I don’t know about you, but the holidays can often bring a jumble of mixed emotions. On the one hand, there are all the traditional high points that we can look forward to – time with family, big meals with all the fixings, preparing for Christmas gifts … it is easy to look at the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s with Hallmark colored glasses. At the same time, working in recovery, I know that this season can bring reminders of family we can’t be with, friends lost, the stress of less-than-ideal relationships, realization that we don’t always know if we can even afford Christmas this year, dinners alone, and more.
This tension can be paralyzing, we can freeze in the face of the huge differences between what is happening right now and what thing could or should be like. We can easily feel like our efforts don’t matter, that the problems are too great or too numerous, and that none of our hard work has made any difference. One of the primary ways we fight this in recovery work is through gratitude.
Gratitude helps us tell the truth
One of the daily stuggles, for all of us, is to find ways to hold on to what is true and reject the lies around us. In moments when we can feel like there is nothing good in the world and that nothing matters, we can remind ourselves of the truth of things. We may be tempted to tell ourselves that another year has gone by and nothing has really changed, but the truth may be that this will be our first sober thanksgiving. We can give thanks for that. Or perhaps the darker voices in our heads would have us believe that we are alone and unloved, giving thanks for friends, for family, for that recovery sponsor reminds us that, in fact, we are loved by many more than we might think. Gratitude can help open our eyes to the good around us when the world is busy pointing out all the wrongs.
Gratitude can multiply
In my own practice of gratitude, one of my favorite moments is when I start with something seemingly small, often because I’m struggling to think of something to be grateful for, and it turn into a chain of Thanksgiving. I can get to the end of the day, worn out and tired, and I don’t want to take the time to be thankful. The practice seems silly, and if you knew the day I had … and so I thank God that I have a place to lay down my head and rest. And that reminds me of the donation made by SIFV of so many pillows for the Coram Deo houses (it’s a great story you can see on Facebook) for incoming women. And then I find myself being thankful for each of the women who are with us now… and what started as a moment of “I’m not even sure I have it in me to pray” has become a mini-marathon of thanksgiving that started with something small.
Gratitude unlocks generosity
I don’t know about you, but one of the things I believe in most and, at the same time, struggle with as well, is finding ways to live generously. The Bible encourages me to do it. Recovery encourages giving back to the the program. I believe that generous living makes the world a better place, and that same world tells me to hold on tight to what I have and even too feel “cheated” when I don’t have what you have. Gratitude can break those chains of thought and remind me that I have a reason to be generous – because I have so much to be thankful for. From setting up chairs at the meeting in gratitude for that next sobriety milestone, to giving financially because God has so graciously provided for my needs with work, and a place to live – being grateful for what I have been given helps me hold on a little less tightly to those things, so that I can share in the blessings of giving some of it away.
Attitudes of Gratitude
This holiday season, we will be asking for your support. The simple truth about non-profits is that we only exist and thrive due to the generosity of others. But we don’t want you to think it is only about the money. Not for a moment. And frankly, we need to remind ourselves of that same thing – we have a lot to be grateful for – today. Right now. We don’t want any of us to lose sight of the good things God has one and is doing because we can’t take our eyes off of the concerns and worries of the future.
So we will be mixing plenty of gratitude in to our holiday season as well, remembering the truth, multiplying our thankfulness, and giving back as we are able.
If the idea of multiplying your gratitude and generosity has captured your attention, I’d encourage you to read about a generous matching gift that has been made to Coram Deo — a rare opportunity to have your gratitude and your generosity multiplied at the same time!