My name is Joseph, and I live a life of recovery today. I used to be a very angry and fearful man.
Today I'm not. Perhaps two years ago, maybe longer, I received a book by mail call one night.
I was incarcerated and I still am.
I wasn't expecting any packages, so the mail was a bit of a surprise.
That book was my first gratitude journal.
I remember thinking "Yeah, whatever" along with "That's dumb".
The cover was sorta "girly". There was an abstract tree, almost tribal, with little hearts for leaves.
There was also a shadow of the tree and perhaps two birds. I remember that I liked the art of it.
I didn't use it for a while, not really sure how long. At this point in my life, I don't pay too much attention to time.
I had several silly reasons for not using it. It had religious quotes, I'm in prison, so no reason to be grateful, and at the time I was trying to forget the person who sent it.
None of those reasons was really the real truth. The real truth was that I'm a very stubborn person.
Someone dear to me once described me as the most stubborn man they'd ever known.
On top of being stubborn, I hadn't gotten into enough pain to become willing to change.
I did eventually, in small increments.
Change was a scary proposition for me, but I could no longer stand the pain of staying as I was.
I was in a recovery program, angry that I was there, but completely out of ideas of how I could "do it myself".
A couple of years prior to this I had seen someone dear to me when they were in recovery.
I wanted it then, but couldn't bring myself to ask. I eventually drove that person away with my anger and fear.
So now I'm in a recovery program in prison and I have this girly gratitude journal with religious quotes, sent to me by the person I drove away.
I keep hearing in the meetings words like serenity, peace, and GRATITUDE.
One day, something clicked in my head - "just write something in the book".
I started small, and I wasn't always consistent. Sometimes I felt dumb.
Other times my ego was bruised. After all, men don't write in girly gratitude journals, but I persisted.
I finally had the gift of desperation and wanted something different. Somewhere along the way, I stopped waking up angry.
I don't even know when it happened, it just did.
For a while, I still refused to read the religious quotes. I was mad that church didn't fix me, but I kept writing in the GGJ (girly gratitude journal).
One day I did read the scripture reference. The one I recall may not have been the first one I read, it could even have been my imagination, but afterward, I read all the others.
"Ask, and it will be given to you, seek and you will find: knock, and it will be opened to you".
You have to keep in mind that I was also going to weekly recovery meetings, and I was finally teachable. So I was trying new things.
I didn't use the GGJ at first, but I am a different person today because I eventually did.
Today I'm writing in my third gratitude journal, and I do so daily. This one is just a blank college rules tablet with no prompts.
Recently I've been writing on prompts from the Gratitude app.
I wake up with music in my head, more often than not, and joy in my heart.
Nothing has really changed for me environmentally. I am still incarcerated. As a matter of fact, I was denied parole again this past October.
What has changed is the fact that TODAY I have gratitude in my daily life.
I've learned that happiness is a choice, regardless of circumstance. I can wake up with attitude, or I can wake up with gratitude.
These days I choose gratitude, and I'm better for it.
Not only do I benefit from my choice, but also those I come in contact with.
Gratitude is contagious. That GGJ was a special gift that someone gave it. It has changed my life. Thank you.