointments, and loss. In recovery, it is important to consistently remind ourselves of our strengths, accomplishments, and resiliency because this helps us to see the metaphorical glass as neither half empty nor half full but as a container for all of life’s diverse experiences and meaning. As Thanksgiving approaches, it may be beneficial to focus on our gratitude for all experiences, both positive and negative, that have brought us to the place of seeking wholeness, happiness, and healing.
In the first 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous there is a particular message of hope contained in a section of “the Big Book” (AA’s foundational text) called “The Promises”, which describes what one may expect if they put in the work suggested by AA to make positive life changes. In the years I have been working in and practicing my own recovery I have seen a widespread impact on those who come to find hope and solace in this short gathering of words.
In one part it states, “we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” For me, this hones in on the value of lessons we have learned through hardship, pain, regret, foolishness, and even embarrassment. When being mindful of gratitude it may not be automatic to think, “wow, I sure am grateful for how much I was teased as a child”. And yet maybe that was a motivating factor that led to greater compassion for others who are socially out-casted, or even a fulfilling career path of helping others. There may have been times where we did things we deeply regretted but, through the lens of gratitude, we can see how it may have shaped our path to seeking help or making positive changes.
“The Promises” of AA ends with, “are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” This is one of countless seeds of hope that are available to all who seek them out and nurture them. When choosing (yes, it’s a choice) to live in gratitude, you are making a conscious decision to shift your focus to the positive, and you are likely to experience greater joy and satisfaction as a result. This season I am very grateful for the different sources of support I have in my life today and for the opportunity to be present and helpful to others.