by Mark H.
Most folks want more in life, more money, more material things, more toys, a bigger house, more savings, more sobriety, more, more, more. Where does it end? In fact, it must if you ever want to find happiness.
Our consumer, capitalist society constantly pushes us to buy more and want more. We put those ‘with the most’ on pedestals, not really knowing if they are happy or not. How does that one joke go, “Who ever has the most when he/she dies wins!”
Of course, we know this is not true, we know this is absurd. One study, for example, found that happiness does not increase beyond an income of $70,000/year. What does that tell you? It tells you that money, up to a point, can’t buy you happiness.
The happy person sees through the constant barrage to accumulate more, to buy more. The happy person is grateful for what he/she has no matter how much or how little that is. This does not mean, of course, that we use gratitude as an excuse to quit striving to improve our lives, to be a lazy. It just means we have learned to be happy where we are at today, with what we have today. In AA we call this doing a ‘gratitude survey.’
I have often caught myself being glum. It is an old paradigm I learned as a youth. Yet, I totally surprise myself with how much I DO have when I start adding it up. It is an amazing transformation when I practice gratitude.
Being grateful for what I have is a major part of my life, it is a key way for enjoying my life day in and day out. I often find myself comparing myself to others and what they have, wanting more and lamenting the fact I don’t have more. Then, my sobriety teaching kicks in, and I start listing in my head the many blessings I have. When I do this the depressing thoughts disappear. It is such a great feeling to leave the darkness behind.
Like most people, I have lost things in my life, some of them dear to me. Most of us come into AA having lost much. Also, as I get older, I am losing the ability to do some things I used to love, that were central to my younger life. Yet, I am still able to replace those things with other activities, etc. I just roll with the punches life dishes out.
Our consumer culture constantly preaches that more is better. Addicts know this edict well: if one beer or joint was great, even more will be better. We discover, in the end, however, the more is often not better. In fact, more often leads us to ‘jails, institutions and death.” I used to joke when repeating this truism that even too much water is bad for you: its called drowning!
Another way I stay grateful in life is reminding myself that my life could always be worse, much worse. Life offers plenty of examples of this from my past, from those around me, from those who have already been put in the grave by addiction.
Counting my blessings, being grateful for what I have, doing a gratitude survey, whatever you call it, is a major technique I use to enjoy life one day at a time (while I strive to improve my life every day).
One of my favorite gratitude parables this time of year is Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol.” Scrooge, who is rich beyond measure, is likewise miserable and mean beyond belief. Yet, the man he persecutes and despises, his employee Bob Cratchit, has very little, but is much happier. Why? He is grateful for what he has.