It is difficult, especially as a recovering drunk, to be what I call "aspiritual." That is, I am not strictly an atheist, since I cannot say with certainty that no God exists. Yet my life seems to go better when I operate on that premise. Being aspiritual, I do not have to ask myself if every bit of good fortune is some reward, or if bad luck is a moral test, or worse, a punishment. I do not need to start each day wondering what the Big Mind in the sky wants from me. Events are what they are. And if I am the type of person I aspire to be, I will handle them (both good and ill) with courage, generosity, and humility.
In the recovery community, however, one is told that while it doesn't matter what one envisions as a Higher Power (it could, quite seriously, be the Easter Bunny), it is important to have such a concept firmly in grasp if one expects to stay sober.
I was at a gathering of recovering drunks recently when the topic turned to gratitude. There are so many things for which I am grateful: first and foremost, my magical baby girl. But also my wife, our mutual health, my family and friends, the ability to take some joy from life, and hopefully to give some back. But it does beg the question: to whom am I grateful? And is it possible for one with no faith to be grateful for the good things in life?
Short answer: Yes. Yes it is.
Long answer: I know what it is to be fortunate. As a soldier of any or no faith knows what it is like to quite literally dodge a bullet. It does not take faith to feel lucky...to pause and breathe in the autumn air, and to note in its aroma just a hint of burning leaves and pie crust. To thank those, living and dead, who have taken care of me, and to hope for the willingness to pay their generosity forward when the chance presents itself.
When the meeting concluded, all of us gathered there joined hands and formed a circle. And as the others recited the Lord's Prayer, I bowed my head silently, closed my eyes, and pictured my daughter's face just as I'd seen it giggling at me from the bath that morning. If I'm wrong, and there is indeed a God, I hope this will do.
I wish all of you a safe and joyous Thanksgiving. And if there's time, I hope you take a moment, just a moment, to breathe.