An attitude of gratitude is a powerful way to ensure lasting and fulfilling recovery. No one has ever heard a recovering alcoholic or addict say, “I’m feeling so grateful for the wonderful things in my life, I think I’ll go get loaded.” It seems that gratitude and a desire to change the way we feel are incompatible and perhaps mutually exclusive.
This is a good thing, because gratitude can be cultivated. Even though it’s easy to fall into a state of discontent (Why didn’t I get that raise? She should treat me better. My car/house/spouse isn’t as nice as I deserve), or even just the “blahs” (Nothing is inspiring or interesting, what’s the use anyway?), it’s always easy to refocus on the positive, and writing a gratitude list is a great tool for refocusing.
An attitude of gratitude affects our perception
A “cup-half-empty” consciousness makes things look essentially unsatisfactory—our needs and wants aren’t being appropriately met. From here, it’s easy to fall into fear and resentment. A “cup-half-full” consciousness emphasizes the positive. This doesn’t mean that we say I’m so grateful for this job, I don’t need a better position. It’s perfectly consistent with an attitude of gratitude to want to excel, move forward and upward, and to prosper. But the positive outlook is more likely to open our imaginations to opportunities. Gratitude is actually a better motivator than dissatisfaction, which, with its attendant baggage of frustration and resentment, is an energy-drain.
Furthermore, gratitude tends to be part of a constellation of recovery-oriented attitudes or traits, including honesty, willingness to be of service, acceptance of things we can’t change, and intuitive problem-solving. Conversely, lack of gratitude tends to cluster with sobriety-threatening things like self-seeking, self-pity, and generally negative feelings, all of which can contribute to a relapse.
A simple tool like a gratitude list can be of tremendous benefit and is easy to use. Simply jot down a list of things that you value: sobriety, fellowship, friendship, family, health, and so on. If you’re feeling challenged in any of those areas, look for the most positive aspects and affirm gratitude at least for them. Consider also the things you are grateful for in their absence: blackouts, cravings, jail, isolation, DUIs, and the desperate condition of alcoholism or drug addiction.