By Emily Gammel
“If you aren’t content with what you have be thankful for what you have escaped. ” -unknown
This is a quote that I love. I have posted this as my Facebook status for numerous years on or around Thanksgiving.
The first time I read this, it felt very powerful to me. I was having a difficult time being grateful. The first Thanksgiving I was clean, I remember feeling annoyed as I scrolled through my friend’s and family’s statuses on social media sites that were full of gratitude lists.
I even owned a magnet that said “my gratitude list is full of lies.” That was displayed on my refrigerator. It was sarcasm of course, but it truly reflected how I felt in those moments.
I decided to bring this topic up primarily since the holidays are approaching and this remains the most difficult time of the years for people in active addiction and people in recovery. I also know from my own experience just how difficult it is to find gratitude in early recovery.
Gratefulness is preached a lot in AA and NA, which makes perfect logic . As addicts our thinking process is defective in many aspects, and the last thing our disease wants us to observe is how fortunate we are. Consequently we remain in state of resentment anger and also worthlessness of anything good in our lives. This makes a perfect recipe for relapse.
When I heard this quote, as ridiculous as it may sound, it gave me a very different perspective to look towards gratitude with. It almost sounds too simple, but for some reason I was able to shift my feelings and my thoughts about gratitude. I remember saying to myself “yes my life sucks right now, but there are some painful things I was spared from experiencing that others haven’t been so fortunate.” Just making a list of what negatives I hadn’t experienced helped me understand where my gratitude lied. The most important one was death. I was alive.
I was an addict who was lucky enough to make it into recovery unscathed from so many consequences others have fallen victim to.
For myself early recovery proved to be the toughest stage of addiction, in regards to my gratefulness. While I was using and in active addiction I was in a constant state of selfishness like many addicts. No one is capable of true gratitude in this state of mind. I’m sure the only thing I found myself to be grateful for was when my dealer showed up on time .
Later on in recovery, gratitude has come much easier for many recovering addicts and alcoholics, this is simply because we have already reaped the benefits of staying clean and sober. The longer we go without picking up a drug and a drink, the more we regain things we find important in our lives.
For myself, I can recall the pivotal moment when I had too much to lose, if I were to relapse. Instead of feeling the common “I have nothing more to lose.” Rationale that we addicts throw around to justify picking our drug of choice back up, I had finally acquired things and relationships that I didn’t want to throw away.
Early recovery however, is when we come to the realization of what our addiction has taken from us. It hits us with a harsh reality of the relationships we have destroyed or damaged . Also, we find ourselves in financial perils given our expensive habits. We are left to face problems with the law, and also ailments within our health as we neglect both while drinking or using.
All of these repercussions are hard to take in all at once, and we find ourselves on emotional roller coaster, because we are no longer numbing these thoughts and feelings when we put down the drugs.
When I first got clean I could think of nothing to be grateful about, I growled every time I heard the words. I rolled my eyes, and mocked others.
Slowly, and I mean real slowly, I started building a new foundation in recovery. I couldn’t find massive successes, but it started with little ones.
The first thing I could truly feel grateful for was when the obsession to use lifted, it was over a month into recovery but I remember feeling such a relief. Another small but great one was the ability to laugh again. I don’t know about other addicts but, this is always such a great milestone for myself in early recovery. It was something that feels so good, that I had forgotten in the midst of despair and addiction.
I guess what I’m trying to express that sometimes it’s the littlest things that we start to gain back. There is always something, even if we can’t see it at the time. Just being able to acknowledge this, is a big deal. Keep holding on and know that the benefits will soon manifest.
If this fails, like it did for me try to think about situations and things you have escaped, for some reason, you have survived and there is nothing more valuable than this.
Today I’m grateful for the ability to see things for what they are.
I used to think that I had to feel overwhelming gratitude in all that I had, but I didn’t have to because sometimes being grateful lied in things I didn’t have.