“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Anonymous.
Gratitude is defined as "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
And I admit, I’ve struggled with this for a while, and still do.
In the past, I thought my life was too embarrassing or sad to be thankful for anything. My partner was struggling with addiction, our relationship could have been better, we were living with his parents, our jobs weren’t that great, etc.
I felt like I had no say in life, like it was just happening to me, and other people who looked like they had it all together were just lucky.
Even now, I feel like I struggle with it, almost even more so than before, because things are going well but I still feel like it’s not enough. Like it’s not happening fast enough, I’m impatient, I want to get to a place where things should be by now, etc. Making up for lost time, in a way.
And maybe it’s the perfectionism or the fear or being behind, I’m not sure. And also, I feel like I shouldn’t be like this anymore, and that I should have it all together. But still, I struggle sometimes, as everyone does.
It doesn’t have to be like that, though.
Obviously now, I can’t go back and change anything from the past. But I do currently have the ability to at least look at things a bit differently from this perspective, and not get caught up in feeling anything negative. Because something I’ve noticed is that sometimes when I look back, I feel sad, or guilty, or embarrassed of myself.
I think back on a time when I was going through a lot and so acted rude to other people who I’m now very close to. I can remember when our relationship wasn’t going well, and feel guilty that I didn’t do more to make things better back then. I can have a memory of active addiction and wonder why I didn’t make boundaries sooner or do anything to change things quicker because maybe I could have saved myself some heartache or maybe even influenced our relationship that way, too.
But that isn’t a good way to do anything. I have no ability to change the past. What I can do, however, is be thankful for it.
Sure it didn’t go exactly as planned or the way that I maybe should have done it. But it did teach me a lot of lessons, and it made me realize a lot about myself. It happened in a way that kick started my own recovery and indirectly influenced how things are today. If it didn’t happen in the way that it did, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now, and maybe I wouldn’t even be writing this.
Coming back to the present, even now, I find myself frustrated and not paying attention to gratitude.
Things are so good, our lives are progressing in a healthy and meaningful way, we are finally moving out and advancing even more, we are doing well in our own recovery, our relationship is better than it has been, and addiction is something that is a little more in the background now.
But still, sometimes I think of how things could be better or how we should be at a certain stage by now. I make myself feel bad because we are doing things late, or even with this content I feel like I’m not going fast enough because maybe I could help more people who need it.
But that’s no way to live. Life is about learning, and making mistakes along the way, and just appreciating it for what it is. Sometimes things don’t happen exactly the way we want them to, and that’s ok. There’s no actual measure of what it means to be “on time”, and there’s not a ticking clock that will run out if you don’t do enough milestones fast enough.
In reality, even though it would have been nicer to have our own place sooner, it wasn’t time. It wouldn’t have worked out as nicely as it is now. Even though it would have been good to work on recovery sooner, we just weren’t at the place to do it. Our relationship couldn’t have been healed sooner than it did because we weren’t at the right place in our recovery to work on that. And all of that is ok.
Gratitude is being happy and thankful for what you have, without wishing it was more or making yourself feel guilty because of what you don’t have or think you’re missing out on.
And while sometimes it can be hard, we always have something to be thankful for.
Looking back on the past, I’m thankful that we both made it through, and that our relationship did, too. In a way I’m thankful for his addiction and that I had issues of my own, because it allowed me to find out so much about myself and how to be a much stronger and healthier person.
Looking at it now, I’m thankful that we are moving forward in our own recoveries because it’s allowing us to do so much more in life. And I’m thankful that I’m now able to get my experiences and thoughts out to other people because I can do my part to be there for others in a way that I wished I had more of when I was going through the worst of it.
We always have something to be grateful for, and while sometimes it can be difficult (especially if our partner is still in active addiction), we can find something everyday.
And when it gets tough, try to do the best you can.
To get you started, here's 3 ways to start adding more gratitude in your life right now:
Be more mindful: Mindfullness is being in the moment. It's not stressing over the future and things that aren't here yet, and it's not being sad or feeling guilty about the past. It's focusing on the present, and only thinking about things that are happening right now. Notice things that are currently taking place, and be thankful for things you can see right now in front of you, or that you are currently feeling. Even if things aren't the best, you can find something still, which leads me to my next one.
Say thank you to challenges: Sure, having a particularly difficult situation isn't really something that is enjoyable or fun. But, we can still be grateful for it. How? By realizing it's teaching you lessons, and helping you to be a stronger person. If nothing in your life changed and everything was always the same, you wouldn't grow nearly as fast, if at all. Say thank you to the challenges, because that's how you learn, and that's how you improve.
Appreciate the little things: Still feeling stuck? Look for the small, everyday things that usually go overlooked, like that person that smiled at you on your walk to work this morning, or the picture that your child drew just for you. There are so many things in our lives that can bring us joy and inspire gratitude. It's all in your perspective, and how you want to frame your current situation.
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: do you want the perspective of anger, sadness, and victimhood? Or do you want contentment, happiness, and hope?
I’ve said it a few times but I’ll say it again: we always have something to be thankful for, addiction or not. We just have to be willing to find it.