By Sat Purkh Kaur
One of the sayings I heard early on in my sobriety was, “A grateful heart never drinks.” And I held on to that saying all these years because it seemed to me a key—a key to something I didn’t have at the time: faith in the future. I needed something that gave me a sense of hope—and for whatever reason, that phrase did it for me. I wasn’t unfamiliar with gratitude. I came from a family who gave thanks for their blessings every day; and I, too, had always had a relationship to grace, but it was a somewhat troubled relationship.
I had always been “gifted.” That is, I had talents that up to that point had lain dormant for many years. At the height of my drinking, I was underemployed and completely unengaged in my art as a writer and a singer. And even before my drinking had become a “problem,” I had abandoned my creativity like a broken toy after Christmas. I was completely disconnected while at the same time, I was plagued by a feeling that I wasn’t using my gifts and that somehow, someday, I would have to pay. God would punish me for not using what had been given so freely to me—or this is what my guilt fed to my subconscious every day!
Cut to my first year of sobriety and I began to write profusely, poem after poem after poem. I started playing music again. And all the while, I tried to connect to this key—gratitude. Still, I saw others around me getting all the things I wanted and it was hard to be happy for them. Why wasn’t anything good happening to me? Instead, I was experiencing heartbreak after heartbreak, no traction in regard to a career, and living not month to month but seemingly week to week financially. When was the good stuff going to come? And here’s where the rubber meets the road. Can you be grateful for what you have—even when it’s not enough? Even when you want more? And worse, when you believe you “deserve” more?
At some point I mastered contentment and gratitude was the key. Gratefulness for others’ prosperity and happiness opened up gratitude for my own prosperity and happiness, eventually. And what’s more, that gratitude and contentment for what was, allowed me to approach my art again without fear, without clinging to any result, and without grasping for acknowledgement. It was enough to simply practice: write, sing, play.
And now many years later, that simple act of gratitude for what was has born the fruit of a life centered around these “gifts”—my music and my writing. Today I’m grateful that even in the depth of my depression and addiction, there was a part of me that recognized wisdom and clung to it: “A grateful heart never drinks.” And I’ve never had a drink since—and the fruit of gratitude has born a life rich in friends, laughter, and yes, even faith in the future.
Sat Purkh Kaur Khalsa is the author of Everyday Grace: The Art of Being a Woman and the artist of four sacred music albums: Nectar of the Name, Beautiful Day, Queen Be and Love & Other Miracles. She has a forthcoming album, One, which will be available in spring 2014 and her story of recovery will be available in the forthcoming title, Stepping Into Meditation: Kundalini Yoga and the Art of Recovering Your Life.