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Learning to be Grateful: The Power of Service

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“You should be grateful for what you have.”

This suggestion is often given to alcoholics, whether in active addiction or during their recovery. The topic of “gratitude” is frequently proposed in 12 Step discussion meetings, and if you have ever been in such a meeting, you know that the dialogue which follows can quickly disintegrate into a comfortable talk of everything but the 12 Steps. If our primary purpose is to carry this message to other alcoholics, why do we make it appear that simply having the conviction of gratitude is enough? The experience of thousands of recovered alcoholics is that gratitude is ultimately a fruit which is harvested through spiritual action. At Origins, we see this powerful truth resonate in the lives of our prospering alum.

“Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them, even though we would have liked to.”

Most alcoholics know they should be grateful – and most wish they could produce that feeling on their own power. Even in active addiction, many alcoholics would be able to construct a gratitude list if pressured to do so. As well-meaning as this exercise may be, such lists never seems to pull the alcoholic from the mire that is alcoholic destruction. Something more is needed to produce the essential psychic change from which gratitude flows.

Time and time again, the staff at Origins has witnessed gratitude flourish when it is cultivated through the process of working the Steps.

At last month’s Alumni Reunions in Texas and Florida, the gratitude of our former clients was evident. We watched hundreds of thriving alum share the freedom they had discovered as a result of spiritual action. This authentic gratitude was demonstrated not only through their words, but by their walk in the “world of the Spirit.” Origins alum till the soil of their own recovery by tending to their gratitude through selfless service. During our Reunions, they buzzed with the joy they had found in helping others. These grateful men and women spend countless hours in any given week taking what they have learned and sharing it with the still suffering alcoholic. We know that our alum are grateful not because they say it, but because they demonstrate it.

While gratitude is a great concept, it is far more meaningful in the context of action.

Each day, we are offered the opportunity to display our gratitude by seeking those in need in order to give back in a meaningful way. Our behavior is more convincing than our words, and vigorous action produces far more gratitude than we could ever hope to find through writing a simple list. As recovered alcoholics, we know that we can experience abundant gratitude when we carry THIS message to those who have yet to receive it.

Selfless service is the fertile soil in which gratitude blossoms.

Today, we are each given the opportunity to share of ourselves freely and fearlessly. Through this, we nurture our own gratitude and discover the widening circle of peace that selfless service offers.