Gratitude & Recovery

Gratitude in Recovery
In November especially, it always seems that people take a little more time for gratitude in their lives. Every year we take stock around Thanksgiving of all the things and people we are grateful for. For those in recovery, gratitude must become a central part of life to help them with sobriety, not just during the holidays. Getting to this point in recovery is not an easy process, but when we have an attitude and behavior of gratitude; it can change our entire outlook on things.

Why Gratitude in Addiction Recovery?

It really comes down to the mindset of addicts. "I'm different," "Me vs. the world" or "Everyone is out to get me" are all common ways of selfish thinking when in the throes of addiction and using. It's actually a defense mechanism to protect our erratic behaviors. How does gratitude help this? It's the opposite of virtually all these behaviors. One gets to thinking less of self and more on the efforts of those trying to help. It develops humility and gratefulness. By cultivating this in addiction treatment and in recovery, we develop a better mindset overall and have a much more positive perspective on life. Gratitude is even backed by science studies. Those who practice gratitude are generally happier people.

One such study also revealed that grateful people are:
  • More Optimistic
  • Stronger at Dealing with Challenges
  • Have more Energy
  • More in Control of Their Lives
  • Think More Clearly
  • Experience less Stress
  • Live Longer

What are Some Ways to Develop this type of Gratitude?

Like most things in addiction recovery it will be a process. It will take time to heal the wounds of the past, in you and in others. It takes times to regain trust, or just to trust others in general. It will also take an effort to get out of the practice of negative thoughts of how we view ourselves. Here are three ways to start.
  1. Appreciate the Simple Things- How many times in your life has someone held the door open for you in a public place? How did it make you feel? Did you thank them? How do you think your 'thank you' made them feel? It is simple things like this that can help us to cultivate the right attitude for feeling grateful. There are simple joys in life that we need to be more mindful of every day. It will help us to put our lives and our recovery more in focus. Think about how good it is to laugh deeply, to be able to get out and experience the beauties of nature, or to hold a newborn baby. When we see every day as a blessing in our life, these simple things will become what are important to us. Even that act of kindness of someone holding open a door will have a deeper meaning.

  2. Be Grateful for Your Recovery- If we are grateful for being sober, it is more likely we will stay that way. We will focus more on being thankful for those that helped us and less on the negatives. It has to do with motivation. By being grateful we will continue to work toward our goals in recovery, attending meetings and being engaged with those that still struggle. It is when we take our sobriety for granted that we start getting into trouble. Each day is a gift and each day sober is a new chance to appreciate those things and people in our lives that bless us.

  3. Help Others- It is almost impossible to feel ingratitude when serving others. Service does take some level of humility and you will find that being humble is a strong foundation piece for cultivating gratitude in your life. For those new to recovery, service can be simple things like making the coffee or picking up the chairs after meetings. For those who are engaged in recovery it can be extending help to the still suffering alcoholic or addict with 12th step work. And still, with this type of attitude towards service you will find that it extends far beyond the walls of recovery to your home, your work and your community. The opportunities to serve are everywhere, especially this time of year during the holidays. You will find trough service a new appreciation for life, yourself and for others. You will find that it strengthens your resolve to stay clean and sober.

A Daily Mindful Effort

It can take a daily mindful effort to focus on gratitude, but you will find over time that such practices can just become part of your life. When you are continually grateful for your recovery it will begin to bless you in ways you never would have imagined.

What are some other ways to cultivate an 'attitude of gratitude' in your life? Here are some other daily routines that can help:
  • Record Your Gratitude Each Day in a Journal
  • Make a Gratitude List in the Morning
  • Meditation / Prayer
  • Show Gratitude to Others
  • Focus on the Good not the Bad
  • Ask others about what makes them Grateful
Are there other ways that you focus on gratitude in your home, community and recovery? We would love to hear them.