The thing about Gratitude

In a lot of my work, you’ll see the topic of recovery woven throughout; it’s also at the forefront of some of my most read pieces. This is not a blog about sobriety, but I’ve found myself touching on the topic more and more as I realize that recovery is really about trying to live more happy and more free, one day at a time. I think everyone wants that-whether you’re an addict or not.

It’s Thanksgiving. I could talk about something else besides gratitude, but that’d be shitty. I want to conform today, to go with the flow. Riding the spirit of the season feels good, and I’m glad to take the opportunity each and every time it comes around.

I got to thinking about how most of us start to really focus on what we are grateful for during the holidays. Then I smiled when I considered how putting an emphasis on the things we are thankful for in just the last month and a half of the year could never fly in recovery. If you’re a person who’s been clean and sober for any amount of time, you’ve undoubtedly made your fair share of gratitude lists. The recovery community is all about them. Recognizing what we have and cultivating an honest appreciation for the people, experiences, and even the things in our lives, is essential in filling that hole we used to overload with substances. If we only did this around Thanksgiving and Christmas, I reckon most of us would wind up drunk or high the other ten months out of the year.

I think that’s the fascinating thing about gratitude–it fills us up. Living in a capitalist system, we’re constantly encouraged to look outside of ourselves for happiness, and it starts from the time we are babies. It begins to seem impossible not to feel like life wouldn’t be a little bit better with that toy, or those boots, or that car. And for a short time, I think life really does feel better with stuff–stuff is great. We attach meaning to so many material things that for a while, we can even convince ourselves that we might really be able to buy happiness. Of course we don’t say that out loud, or even think it consciously. But when we have that car, or those jeans, or the house in that neighborhood, we’re able to mirror what our culture has told us happiness and success should look like. The shittiest feeling is when you’ve done it all–you’ve got the house, the car, the clothes–the kids have all the toys, and somehow, still, it doesn’t feel quite as wonderful as you thought it would. I think part of the brilliance of capitalism is to keep enough people at the mid to lower bottom–who are always looking up and idealizing this picture of success, and who only ever get to taste a small part of it. If you can keep them always wanting more, always believing that more money and in turn more things would make them happier, and then keep those above them (but not all the way at the top) in a constant state of inadequacy, you’ve created rabid consumers for life.

It’s become so cliche now, “happiness comes from the inside”, blah blah blah. While I’ve always believed this in theory cause you know I want to like, be a good person, it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized I wanted to believe it because I knew it to be true. I realized the only way I could know it to be true was simple, but actually really hard in practice. I had to buy less. It’s been quite an experiment the past couple of years. Until I consciously set out to spend less, I never realized how set the conditioned consumerist voices in my brain were. I think what shocked me most was to understand how quickly those voices replaced the word want with the word need. I don’t “browse” shopping sites at all anymore. It’s something I used to do often, but stopped after I realized that going on them resulted in me needing items I never new existed. Ooh, I like that skirt. I don’t have any skirts. How do I not have any skirts? I should wear skirts to work in the Spring. I should dress nicer. I need to look more put together. Skirts make you look more put together. I need skirts. 

So far, buying less has gone really really well. I have more in savings than I’ve ever had before. I am able to contribute money to our vacation fund every month. When something breaks around the house I don’t feel freaked out about it. I am bummed to have to shell out the money–but the money is there, and that feels good. More than all that though, I have a sense of pride that for some reason, a new pair of jeans was never able to give me. Until I actually stopped buying the new pair of jeans (unless I actually needed them, of course) I never understood how full and complete I could feel without them.

As I reflect this Thanksgiving on all the things I am grateful for, I find that gratitude itself is at the top of the list. As I’ve consumed less, I’ve gained more appreciation for the things I already have, and for the people in my life. I have to say, wanting less, is a pretty incredible feeling. As a person who likes control, it’s made me feel like I’ve taken back the reigns to that part of my life. I felt a bit like a sheep before, always being herded towards the next thing I had to have and couldn’t live without.

This holiday season, maybe…

Take away some of the stuff. Let yourself feel gratitude for your life. Walk around full of that gratitude. Feel happy without the stuff.

Or don’t, and buy all of Amazon. Either way, let’s make it great ;).

