This is an article by a guest author.
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns,
or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
– Jean-Baptise Alphonse Karr, French novelist and author of “A Tour Round My Garden”
My Mom taught me to be grateful, to always say “Please” and “Thank You” when I should, and to be kind when I could be – just to be a polite, little boy. “Manners maketh the Man” she always used to remind me, like some gregarious preacher from the pulpit, peering down through her reading glasses upon her young congregation of one. Needless to say, the older neighbors in our street thought I was an absolute angel. Well, at first, they did.
If only they knew back then what they later learned when I was about 14 years old – out in the street at all hours, smoking dope, drinking the hard stuff, hanging around with those “boys” from the social housing downtown. My days of being angelic were few and far between from then on.
Years later, when my peers from the neighborhood were graduating from their respective high schools, I was graduating from dope to cocaine, from getting drunk at the weekend to getting drunk by 10am every day, and from shoplifting to unarmed second-degree robbery. I only got caught once, and because it was a friend of my Dad’s, the police charges were later dropped. My Dad (I guess you could call him an angel) paid the guy off – big-time.
No more polite, little boy, and certainly no angel.
Fast-forward just a couple of years, and, fresh from the wake-up call of 4 days in jail for insulting a cop (pretty sure my Dad arranged that little vacation – that guy has too many friends), I collapsed in the street. No drugs, no booze, no nothing – for 4 days. My body couldn’t take the withdrawal. Somehow, passers-by got the local beat cop, and he got me to the ER.
After I left the hospital, now fully detoxed from the substances I first began using as a teen, I went straight into a Phoenix rehabilitation center, where I stayed for a few months. I have never met those passers-by, but they saved my life. They saved me. Am I grateful? You bet. 100% – I couldn’t be more grateful for anything in my life. Rehab taught me once again about gratitude, a lesson that got entirely lost as I got lost in my addiction.
Fast-forward again. That was over 8 years ago now. I’ve been clean, sober and grateful ever since. I intend on staying that way too. Look in any dictionary, and you’ll see that gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
Here are your “4 Reasons Why Gratitude is Essential in Addiction Recovery”.
1. Gratitude and Positive Thinking
Gratitude, feeling and expressing it, goes a long way in learning to be appreciative for the good in your life, particularly when you’re fresh out of rehab and wondering what the future holds for you now. Be grateful for your sobriety and what you have now. This gratitude is essential if you wish to live a happier life, as all newly-sober people wish as they begin recovery.
Being grateful automatically leads to positive thinking, which will greatly improve a person’s mental and physical wellbeing and general health. It provides the energy and the confidence to work harder to do the things that will improve their life – exercise, nutrition, education, and so on.
The opposite to positive thinking is called “stinking thinking.” You may well have heard this phrase at AA or NA meetings or those online. Recovering addicts and alcoholics are prone to this stinking thinking during recovery. Be warned – it can trigger a relapse. You can avoid thinking this way by being grateful every day for your sobriety, your health, even your life.
2. Less Stress, Less Depression
Grateful people with a positive outlook experience less stress in their lives. Unlike addicts, they do not go looking for problems, and react negatively when they find them. In other words, grateful people do not automatically assume the worst.
Stress is a major relapse trigger. If you don’t deal with it well, chances are you’ll deal with it badly, like using or drinking again. Stress can also contribute to physical and mental illness, and ill people don’t do well in addiction recovery.
A major cause of stress is unnecessary conflict. By being grateful for what you have, you are far less likely to create any conflict in the first place. It is those who are unhappy, negative and ungrateful that end up in regular interpersonal conflicts.
Lastly, being grateful and having that positive way of looking at things means you’re less likely to be depressed with your life, what’s happening and what you have, and will experience less depression – another trigger to relapse.
3. The Needs of Others
Addicts are selfish people. I know I was. Selfish, self-centred, and self-absorbed. As addicts, way too much time is spent thinking of your needs, and your needs alone. However, that selfishness and self-absorption is not what you need when in recovery. In fact, it’s one of the very last things you need.
That’s where gratitude comes in again. When people feel grateful for what they have, they have less reason to be selfish and self-indulgent. With their own needs met, grateful people start to think about others, and what others might need.
If there’s one proactive endeavor you can undertake while in recovery it’s this – volunteering. It doesn’t matter if you’re helping a local charity or the local pet adoption center, putting the needs of others before your own helps to stop thinking about your previous substance abuse, and to see yourself in a more positive light.
Volunteering takes a certain humility, and being humble is the perfect way to approach addiction recovery. It strengthens your will and your resolve to stay clean and sober.
4. Gratitude: A Growing Attitude
Last reason (though there are plenty more, to be honest). Being grateful, when practiced, grows and matures into a new and positive outlook on life. Here’s the best way I have found of how you can grow your grateful attitude – by putting pen to paper, and by keeping a journal.
Every day, write about what you have to be grateful for – “Another day clean and sober!” is always great to see in your own handwriting. Think of the things that made you smile during the day, and write them down. List all the positives you found during the day too. When bad days come around (and they will), your journal is a great thing to hold in your hand – to remind yourself it’s just one bad day. Read back what you’ve written.
Addiction recovery is no easy road. Learning to be grateful for what you have – right now, today – makes that road just a little bit easier to journey down. Good luck, and be grateful.