There are many detrimental patterns of thought that we would do best to change, or discard entirely. Things like self-pity, frustration, impatience… all of these things can weigh us down and prevent us from really enjoying life to its full potential. When active in addiction or struggling with some degree of substance use disorder, managing uncomfortable and damaging thought patterns and emotions is even more difficult. We might feel as if the world is out to get us, or as if we have it worse off than anyone else on the planet. We might find ourselves stuck in a vicious cycle of “why me” and “what did I do to deserve this?” The truth is, everyone thinks negatively from time-to-time. But when these thoughts start to run our lives, we’re in serious trouble.
Gratitude and Addiction Recovery
When we enter into recovery, we are taught to start focusing on the positive rather than the negative; the good over the bad. Because the disease of addiction strips so much from its sufferers, self-pity is almost unavoidable. Addiction causes harm to our relationships, it causes us to lose things we held near and dear. We might find ourselves broke and homeless and completely alone before we decide to seek professional help. Once we do seek professional help, however, things will begin to change. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but if we put any amount of effort into our recovery, they will inevitably change for the better. Instead of focusing on the things we have lost, we will start to notice all of the things we are gaining. Instead of cursing the world for being cold and unfair, we will start taking responsibility for our own actions. One of the most important shifts we’ll have to make is from self-pity to gratitude.
What is Gratitude?
According to a report published by Harvard Health Publishing of Harvard Medical School, gratitude is a positive change in thinking that can lead to authentic, lasting happiness. “The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness,” the report reads. “In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.” So, we develop gratitude and it helps us connect to the world around us. In this day and age, however – with the current state of things and the additional trials and tribulations that everyone seems to be facing – it is easy to lose sight of gratitude. How do we stay grateful in the midst of these tumultuous times? Here are 10 random things to be grateful for – of course, do what you can to compile your own, personalized list! Try writing down five things every day (no matter how random), and you’ll start to feel better in no time.
- A bed to sleep in. Maybe your mattress is a little worn out, maybe you need a new comforter… but chances are, you have somewhere to lie your head at night. Remember that not everyone has this luxury.
- Friends to talk to. Even if you aren’t able to see your friends in person, we have all of the technology we need to access anyone at any time. All we need to do is give them a call or start a video chat – technological advancements have made staying connected extremely simple. Imagine if we were still living back in the day, and we had to send each other postcards – or letters via carrier pigeon. Thank goodness for modern technology, that’s definitely something to be grateful for!
- Pizza. Not just pizza, but dietary restriction-friendly pizza. Sound crazy? Think about it. It used to be impossible for someone with a gluten or dairy allergy to enjoy a delicious, fresh-from-the-oven pie. Nowadays, most restaurants cater to dietary restrictions in a way they never did before. Cauliflower crust, vegan cheese… it might seem a little “out there,” but I thank my lucky stars every single day for gluten-free pizza.
- The ability to learn from past mistakes. Those who are active in their addictions have a hard time learning from mistakes of the past, because they compulsively repeat them with very little choice in the matter. In recovery, learning from past mistakes is almost second nature. You will start to accept your humanness and go easy on yourself when necessary (without becoming complacent). It’s a beautiful thing.
- Clean clothing. Things as small as having clean clothing to put on after a shower can sometimes escape us. It’s important to recognize that the little luxuries we often take for granted are not awarded to everyone.
- House plants. Maybe outdoor plants, depending on your current set-up. These times are undeniably trying, but they have allowed many of us to pick up new hobbies, such as gardening or interior decorating. Maybe we’ve had a little extra free time to catch up on a book we’ve been wanting to finish or binge a new television show. While the slow-down can be scary, if we think of creative and productive ways to fill our time we’ll likely find that the temporary delay of things is actually a blessing in disguise.
- Connection with a higher power. There are some things that cannot be easily broken based on your current circumstances, and spirituality is one of them. If you develop a strong spiritual connection and focus on further building and fostering that in times of need, you will find that faith is able to carry you through most uncomfortable situations. Do you have faith that everything will be okay in the end? If the answer is no, take this time to practice prayer and meditation, and further develop your sense of spiritual connection.
- Curtains and blinds. Can you imagine a life without privacy? Everyone who walked by your apartment or house could peek inside whenever they liked? If you are having trouble coming up with things to be grateful for, take a look around your room. Chances are you will be able to come up with 10 things you would have never otherwise considered within the next five minutes.
- Comfort food. If you’re feeling down and you’ve already reached out to a friend and been to a meeting (virtual, of course), you can always reach for a big bowl of mac and cheese or mashed potatoes. Comfort food – regardless of what that means to you – is always something to be grateful for.
- Your recovery. Are you still sober? Good! That’s amazing. Are you considering getting sober? That’s just as amazing! Take this time to bolster your recovery or make some moves as far as your future recovery goes. Research options as far as medical detox and inpatient rehab go – and please feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have.