So incredibly grateful for all of you. Always. Happy Thanksgiving All. x 

 

 

 

image: josh boot

55 thoughts on “The thing about Gratitude

  1. Two thoughts. You are talking like a money boss and that is exactly what we all need to be. We need to own our money instead of it owning us. The second thought was that I think we need to apply this grateful mindset to more of our lives. Like you said, it doesn’t just need to be held to the last two months of the year or people who have or are struggling with addictions. It dawned on me that I can learn a great practice from someone who has gone through things that I have not and may never experience. I guess it pays to listen to Ferris Beuler and have our eyes open to look around once in awhile, because if we don’t… we just might miss something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Owning my money instead of my money owning me. I don’t know how or why I have never thought of it that way before but it’s spot on, thank you! I feel like so many of are letting the stuff dictate our lives, it’s no way to live really.
      And on your last point—I wish that would dawn on all of us. We all have so much to learn from each other. Thank you so much for sharing and fo following along. Really, so happy to have you. x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 11315miles

    Great piece. I have been in down-size mode for a while and I still want to get rid of more stuff. We were sold a bill of goods that you had to keep going one step further, i.e. house, car etc. What a load of bullshit. Thank goodness I’ve never been a big over accumulator of stuff – but I have my fair share of things. I find education and experiences is really wealth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely agree, experiences are the wealth, and you’re right, education as well. I am a big de-clutterer as well. Sometimes I wish our house was more “decorated”, but then when someone is over, their compliment is always, “I wish my house was like this, we have too much crap lying around, we need to declutter.” So that makes me feel like I am doing good ;).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Minimalism is the way to go! I never buy anything unless I truly need it or really really want it. Even if I really want it I try to hold out until I can get a good deal. I’ve been wanting new sneakers for ages and finally bought a pair at Kohls the other week – regular $65 on sale for $60 plus I had 30% off, $10 birthday coupon and another coupon that brought the total down to $25! My biggest struggle is getting my mom to understand/respect my husband and I’s desire to spend less and save more. She is forever wanting to buy me things and goes way too crazy at Christmas; I want her to be saving for retirement but she has this seemingly deep seeded psychological need to provide for me and my sister even though we don’t need it and make a lot more money than her. It’s frustrating because I know she has a good heart.

    Also could I get your email address please? I have a running related question for you that’s a tad too personal to post out in public. If it’s easier you can just email me at tmyers1122@comcast.net – thanks in advance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you and I are on the same page with all this stuff. That stuff with your mom is hard. I have some family as well who place a larger emphasis on material things and i always wish they could let go of that. i think the world has people pretty well conditioned to feel like that is what happiness and success is about–stuff. It’s a bummer. But at least you and your hubs are on the same page– that’s so important!

      Emailed you!!

      Like

  4. I can still remember the day I discovered that society has been built to make us feel less so that they could earn more (‘buy this product and you’ll be skinny too!’). I was blown away, and then angry, and then suddenly a lightbulb flipped and I saw how the world works a little clearer.

    The defiant part of me made it my personal mandate to break free from that terrible cycle… and as a result, I figured out what actually brings me value. It’s a long process, but one that’s worth it I think. Even if for no other reason than to say you stuck it to The Man 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The “buy the product so you’ll be skinny” shit is the EPITOME of it all, isn’t it!! Two of society’s biggest frauds: the necessity of buying shit and the necessity of being thin!!

      Agree about the process of figuring all this out being long but totally worth it. I have to admit though–my head gets fuzzy again during the holidays, and i hate it!! I actually like buying presents for my family cause i love them–but every time I get that ding on my credit card, it’s not a good feeling. I guess that means i have trained myself well, that the spending is painful. But idk, i guess i am looking for some sort of middle ground– I want to spend infrequently but have joy when i do!! Always looking for that sweet spot, aren’t I? 😉

      Stick it to the fucking man. Always.

      Like

      1. New fav: ‘This is Me’ by Keala Settle. It’s had me dancing/tearing up/roaring to and from work today. I’ve got yoga tomorrow but can’t wait to run to it Thursday morning. 💪🏽❤️💪🏽❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I love being a minimalist and yet I’ve found it’s key to not have no judgement as well with others for this is a downward spiral as well. The more judgement we have with others means the harder we are on ourselves. I found this when I went vegetarian and then judged everybody for not being that way:) Gratefulness though and compassion yes:) I love the post! Happy thanks! Gosh look at me judging (critiquing, adding..I don’t know this post haha:) Please forgive me

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I used to journal every day Cat, and one of the things I would do each morning was reflect on what I was thankful for. I got out of the habit with marathon training (it takes over your life, doesn’t it?), but I plan to get back to journaling soon x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Journaling is a habit I’ve wanted to get into for quite a while, but I feel like there’s just no way I will be able to find the time. That’s awesome you are going to get back into it. I feel like it’s a surefire way to keep the gratitude flowing. It’s so easy to get frustrated or dissatisfied with the minutiae of each day—but I feel like when you sit down to actually reflect back over it, it’s easier to just see what really matters.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I journalled every day for around 18 months Cat. It was a good process and I feel that I benefited from it. I used a template that made me reflect on the previous day, think about what I was thankful for, and look ahead to what the day held. I really should start again….

