How to Cultivate Gratitude in Recovery
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough” -Aesop
If you have ever been in the rooms of a recovery fellowship, it is probable that you have heard the term “grateful addict.” For many people, this statement can be confusing and possibly even provoke feelings of anger. How can anyone be grateful to have lost their freedom to a substance? How can someone be grateful to have almost lost everything, only to be left to struggle to rebuild their lives? After I heard this term used, I felt the need to dissect the definition of a grateful addict. What followed was a journey of self-discovery, gratitude, and acceptance that turned out to be the vital missing piece of my recovery.
Gratitude in recovery
While in early recovery, many addicts and alcoholics have a hard time accepting how their life began to unfold. However, one of the many blessings of recovery is that addicts receive the chance to completely turn their lives around, become successful individuals, and help other people in the process. Practicing gratitude can help to alleviate any remaining feelings of guilt or shame from the past events and traumas that we endured during active addiction.
Becoming grateful is a process as much as it is a learned behavior. Gratitude all boils down to the attitude and perspective that you view the events in your life with. If all you can see is the negative aspect of a situation, it will be impossible to find gratitude. Once you are able to look at seemingly negative situations through different angles, achieving an attitude of gratitude will be effortless. For example, let’s take a look at finding gratitude in recovery from addiction. The best way to look at it is to remember that not everyone is able to recover. Some addicts aren’t able to access the help they need in order to survive addiction. So, if you were one of the lucky ones, it is important to recognize that you were granted the opportunity at a new life.
How to become a grateful addict
Gratitude usually isn’t achieved overnight. For most people it takes constant practice and the redirection of emotions and perspectives. There are many exercises that you can incorporate into your daily life that will promote gratitude. The first step to creating an atmosphere of gratitude in your life is through your conversations and friendships. Your words and actions tend to reflect how you feel on the inside. When you are talking with a friend you could express to them how grateful you are for them and why. Beginning to open conversations of gratitude will help you to incorporate it into other areas of your life.
Gratitude exercises to practice:
- Gratitude Journal – Gratitude journals are a way to remind yourself of all of the things in your life you have to be grateful for. This is a simple way to begin to reinforce an attitude of thankfulness for the life you currently have.
- Call a loved one – You can call your loved ones and friends and express your gratitude to them. This will not only allow you to practice being grateful but also strengthen your relationships with your friends and family.
- Acts of kindness – When you perform random acts of kindness you are allowing yourself to experience other people’s gratitude for your actions. This will, in turn, make you grateful to be able to provide such feelings for others.
- Focus on the good things – Making the effort to focus on the good things in your life will allow you to become grateful for the life you have, rather than wishing your life was different. Most of us have these thoughts: “I wish I had what they had” or “I wish I looked how they do.” These thoughts can cause us to have a negative outlook on our lives, making gratitude and happiness difficult to achieve. Redirecting these thoughts into positive ones will promote gratitude, making your life better overall.
These aren’t the only ways to promote gratitude. There are many unique avenues and forms of gratitude practices that you can incorporate into your daily life. Talk to a friend in recovery or go online to find more gratitude practices that will work for you.
Mindfulness as it relates to gratitude
Mindfulness is the act of being aware of where you currently are – your current environment, mindset, and circumstance. In doing so, you will end the obsessions about the future and past that may circle around in your head like an unwanted pest. Mindfulness and gratitude coincide with each other. Mindfulness allows you to be content with where you are currently at, which is ultimately the goal of becoming a grateful addict.
We get sober to create lives that we are comfortable and content in and sometimes the journey can be turbulent. Mindfulness and gratitude allow us to be thankful for our hardships because without them we wouldn’t appreciate the good times as much.
Guest Writer Bio
Kailey Fitzgerald is a writer and outreach coordinator for Ohio Arc. She has found her life’s purpose through working to break stigmas in relation to addiction and mental illness.