It’s the time of the year we hear expressions of gratitude. “This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for ______” “This holiday season, I’m grateful for _______” Fill in the blanks with family, friends, a roof over my head, a job, kids, grandkids, etc.
But are you one of over 20 million Americans who is grateful for sobriety?
If you’ve ever been in active addiction, you may have found yourself believing that you are different from everyone else – that no one could understand the problems or trauma you’ve faced; that treatment wouldn’t work for you because you’re not like anyone else there. And it’s likely true that you have faced multiple obstacles, hardships, and even traumas throughout your life – especially while actively using or drinking. However, believing that you have been wronged and the world has treated you cruelly only enhances any justification for destructive behaviors. You are not only more helpful to others if you choose to be thankful – but you’re also more helpful to yourself. Gratitude is essential to living a happy and healthy life: It promotes positive interaction, kindness, generous actions and behaviors. Gratitude is especially important in supporting alcohol and drug addiction recovery.
That being said, it isn’t always easy to muster up a genuine attitude of gratitude. However, there are steps that you can take in order to grow gratitude for this holiday season:
Activate Your Appreciation Sensors.
Thinking about what you’re thankful for isn’t just an item on your “to-do” list. It involves an entire movement in your mindset. Instead of just rattling off a few things that you are “supposed” to be grateful for – actually get focused on what you’re grateful for and why. It likely won’t come naturally, but it helps to set aside time out of each day to enter a quiet space. Instead of focusing on all of the pain and suffering in your life and all of the things that addiction hurt or took away – think about all of the doors that recovery has since opened: Do you now have a support team with friends or family members? Do you have the ability to work productively without being high? Open conversations – without lying or hiding? A healthier body? You now have fundamental skills that help you to live honestly and in a healthy way. You have been through so much – which has helped you to gain so much.
Embrace The Little Things.
“Good things come in small packages.” We’ve all heard the expression – because it’s true. Some of the most simple things can bring the greatest joys in life. Rather than dwelling on the bigger and better things – take the time to notice what makes each day great. We’re not entitled to anything in this life – and for that, we should appreciate the blessings that make each day worthwhile. Is it someone holding the door for you? Sharing a laugh with a friend? Noticing the sunset? Look for it, and you will find it.
Start a Journal.
Becoming aware of the little things that make life worth living is a great start. Now, keep track of them by taking a few moments to jot them down each day. Even if you don’t feel like they’re significant enough, and even if it feels awkward. This step will actually help you to focus on shifting your mindset towards positivity. While some days, you may feel overwhelmed with gratitude and your list may be long – other days, you may struggle to find gratitude. On the days that you struggle – focus on any people, places, experiences or even things that you wouldn’t want to live without. It’s okay to be thankful for recognizing that it was a difficult day – because you’ve learned how to deal with these kinds of days, substance-free. Keeping a journal will allow you to flip through the pages and recognize all of the positivity in your life.
Give It Away.
You’ve heard it said that in order to keep it, you have to give it away. This applies to gratitude. Staying grateful often entails giving to others and opportunity to be grateful, as well. Taking the focus off of yourself and helping others can, in turn, help you. Serving others generously without expecting any form of repayment can give you a feeling of reward far better than any drink or drug. Around the holidays, opportunities to give back and serve are especially prevalent: Taking toys to organizations like Toys for Tots or Salvation Army Angel tree, visiting a local nursing home, collecting nonperishable items for a local food bank, collecting coats and blankets for a nearby homeless shelter – and of course, working with other people
Generating gratitude is a process similar to recovery – it can be threatened by negativity, resentment, and self-pity. It’s easy to regress back into old patterns when things don’t go your way. When negativity starts to invade your mindset, gratitude can help you to grow stronger. Practice being thankful on a daily basis – and you will find peace and strength to keep moving forward.