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent thoughts as always. You’re right about the stuff and our attachment to it, our expectations once we acquire it. Detachment from the stuff, having less of it and deriving less meaning from it makes for a remarkably lighter burden to bear.

    Thank you for sharing friend! Happy Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. About six months ago was my first foray into minimalism, gifting and selling items that no longer held any items for me. It was a wake up call to how much I’d acted on impulse, and since then, a combination of things have made me are aware of this and more equipped to ask myself ‘do I need to buy this?’

    Meditation has helped with this immensely too. I still do get impulses to buy things I probably don’t need (such as digital content like games and books that I might not have the time to play and read at that moment) and eat things I don’t need to (an extra plate of chips on a cold day on top of the sizeable left overs I’d already brought with me to work). But I can recognise the impulse better each day. And I’m getting better at knowing when to say ‘go ahead, this will help’ or ‘you don’t need to do that’.

    Particularly with food, it’s been a big wake up call. In years past I would frequently eat myself into a state of bloating, indigestion or acid reflux. The amount this happens has come down a lot. I’ve recently been slipping back into going a little biscuit crazy after meals, but whereas before it would have been stealth, covert and without me noticing, I can now recognise it. Sometimes I don’t have the willpower to stop myself, but it’s the recognition itself that has been a major progress. I don’t presume to trivialise or compare it to the struggles that people diagnosed with an addiction battle with, but it’s the closest sensation I can imagine to suffering addiction. Sometimes I’ll perfectly full and satisfied, yet the thought of an unopened pack of biscuits is spinning around in my head. And I can’t just magic it away. That’s were the meditation and recognition of the impulse has helped tremendously, and has allowed me to be more discerning on when it’s suitable to indulge and when I need to exercise restraint.

    Thanks for the read as always, happy Thanksgiving Cat!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You know Paul when you talk about your struggles with food, it doesn’t trivialize more “serious”eating disorders at all to me. In fact to me, it’s the same. To me there are so many addictions and behaviors that are the same and you could just swap out the substance over and over for so many different things. The feelings and reasons behind why we do these things is usually very similar. Also, I still have issues with food at times and yet I am SO far away from any of those behaviors that were life threatening, so I can definitely understand the things that “normal” people go through as well.
      I feel like perhaps unknowingly you’ve come up with a good standard for book addicts to use before buying—do you have time to read it right now!! Books are a hard one cause they are so positive, they are such an easy thing to justify buying. But you’re so right, if it’s kept to, only buy a new book when you have time to read it, I bet that could keep things from getting out of control.
      Oh your biscuits and chips. You Brit. I love it. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a good way to look at it. The root causes very similar, but the degree, magnitude and manifestation can be very different for each person. Something for me to dwell on.

        Ha, chips and biscuits, I’m single handedly keeping the stereotype alive :p

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Not enough of us really think about what we have to be thankful for. The things we all take for granted because we want something more. How about the people that have less and still manage to be happy. We have become a culture of ‘what’s next?’, ‘when can I have that?’. We’ve lost perspective. People out in the world have serious life effecting issues, war, disease, famine. And we’re concerned about when we can get our hands on the next I-phone. I joke about ‘first world problems’ all the time. But it does fuck me off a lot 😂

    You know when there was the worry about the millennium bug wiping out all the technology, I wanted it to happen. Take us all back to basics and we might all realise that we’re better off than we think. Roofs, food, beds, family, friends, health……should = happy.

    Rant over 😂 great piece as always xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wish I could like this ten times. When I wrote this piece I worried it was too ranty for a thanksgiving post—didn’t expect to be using the word capitalism so often during the holiday, but I couldn’t help it!! Don’t even get me started on apple and iPhones, I just can’t even. The lining up outside of stores?! Just ridiculous. Some days I just want to slap everyone awake, like HELLO, we are sheep, we need to WAKE UP!!
      I’ve realized In the past couple years that ok, I get it, I can’t stop or even really shut out technology. It’s going to keep coming. But I can keep my life as basic as I want to. It’s one of the reasons I got rid of Instagram. For me it just perpetuated that feeling of never feeling like enough and always wanting something that someone else had. It was no good for me. I could go on and on. I won’t. I know you get me. You always get me!! x

