Here’s a little present for you – a Sunflower of Gratitude…Actually it’s part of a little gratitude exercise I’d like to offer you as we contemplate what we are doing here in recovery this year at Thanksgiving.
Let’s contemplate for a moment that the sunflower is you and your recovery. Well you are at the very center of the sunflower. If you print the picture out (yes, you can!), then write your name in the center. After all, your recovery is all about YOU!
All around the outer circle of the core of the sunflower, write the names of the people who have been supporting your recovery, both new and old friends, your sponsor, perhaps members of your family who have taken a new interest in your life, maybe a helpful counselor, friends from meetings, people from your job who know and are a help to you. There may be others who have stepped forward after finding out what the true problem was. These are the seeds of your recovery process, helping to hold you up, nurture and feed you in the early days of your clean and sober time.
There are many ways to cultivate and nurture your recovery, just as there are many ways to nurture and support plants in a garden. Some us are total neophytes in this process. Some start out in fits and starts…dropping some seeds in the ground, losing interest and walking away, letting the weeds choke us out. Some jump in to learning just the right ways, and the garden flourishes. Others try a little of this, a little of that, and weave along the trail until they catch on.
This little exercise is just designed to help you take note of what is working for you and maybe help you give a little thanks for that, if you are so inclined. A journal, which can be a notebook, a formal journal, a slip of paper that you scribble on, or a tiny pad that you can carry in your pocket, serves the purpose. Consider the each petal of the flower one thing that you have done that shows change you have made in your recovery. Make note of it, and simply say thank you. Consider that cultivating your gratitude garden.
Here are some suggestions, but I suspect you may have many others:
Have you noticed any ways you’ve given up negative behaviors? Have you stopped complaining and started focusing on the things you can fix (yourself)? Have you stopped gossiping? Have you noticed you are better at listening to “advice”? Have you become better able to see who the “winners” are? Looking for the positive in others instead of the negative is a strong indicator that you are cultivating a gratitude garden! Write each positive thing on a petal of the sunflower!
Have you noticed that you don’t always need to be the center of attention? Any time in the last week that you have been content to let someone else share their story, have not felt pressured to be the next one to share, or have not gotten mad because someone else cut in front of you in a line or when driving, give yourself a pat on the back, and write humility on a sunflower petal.
Have you done anything for someone without expecting something in return? In one of the little handouts, it says: “Do a good turn and don’t get found out! If anyone finds out about it, it will not count.” Try doing that once. If you have done either of these, write service on one of the petals. There are lots of other forms of service as well.
Have you written a thank you card, or done something concrete to repay a favor when it wasn’t expected? “Gratitude is an action word,” is a phrase often heard in 12 step rooms. Think about how you might show your gratitude as well as feel it. If you’ve done this, then write on one of your flower petals.
Have you ever woken up and just found yourself gazing outside, being happy that it is a beautiful day, or that your pet was lying beside you, or that someone had already put the coffee on? In my belief, this is gratitude in its finest. I consider myself then to be reaping the benefits of my hard work. Going to regular meetings, staying in contact with my sponsor and in regular touch with my 12 step network, reading literature, having a quiet time of meditation and prayer with my higher power daily, gratitude is an outcome I can expect as part of my spiritual condition. That happy, joyous and free thing they talk about has slowly come into my life.
This little silly exercise with the sunflower petals is not for anyone else but you. It’s a fun way to take stock of all the feelings, thoughts and things that you have to be grateful for. In the beginning of my recovery, these things were hard. I needed my sponsor and people in the program to encourage me to take steps to do the things that would get me to change my behavior from doubting and negative, to trusting and positive. Today these things come naturally and I love sharing them with others. I encourage you to pass them on too.
The thing we have that we can be most generous with is our experience, strength and hope! Happy Thanksgiving, and a Blessed Recovery to All!