When I came into recovery, I was MAD at God. I didn't trust Him or approve of any of His plans for my life. How could I find gratitude in the middle of addiction, death, lies, and a broken, dysfunctional family?
Forced Gratitude Didn't Help
My co-dependency was a swirling mess of manipulating and control. I was afraid to trust anyone, and I was terrified of doing something wrong.
Somehow, I came to believe it was my job to keep my friends, family, neighbors, and even complete strangers in complete harmony. I felt responsible for everyone else's behavior.
During this time of fear-driven control, I thought prayer worked like this:
- Identify the problem.
- Map out the best possible solution - be concise and elaborate. Include names, dates, times, GPS coordinates, and a flow chart if possible.
- Agonize about the problem and potential plan for days or even weeks.
- Present plan to God.
- Wait for God to follow MY plan.
Can you believe this never worked? At some point, someone told me if I wanted God to answer my prayers, I should practice gratitude. So I added a new step. Before I presented the plan to God, I took two or three minutes to tell Him what I was thankful for.
This didn't work either because my motive wasn't pure. I wasn't thankful. I was just trying to appease God, who in my mind was more like the Wizard of Oz.
Recovery Restored My Sanity
There are many paths to recovery, and the 12-steps work for me. In step 1, I learned my life was unmanageable. In Step 2, I reluctantly agreed power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. After all, nothing I did worked, and I tried everything.
Yet I wasn't ready to trust the big, mean, powerful God I learned about in Sunday school. I tabled this idea and kept working the steps.
In my fourth step inventory, I examined my part in all of my problems. I learned about co-dependency. My prayers were really an attempt to force solutions and control unmanageable problems.
After many months of recovery, I eventually solve all of my problems using steps 1, 2, and 3:
- My problem is making my life unmanageable.
- There's nothing more I can do to fix it.
- I need someone bigger than me to help. I surrender to my Higher Power, who is the same God I used to fear,) and I wait.
What Gratitude Means To Me
Where does gratitude fit in? In step 11, I "improve my conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out."
My gratitude list is no longer an insincere attempt to control God. It's a written account of how since recovery, trusting God has changed my life.
It reminds me that God isn't who I thought He was.
It keeps me from falling back into an unhealthy pattern of fear and control.