Gratitude: Wanting what you have

One of my least favorite 12 Step meeting topics is “gratitude”. Not that I am ungrateful for anything in sobriety, for I have plenty to be grateful for. My main issue whenever this topic is brought up is that quite often the attendees just launch into a list of the things they are grateful for. Much of it is common to all even when the sharer does personalize it with special items. Nevertheless, such “gratitude” listings are boring (to me) and miss the point.

First, the idea that anyone needs to hear something about gratitude. Does this person feel a nostalgia for the days of drinking? Are they taking their sober life for granted and therefore need to be reminded of what can be lost if they do return? Do they not see very well the things around them that they have attained as a result of their sobriety? Do they just want to boast about their sobriety (“Oh, look at me, see how much I’VE got!”)

Someone at a 12-Step meeting with the topic of gratitude I attended long ago introduced something besides a list of what he was grateful for. He mentioned something along the lines of gratitude as being an attitude. He concluded with the notion that gratitude simply means that you want what you already have.

We alcoholics have an impatient streak. Even after a sustained period of sobriety we sometimes fall back into the “I want what I want and I want it now” attitude. We are impatient with what we already have and seek to attain or achieve something else that would make us better or happier. Just like back in the days of our drinking we needed “just one more”, what we have now is not enough and we seek something more to satisfy a hole in our soul.

“Wanting what you already have” is a great way of humbly accepting that which has come into your life and genuinely appreciating it. It is also an excellent way of living a moderate life and not a life driven to excess and conspicuous consumption. In other words, greed.

Sometimes the words “and thanking God for it” are added to the definition of gratitude. “Gratitude means wanting what you already have and thanking God for it.” A nice reminder as from where all good things come from, and to Whom we owe our sobriety to.

Luke 17:12-19: “As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him

and raised their voice, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’

And when he saw them, he said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ As they were going they were cleansed.

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;

and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.

Jesus said in reply, ‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?

Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’

Then he said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.'”

(Via USCCB.)

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"