I don’t maintain an ongoing gratitude list like I used to. At the beginning of my recovery a few weeks in some clever sober twit suggested it to me. They clearly saw ingratitude in me. The next day I sat with a new pad of paper. I wrote the date – it was in August 2004. I sat. I sat some more and the I wrote. “I am alive”. After another few minutes I phoned the bright AA luminary who’d suggested this and said it didn’t work for me. He sighed in a patient parent tolerating a child type way and asked what I’d written. “I am alive” I said “And frankly sometimes I’m not all that sure about that really”. “Jesus – you are hard work” he replied. Of course I was offended, couldn’t he see how hard it was to be me and all this recovery stuff and the expectations everyone had of me… etc. etc. etc.
“Have you had a drink today?” He asked me. “No” I replied. “Don’t you think that should be the first thing you are grateful for?” Honestly I was like some 4 year old being taught this stuff but then I was. I quashed and squashed and avoided all emotional development with booze for so long I was like a child.
I started again. “I haven’t had a drink today”. “I have food”. “I have somewhere to live”… etc. family came in to. Slowly over days, weeks, months I found it easier to write just things like “Love”, “Health”, “Wealth”, “Family”… etc. I started to realise though how some of the things I was grateful for were through really simple good fortune. “Where I live”, “Freedom to do as I please”, “Wealth”, etc. etc. I’m lucky in 1962 I was born in England to a working class family which whilst not even well off in UK terms were immensely privileged when compared to the rest of the world. Free education, free health care, freedom of speech, no secret police, water from a tap, HOT water from a tap, clean clothes, excellent food etc.
Over the months my list got a bit easier to write each day. I still always wrote – “I haven’t had a drink” at the top of it. In Feb 2005 I was half way down the list when a thought struck me. “I haven’t wanted to have a drink today!” That was a miracle. The compulsion to drink had been lifted in me (obviously or I’d have continued to drink) but the obsession about it hadn’t for the first 9 months of my recovery. I began to see that phrase at the top of my list more and more. Anyone who has a long memory of me in the blogging world may remember my gratitude list sat on my side bar on my old blogger blog. That blog is still there but has become more my music/guitar blog and this one where I pontificate about life as in this kind of post. I got rid of the list sometime back as I wasn’t maintaining it I’ll be honest with you I thought to myself “Well you’ve been sober a long time do I still need to this?”
YES! From time to time to look again at what I have that I should be grateful for. I feel it again greatly at the moment. Anyone in the UK can’t have failed to notice the upcoming election in May. Apparently Immigration is one of the top concerns of the voters. Frankly in my opinion only because the media and politicians tell us so rather than actually worrying about stuff that really matters like global warming, caring for the growing elderly population, how to find gainful employment and houses for young people to live in that they can afford…. etc. I still am flabbergasted by what I hear from people and politicians about immigration. Talk of imposing greater restrictions – harsher penalties – pulling out of the EU to stop EU workers rights to come and work here.
Phrases like “health tourism” … what does that mean? It means some poor sod who had the misfortune not to be born in a country with a world class social health scheme with a condition that we’d consider easily treatable having to troop across the world in the hope of some relief. “Economic Migrants“…. If my parents had been Hungarian or Romanian my life would have been considerably less fortunate than it has been. The first 25 years of my life would have been spent under a totalitarian regime where even the ownership of books and music I freely listened to and discussed with friends as a youngster would have been considered potentially subversive. I couldn’t have walked freely on demonstrations as I did as a young political activist without fear of intimidation, arrest and potentially far worse. And I’d never had been able to buy my house freely, learn to drive and get nearly new cars. Or fly off around the world. Both the political and economic situation would have prevented me. Would I as a 50plus year old leave the old country for a new life? Don’t know. But say my 25 year son with a Physics degree said to me “Dad I can earn a fortune just operating a coffee machine in a shop in London compared with any job here?” Would I not help pack him on the long long bus journey to a better life? These people are now fortunate that they can travel here and work here and make a new and better life here … and we seem to think we have some right to deny all this on the basis that we were here first? I’m baffled – just put yourself in the shoes of the South Americans, the Eastern Europeans, the Africans etc. for just a few mins and say “What would I do?”. And then there are those that we see trying to get into England illegally from conflict areas around the world, war torn Syria in particular. We’ve stood back and argued at the UN round table about why we can’t do anything without everyone nodding in agreement and a country has been totally destroyed. These people have nothing now – no home, no job, no money, no town, no community, no belief, no hope… so they come here to work in the “black economy”. That is an area we ought to target more get the police arrest the companies who effectively enslave the poor sods once they get here rather than the poor battered Syrian who just wants food, warm and clothes.
Oh yes – I heard a politician saying we should cut our overseas aid as we have a huge deficit – I can see the point from a “good housekeeping” point of view potentially. But then surely cutting that will just increase the urgency for those in these deprived and destroyed countries wanting to come to Europe and North America? He said that “It clearly had no benefit anyway given the migration we see”…. Surely there is more than one answer to that one… like maybe we should all accept a cut in our living standards and give even more to allow it to even up a bit and that would solve the migration issue. But that would mean giving them what is OURS apparently by right of being fortunate enough to have been born here….
So I am grateful today that I live where I do. The fact people will go to great lengths to get here confirms what I already know – I was incredibly fortunate to be born here. I am grateful too that I can write this and not expect a subsequent smash on the door at 3am by the “police for corrected thinking” to whisk me away to a “correction centre”…
What are you grateful for today? And do you recognise your good fortune enough?