Those of us active in 12 step programs know the drill. From the first meeting we attend on November 1 we can expect the topic/theme/general discussion to revolve around gratitude. Bill can be blamed for starting this demand for public acknowledgement of gratitude because back in 1949 he ran a piece in the Grapevine, the monthly magazine known in Alcoholics Anonymous as 'our meetings in print' (see aagrapevine.org for more information), making the suggestion that November be the month we review that which we have gained through sobriety.
It was not a bad idea then, and it is not a bad idea now.
Sometimes I just do NOT feel GRATEFUL for ANYTHING.
There are times when, at 21 years sober and a Faithful Catholic (again) for 19 years, I do not want to express my gratitude for my stressful and awful job, my goofy, irreverent and out-right heretical family, my precarious health, my ability to fit into size 6 relaxed fit jeans after years as a size 22 or the car I drive (which is currently in the shop because of a slight disagreement it had with a pole that refused to move out of its way and yes, smarty britches, I was driving). Quite frankly, I would rather sit in a corner at a meeting and trip over my bottom lip as I regale you with tales of my terrible life, the woe that besets me and the fact that I have to go to the gym and SWEAT in order to not have to up those size 6's to size 8's and beyond. I don't WANT to be grateful; I want to POUT. In the words of my people, "Alcoholics do not suffer well and we do not suffer alone".
Yet, when I take a moment to pause I can remember the things that I have right now that are precious and worth thanking Jesus for giving to me. Today, for instance, is baby Stephen's 18th birthday. The little boy who used to sit on my bed with me and whisper, "Auntie...did you hear that? wolves!" or insisted that there were alien on the roof because he heard it on the news is an adult.
Or, rather, he is 18.
Stephen has never seen me drink. He knows I am one of the adults in his life that is consistent and trustworthy. He is never going to hear something out of my mouth said just to shut him up or because it is convenient. He may not always like me but I will always love him. I have never put another human being in front of his welfare and if he needs me in the middle of the night he knows my phone will be answered.
When Stephen was 6 he introduced himself to the new neighbors as, "Hi, I'm Stephen and I am an alcoholic". When Grandma asked him why he did that he said, "I don't drink and either does Auntie and SHE says that so I am like her".
Before you get all choked up, this is the kid that used to introduce himself to people as Jerry Rice. Identity has always been a bit of a problem with Stephen.
Stephen is doing a lot of things I wish were different and he has left a lot of things behind that I wish he hadn't but all in all he is a good boy and on track to be a good man. May the graces given to him by Almighty God catch fire in his soul so that he does not become one of the lost.
Meanwhile, I am grateful to be sober. I am grateful to be presenting on St Thomas Aquinas' 4 Articles on Original Sin on Saturday for the Fra Angelico Chapter of the Order of Preachers and I am grateful to be a Catholic Out Loud.
Most of all, however, today?
I am grateful to be Stephen's Auntie.