The days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday are a time of gratitude and thanks. Although there is never a ‘right’ time to be thankful, November is a prime time for this. Dubbed ‘Gratitude Month,’ November is a time for slowing down, spending time with family and appreciating the simple things in life. It’s important to take time out to be grateful because this is what leads to more happiness and satisfaction. Gratefulness is not based on the things that we have or don’t have – it’s a state of mind.
For anyone who has ever been through an addiction recovery program, the topic of gratitude is a familiar one. Addiction breaks down a person and can strip them of everything – their job, their kids, their marriage, their home and their dignity. When an addict enters treatment, it can feel almost impossible to be grateful. Yet through the process of getting clean, working through counseling and learning life skills, addicts are able to remove themselves from this negative thinking.
Unfortunately, this way of thinking does not come easy, at least at first. Addicts have a tendency to feel wronged or different from everyone else. While they do face obstacles that others do not, there is no benefit in keeping this harmful thinking. Addicts can only be of help to themselves if they step up to the plate, take responsibility for their behavior and work actively to change their reaction to life’s circumstances. It’s the attitude we bring to life that matters most, not what happens in it.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to find true gratefulness in your heart. There is no better time to do this than now, Gratitude Month.
Change Your Mindset
Since gratitude doesn’t come naturally in the beginning, you will need to take time out each day to reflect on the things you are thankful for. Allow a few minutes of quiet time each day since it’s hard to connect with yourself in a distracting environment.
Rather than dwelling on the things that your addiction has taken away, use this opportunity to think about the people who have stuck by you and the wonderful changes that await you. Some people don’t even have the freedom to get out of bed on their own, go to work or meet new people. You have more than you’re aware of.
Find Happiness in Simple Things
There are no guarantees in life. That’s why you learn in addiction treatment to take things one day at a time. Sure, you can work hard in your recovery to give yourself a brighter, happier and healthier future, but you must live for today.
Instead of focusing your attention on bigger, better things, stop and take a moment to think about what’s in your life today. Addicts have a way of feeling sorry for themselves, but when you feel that you are not entitled to anything, you will experience more joy in the simple things, whether it’s a laugh with a friend or a beautiful sunset off the lake.
Start a Gratitude Log
You may have seen people sharing what they are grateful on Facebook for Gratitude Month. Start a similar trend by writing down the things you appreciate in your own journal. It can feel awkward at first, and you may not even feel thankful for some of the things that are in your life, but it’s important to acknowledge everything. You’ll see that each day, you can find two or three people, places or things that matter in your life.
Do Good for Others
When you help others, you take away attention from your own problems and begin to experience the joy of helping others, which is a far greater feeling than any drug can give. Nonprofit organizations, homeless shelters, shelters for abused women and children, food pantries and animal shelters are among the many places that rely on the selflessness of their volunteers. Find something that you are passionate about – there are plenty of opportunities over the holiday season.
As you go further in your recovery, you’ll find that helping others will be part of your coping strategy. By being a positive person in the world and finding your purpose, you break the cycle of self-pity, resentment and negativity that can easily lead to relapse. This is the point where many recovering addicts connect with a Higher Power.
With awareness and effort, you can cultivate gratitude and apply it to your life. You are human, and recovery is a long journey with ups and downs. Some days you may feel more grateful than others, and this is okay. The more you work at it, the easier gratitude will come and the easier it will be to lead a life of sobriety.