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  10. Hi, I’m sitting here on Thanksgiving with Chabatta Rolls, cheese and grapes that I wish I hadn’t bought because that market never has sweet grapes. But I had the money to buy them and I am grateful for that. My family is skattered this year so I am alone today. But, I am grateful that I have a roof (translate that to a “room”) and that I am getting my car fixed tomorrow and that I have a wordpress family and followers so I don’t feel all alone. 13 days ago I turned 27 years sober. I am grateful I have not even thought about taking a drink of alcohol today, yet. But if I do I am grateful that I know where a meeting is. One can’t keep much in a room so I am definitely a minimalist, although there are still some “things” I bought that I just “need”. Even though they are just more things to dust. I am not always happy, and joyous nor do I always feel “free”, but the fact that I am sober is one thing I never want to change. Thank you so much for posting this because I hadn’t actually been looking for a sobriety post, but I obviously needed one!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re comment gave me the warm holiday feels. I can feel your sincere for gratitude for even the smallest things in your life and it makes me happy that there are people like you in the world.
      I feel honored that my post could be what you needed to read yesterday. I hope you are continuing to have a wonderful holiday.
      Oh, and congrats on 27 years, that’s freakin incredible ❤️.

      Like

  11. Happy thanksgiving lovely. I buy so much stuff from charity/thrift shops I always justify it by saying it’s going to a good cause🙂Just yesterday myself and UM agreed to do mutual gym membership for Xmas and NO other gifts. Then I saw a pair of black Asics on sale…like a proper bargain. Must.try.harder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy thanksgiving lady ❤️. Do you guys celebrate there? I thought about this yesterday and realized I should look up which countries celebrate cause I’m curious. I think Canada has a thanksgiving but it’s on a different day.
      I know what you mean about the bargains. I get in a great headspace about living more minimally and then I see something that seems too good to pass up, it’s so hard! Stepping back from that has been kind of amazing though because when I stopped giving into all those “deals”, it really felt like stepping out of a machine, I realized I was spinning in this wheel and it was good to take back some of that control.
      I like the joint gym membership gift, such a great idea!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A great post. I’ve never been one for buying a lot of THINGS (OK books and then running kit is probably next, but only stuff I actually need). My husband and I tend to run things into the ground before we replace them and I certainly am not an early adopter (he is) and expect stuff to last / get grumpy if it doesn’t. It’s nice not to feel out of step with people when i read stuff like this. I have got a house full of accumulated stuff but we’re working on that bit by bit. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think we all have our areas where it’s something we love and we are willing to let our money go towards it. It’s funny, I was just talking to my mom about this post yesterday and she told me this story about how when she was a young mother, she’d go to the grocery store and worry that she wasn’t getting everything we needed cause there seemed like so much stuff we needed that she couldn’t afford. Then when my older sister got a bit older and my mom would take her to the store with her, my sister would want. EVERYTHING, and grab for all of it. My mom realized the store was sort of set up to make her feel that lack that she was feeling, to make them want everything. After this story she proudly told me that she had just come from Whole Foods and only bought the two lemons she went there for.
      That’s when I laughed out loud because I realized that after my preachy post, food/ Whole Foods was definitely a “weak”spot for me. I don’t really care how much I spend on food. I almost never waste it. I want what I want and I want it to be of high quality and fresh and delicious—always. Also I am notorious for walking into a food store for one thing and spending much much more than I intended! We all have our spots I guess!
      Happy thanksgiving Liz!! x

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I have also been working on the buying less lifestyle–partly because I hate the idea of being a slave to this capitalist machine, but also because I move countries a lot and I simply don’t have the space for it anymore! It’s really easy to remember not to buy new clothes when you can only take what will fit into 2 suitcases!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have always thought that moving is one of the best strategies against hoarding. I’ve moved 3 times in six years (which sounds like even less than you) and it’s been so helpful each time to go through stuff again and be like ok, I really don’t wear this, it needs to be donated!
      So happy to have your thoughts on this, glad to have you around the blog ❤️. Thanks!

      Like

  14. Such a wonderful read. Thank you. You’ve spun my morning around to a positive one. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK but I’ll make sure I’ll take time to give thanks for awesome people I have in my life. Just on a side note, this time of year is always toughest for me as a recovering alcoholic and this post couldn’t have been timed better. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh man I am so glad you read something you needed to hear. I feel like that’s always what I get at meetings—I don’t necessarily want to go but then someone always says something that I need to hear. Often it’s the simplest thing.
      I feel you on the holidays being tough. For me it’s the combination of that warm feeling that for so many years was associated with libations, and also just the emotional mess that is often my family situation. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Thanks so much for reading, so happy to have you here!

      Like

    1. Aww thanks AJ! Isn’t the minimalist way so much better? I did a race yesterday and the volunteers kept trying to give me a medal, they didn’t seem to understand me not wanting one. I just don’t need more junk lying around!
      Hope you had a happy thanksgiving lady! x

      Liked by 1 person

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