Gratitude and Resentment

[fa icon="calendar"] Dec 5, 2019 8:00:00 AM / by John MacDougall

Thank You written on rural road

            In the early 1970’s I drove a taxi in New York City. The fare meters were mechanical, not electronic. They were driven by two moving cables. One cable measured time, and the other measured distance. Whichever cable moved faster drove the fare. If the cab was stuck in traffic, the fare still went up, driven by the “waiting time”. If the cab was moving briskly, the meter went up, pushed along by the distance driven. That image comes to mind when I think of gratitude and resentment.

            It is as if I have two cables constantly running in my mind, a gratitude cable and a resentment cable. It would be nice, in theory, to have no resentment cable, but I have never met a person who doesn’t have one. My resentment cable runs through the part of the brain where my alcoholism and addiction live, the mid-brain. My alcoholism and addiction want to give a lot of power to this cable, finding opportunities for resentment in anything and everything.

            I have a great job at The Retreat, in Wayzata Minnesota, but I live in Saint Paul, and my “resentment cable” resents having to drive 20.5 miles in 45 minutes to an hour each way through heavy traffic that is even more miserable when there is snow or ice.

            It’s only November, and my “resentment cable” resents the fact that I’ve had my persistent combination of bronchitis and asthma that I sometimes get in the winter for three weeks already, and winter has only begun.

            I’m 70.5 years old, and my “resentment cable” resents the fact that I wasted 30 years of my life drinking and drugging every single hour of the day. I’d like a refund on those years. I feel as though I wasted the best years of my life.

            I’m subject to daily migraine headaches and my “resentment cable” resents the fact that I have to take a monthly shot to treat them, and the insurance co-pay is $251 a month. Not only that, but in January I have to begin the year with a $1,400 co-pay that I have to make before I even get to the point where they pay anything at all towards my medical care.

            God gave me a gratitude cable, as well. A.A. has taught me to nurture and pay attention to the “gratitude cable”, and to try to see that it is always moving faster than the resentment cable. The gratitude cable moves through the limbic system of the brain, which is the home of spirituality, beauty, loyalty, and love.

            The gratitude cable reminds me that I love my job at the Retreat. I love the staff and the guests, too. I have an all-wheel drive Lexus that is safe and effective for driving on snow and ice.

            The gratitude cable reminds me that I have a home that is warm and dry, and that I’m treating my bronchitis and asthma with sleep and fluids, and so far it is not getting worse.

            The gratitude cable reminds me that I have lived 70.5 years. I have outlived my first wife and two A.A. sponsors. I have no life threatening illnesses, and am healthy enough to work, play, and travel.

            The gratitude cable reminds me that, although I had an untreatable migraine headache every day for 64 years, that ended in June of 2018 when these shots were invented. I am down to 5 or 6 moderate headaches a month instead of a severe headache every single day, and I have the money to pay the insurance co-pays.

            I believe that if we have a ratio of three to one or better, gratitude to resentment, we will probably stay sober. If that ratio drops near 50/50, we are in danger. Please run a “gratitude check” on yourself and see how you are doing today!


John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat

He is speaking at The Breakfast Club Thursday morning, December 19th.

Click here to request a brochure   

Topics: Alcoholics Anonymous, Recovery, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, Older Adult Recovery Programs

John MacDougall

Written by John MacDougall

John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat.
His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from

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