Joseph's Story - My girly gratitude journal

"Someone dear to me once described me as the most stubborn man they'd ever known."

Image with illustration of three butterflies

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.

I keep it simple. I put the date, make a list of what I am grateful for, and a list of affirmations.

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.

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