02 February 2015

Gratitude crashes the Pity Party

A couple weeks ago during that therapy appointment where I was so angry about my "illness" my therapist asked me if I was feeling any gratitude about it, or around it.  I think I looked at him like he was the crazy one.

"No."  I said, emphatically.  He took the hint and backed off that point for the moment and we moved on to something else.  But then later in the week at an Al-Anon meeting a friend said to me

"I just feel so grateful that I live in a time and place where I can get good help and support for my problems."

Wait- did she just say grateful?

Then she compared it to Autism, and how today's autistic children (and adults) have much better resources and more social awareness than past generations.  And hopefully with time, future generations will have even more of those things.  But she was just grateful to have meetings, where she was understood and loved, and literature that helped her feel validated and also helped her cope with and understand her alcoholic.  A little light went on in my head as I started to entertain the idea of gratitude.

The concept of gratitude has been part of recovery since the get-go for me, but I have to admit I often approach it with some reluctance.  Gratitude is a total pity-party crasher, and I love me a good pity party.  I have also felt like gratitude was kind of made-up, giving credit to a Higher Power when maybe some things were just coincidence and didn't deserve any special attention.

But this week my therapist called me out on that.  He talked about how gratitude is a gift of peace we give ourselves, and it isn't any more made up than the things I choose to be angry about, such as blame. Blame is a funny thing.  It's like I have this human instinct to place blame, once I know who's FAULT it is then I can get over it.

I've blamed Pete's parents for a long time, for raising Pete in an environment of shame. Not long ago I had an interesting discussion with some friends about whether we become who we are in spite of our upbringing, or because of our upbringing.  I don't think we can ever really know for sure, but when my therapist told me I could choose gratitude it occurred to me that I could choose to be grateful for Pete's parents. I am grateful for the things they did teach him that have influenced his life and helped mold his character.

In college I learned about fallacies.  Hypothesis contrary to fact is "offering a poorly supported claim about what might have happened in the past or future, if circumstances or conditions were different." (Codependency is a breading ground for hypotheses contrary to facts. If I have more sex with my husband he won't look at porn, for example.) Saying that Pete wouldn't be an addict if his parents had raised him differently is a fallacy.  

My point is- I can make assumptions, speculate and assign blame until the sun goes down and it isn't going to make me feel any better.  Or I can offer myself the gift of gratitude, which inevitably and immediately offers me peace and comfort.  


So maybe it's time to dust off that damn gratitude journal.  Do you keep a gratitude journal? Does it work for you?