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Why I'm A Grateful Alcoholic

Alcohol had been the cause of my ultimate demise in life. It took everything from me.

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woman's hands holding a martini glass
Sebastian Mader/Trunk Archive
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Hi, my name is Suzanne and I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic.  

When I first entered the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I heard many sober alcoholics introduce themselves with these words. These so-called grateful, recovering alcoholics would share in meetings about how being an alcoholic was a good thing because it brought them to AA and, hence, a better way of life. I, on the other hand, as a newly sober woman, could hardly utter the words “I am an alcoholic.”

These people are crazy, I thought. I will never be grateful that I am an alcoholic.

For those first few years, I was angry. Angry and grieving. I had just lost my friend, lover, crutch and solution to everything. I drank a lot, both in terms of frequency and quantity. Without alcohol, life was way too heavy of a burden. I didn’t know how to live. And to be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled about the sober life, and I sure as hell wasn’t grateful. Still, my sponsor encouraged me to make a gratitude list every morning. She promised me that it would counter the self-pity and depression.

I resisted. Gratitude list? I questioned. What in the world do I have to be grateful for? I told my sponsor that gratitude is not something you can just magically cultivate. “You are either grateful or you are not,” I said. I could sense the frustration in her voice when she assured me that I was most definitely wrong. “Just give it a try,” she said. And I did. I gave it a try because that is exactly what AA was telling me to do: to admit that I didn’t know how to live sober; to allow someone else to show me how to live; and to accept that when I did things my way (not making a gratitude list, for example), I ended up drunk and in detox.

While I was skeptical about all of the new suggestions I was receiving, I was desperate to not drink again. So, I reluctantly agreed and made a gratitude list. Some days, it was short and included things like the health of myself and my children and the fact that I had a roof over my head. Other days, it was longer and more hopeful and included people like my sponsor, the program of AA, the birds chirping in the morning and the fact that I woke up without a hangover. Slowly, my gratitude habit did exactly what it was supposed to do: It killed the self-pity and countered the depression. I was feeling grateful.

With the help of AA and my sponsor I also learned the importance of living in the moment. “Forget yesterday,” they said. “Tomorrow? Why are you wasting time thinking about tomorrow? It may not come.” They told me, “Look at your feet. Wherever they are, be there and only there.” 

 AA and my sponsor taught me to let go of things and people I can’t control and focus only on what I can control. They taught me to keep it simple and focus only on doing the next right thing. Sometimes that meant going to work when I wanted to call in (fake) sick. Other times it meant picking up a piece of garbage on the ground that didn’t belong to me. One step at a time. I simply asked myself what is the next right thing to do.

AA also taught me to say yes when someone asks for help, to be honest and accountable, to say sorry, to forgive, and to never waste my time judging other people’s actions. I felt gratitude for the present moment, for AA, for my sponsor, and for my lessons.

Alcohol was the cause of my ultimate demise in life. It took everything from me. It took my kids and my home and my career and relationships. It left me financially and spiritually bankrupt without a shred of self-worth. It caused years and years of agony and pain and chaos and insanity for me and all who loved me. 

When I first put down the alcohol there was a large, gaping void in my soul, and AA filled it with a new, improved, honest, clean and rewarding way to live. Eventually, my obsession to drink alcohol was removed. 

I would make my gratitude list and vow to make the day a great one. I would wake up in the morning and thank God for another day alive and sober. I was embracing the sober life. I noticed myself becoming more honest and helpful. I was sharing the principles of my new life with my children and setting a good example for them. I had hit rock bottom, and AA helped me to climb back up and become a new and improved version of myself. 

And then, suddenly, I got it!

I, too, became grateful for being an alcoholic because I loved the new me more than I had loved any other version of myself. Today, I can handle the tough stuff like fear and anxiety and heartbreak, and I am smart enough to know that every pain serves a purpose. I can do things scared, and I can accept the things I cannot change. I laugh and I cry and I dance and I sing. I apologize and forgive, and I strive every single day to become better than yesterday. And I do it all sober. Today, I am the person God always intended for me to be. Today, I am Suzanne and I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic.