Finding Gratitude in the Everyday
Do you have an attitude of gratitude? Often this is a phrase that’s repeated in 12-step meetings, but it’s not always clear what it means.
So let’s look at it this way: When you were using drug and alcohol, what were you grateful for?
Sometimes it meant getting enough of your drug or alcohol to get by for the day; I’m betting. But even when you were using you were human. No matter what your circumstances were, you probably had your fair share of fears, such as getting arrested when buying drugs or going to a sketchy neighborhood at night. When your worries didn’t come true, you breathed a little sigh of relief. You probably even momentarily experienced gratitude when the bad thing you feared didn’t take place.
That’s what gratitude feels like. When you're using, it goes away when you've gotten what you want. But when you’re clean, you get to have more to be grateful for, and that’s a blessing.
Why Be Grateful?
You may think gratitude also has something to do with what you have (own) or don’t have (don’t own). But this isn’t true at all. Both poor and rich people experience gratitude in the same way, and often it comes in the form of things you can’t buy. When you ask somebody what they are grateful for, they may tell you it’s their new daughter or their health. For example, you may be a billionaire, but you can’t buy the cure to cancer. The same goes true for peace of mind and sobriety. There are a lot of things that money can’t buy, and that’s true for happiness, health, abilities, and love. The time you can spend with others is something a lot of people become grateful for once they are clean.
Being grateful for material things has a place in recovery, too. For example, maybe you had trouble affording stuff like a nice dinner out or a new car when you were using. When you can afford something special for yourself or others, it feels good.
Discovering Gratitude Through Listing
Let’s face it; a lot of people get clean and aren’t automatically grateful, especially when uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal or thoughts of troubles invade their life. If you’re feeling depressed, fearful, or alone, it’s hard to be grateful.
Most people in recovery have to re-discover gratitude, and that’s okay.
Start by keeping a gratitude list. Every day, pick five things you are grateful for and try to mention something different each day. If the best thing about your day was a peach cobbler, then list it! If the best things about your day was some inspirational sharing at a 12-step meeting, write that down. Less anxiety, meals, a kind word from a stranger, a cheap Uber fare, a new pair of jeans, and a day off from work are a few you would find among my list of things I’m grateful for.
At the end of a week, you’ll find you have 35 things you’re grateful! If you realize your attitude has become one of gratitude, it’s working! Some people choose to keep a gratitude list year-round so they can reflect on the ways they’ve grown.
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