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Gratitude - The Spirit that Moves Me Forward

Updated on November 17, 2016
Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama/Karen is an activist who cares deeply about social, economic and environmental justice.

An Attitude of Gratitude

In Twelve-Step language, one often hears at weekly meetings the phrase, "an attitude of gratitude." It is part of the spiritual process involved in recovery from addiction. I attended ACoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings for years, which sustained me during times of upheaval and gently guided my transition toward greater balance and peace in my life. When I was younger, I had attended an Ala-Teen meeting and wanted so much to return, but did not have anyone to drive me to them. I was discouraged by my mother from asking the friend who brought us to that meeting (my mother had attended the Al-Anon meeting) for another ride. She was afraid of change and did not want to go. This made me very sad and I later learned that part of the recovery program for those attending AA meetings involves driving others to meetings as a form of service. The friend who drove us to the first meeting would have been happy to make sure I got to others. I think my high school years would have been more joyful if I had mustered the courage to ask our family friend for future rides to Ala-teen meetings, but I have forgiven myself for that. I did find those ACoA meetings in Orange, CA when I lived there for 2 years, and in Cambridge, MA after I moved back to the east coast.

Hope is my Anchor

It has been many years since I have stepped foot in a Twelve-Step program, yet I have friends who still attend them. They are an anchor in the tumultuous waters of uncertain times. Part of that anchor is the hope that springs from the spirit of gratitude that is fostered. So much in the life of those affected by any addiction may seem chaotic, discouraging and hopeless. Turning one's thoughts toward focusing on what is going well in our lives is a radical move toward independence and control of the life circumstances we find ourselves in, especially when so much seems out of control. It is a very low place to begin, but so many people have had the courage to pull themselves out from under the rock of their current situation toward something better and more satisfying.They deserve appreciation for how far they have come.

A Sponsor is a Special Blessing

Having a sponsor in the program helps. This person has "been there" when it comes to the despair and is ready to hold the novice twelve-stepper's hand through the process, to be there in his/her darkest hour and guide the weary traveler toward the light "at the end of the tunnel." They are the source of the most enthusiastic cheers when significant breakthroughs are made by the people they are guiding.They are a reminder that when in recovery, nobody need walk alone.

Twelve Steps to Recovery

Twelve Steps of Adult Children Steps Workbook
Twelve Steps of Adult Children Steps Workbook
Adult children of Alcoholics have unique needs that this workbook addresses.

Pictures of things that I am grateful for:

Fuscia flower in the corner of my flower garden at the back of my house
Fuscia flower in the corner of my flower garden at the back of my house | Source
Sunflowers at Indian Head Farm...and sunflowers everywhere!
Sunflowers at Indian Head Farm...and sunflowers everywhere! | Source
Wooded Labyrinth
Wooded Labyrinth | Source
Rainbow in the Primordial Pool fountain at Tower Hill Botanic Garden
Rainbow in the Primordial Pool fountain at Tower Hill Botanic Garden | Source

Lifelong Spirit Guides

There is another statement in the meetings that reads "we will be amazed before we are halfway there" [through our recovery process]. That is very true. With the support of my Ala-non communities during the time I actively attended meetings, I made great progress in my relationships, with family, friends, and the world. My life began to look and feel better than it had ever been. While living in California, my sponsor was a great spirit and a unifying force for those she led through the process of working the recovery steps. One of my best friends in recovery was also someone she sponsored, and I still think of both of them often. For them I am very grateful. The progress I made in twelve-step recovery has led me toward the wonderful life I am living now. Today I believe in myself and have accomplished more than I ever imagined I would When I was younger. Hooray for my sponsor and for my Al-anon friends/family!

Gratitude and the Life of an Artist ~

Gratitude is also very close friends with creativity and artistic accomplishment. Appreciation for such blessings as our time, the ability to pursue our dreams, and those who encourage us are also very important. It keeps us going in the direction of accomplishing our short-term and long-term goals. It gives us the energy to keep going in spite of discouragement and fatigue. I am so grateful for all I have been able to accomplish in my life and the direction I am able to take my life in now. I am grateful for my family and friends who have encouraged me, I am grateful to the angels for my husband and daughter, and for my lovely co-housing community in Central Massachusetts.

Sometimes it helps to make a physical list of all the things in our lives we are grateful for. Once this is done, it will serve as a reminder of all the things that are going well in our lives and make us happy when we reach a bump in the road to our dreams. A notebook into which more items can be continually added could be useful to you. It may serve you best if it fits in a pocket of a jacket or bag, so your list may be continually available to amend, and to refer to at a stressful moment of your day.

Pictures of my garden and other places that I am grateful for

The chance to tie-dye a bunch of clothing for myself and family.
The chance to tie-dye a bunch of clothing for myself and family. | Source
Sunflower growing in a neighbor's garden
Sunflower growing in a neighbor's garden | Source
Pumpkin patch growing up from the community compost pile
Pumpkin patch growing up from the community compost pile | Source
"Betty Lou" the sock puppet that my daughter and I made together at a National Day of Puppetry festival in Brookline in 2008.
"Betty Lou" the sock puppet that my daughter and I made together at a National Day of Puppetry festival in Brookline in 2008. | Source
My poetry 'chapbook' "Running with the Wings of the Beast," which includes "Haikus for New Parents"
My poetry 'chapbook' "Running with the Wings of the Beast," which includes "Haikus for New Parents" | Source

My Master Gratitude List

The following items are excerpted from my Master Gratitude List. If there are items there that resonate with you, I celebrate that. If my list inspires you to think of your own and to begin writing them down, I celebrate that, too. It is my hope that these items bring a smile and a warm feeling like a hug into your day:

My husband

My daughter

My mother

My aunts and uncles

My cousins

My husband's extended family

Friends near and far


Paulist Center (Boston)

UU church of Hudson/Marlborough

Tie-dyed clothes

Stone Soup Poetry

A Tapestry of Voices

National Writer's Union

Institute for Children's Literature

My first poetry chapbook: Running with the Wings of the Beast

Sailboats and the sailing lessons I took the summer of 1996

Girl Scouts







Swimming Lessons

Crab rangoon

Home-schooling communities in Massachusetts

Co-housing neighbors

My voice

My musical instruments and the lessons that I have been able to take to learn to play them (mandolin, flute, guitar, piano, riqq, tambourine, harmonica, tin whistles, etc.)

Rainfall that waters our trees and plants and fills our wells

Snow for sledding, building, sculpting and throwing

Warm Autumn foliage at its peak

Leaves to rake and dive into


Arnold Arboretum

Tower Hill Botanical Garden

DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Stonehurst Manor and scenic railway rides in N. Conway, NH

Bubbles and bubble makers




Monkey bars

Puppet Shows

Pop-up books

Knock-knock jokes




Ice cream

Jump ropes

Star constellations

Moon phases


Jasmine tea

Playing footsies on the couch


I could keep adding to this list. It is a good place to be in my life and each day is filled with so many blessings that I can share with family and friends. I live in a wonderful new home with a good husband, a lovely daughter, and generous neighbors with whom we share community, and I have the opportunity to create a livelihood around doing what I love. We want for nothing. We are fortunate, and I am deeply grateful.

© 2010 Karen A Szklany


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