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Recovery & The attitude of gratitude

In active addiction, life feels dark and bleak. Hours blur into days, and days blur into months. People represent obstacles, rather than connections. Life exists with a perpetual, hovering gray cloud. It’s not even about looking with a glass half-empty perspective. The glass itself isn’t even there.

Gratitude isn’t a destination. There’s no overarching moment, no pinnacle of life that just creates an ongoing flood of continuous happiness and contentment. No, gratitude is far more subtle than that. It’s a path, a continuous one, without a set ending nor a set direction.

Gratitude is a choice, and it can be a difficult one, but I’ve never worked with someone who felt depressed or anxious as a result of being too grateful. I have, however, worked with plenty of individuals who have lacked gratitude in their lives—and have suffered dramatically as a result.

For many, in a world full of hardship and trauma, gratitude is not inherent.  It may be felt at heightened moments, when feeling loved or when something really exciting happens. Of course, the natural feeling of gratitude feels wonderful and has its necessary place. But, it’s infinitely more important to practice gratitude when none of that is happening, when things aren’t going the right way, when the stars just aren’t aligned, when it doesn’t come easily. 

That’s the difference between having a half-empty glass, half-full glass, and no glass at all. 

When the chips fall in ways we want, it’s easy to be happy. Easy to be thankful. Easy to even take it for granted. And we all do this. Every single one of us. We take blessings for granted. Over time, we become desensitized to them, as they just become a part of our ordinary existence. 

But, when the chips are down, can you still feel appreciative for what is working? For what can be done? For what potential does exist?

Unlocking this gratitude unlocks unbelievable serenity. It unlocks hope, and it unlocks opportunity. When we have a limitless and endless supply of gratitude, life flows in positive and uplifting directions. We feel less trapped into our emotions and behaviors. We feel more motivated and inspired. The world just feels better.

In my addiction work with clients, I focus extensively on gratitude. On why it’s important and how it can be unleashed. On why it’s essential for not only a healthy recovery, but an entirely healthy and whole life. 

If you think I’m crazy, try it. Try it for one month. See what happens. See how focusing on gratitude influences your self-esteem, your relationships with others, and your overall outlook on life. Research backs it, most spirituality and religion backs it, and therapy also backs it. Gratitude, for most of us, is the answer we need to many of life’s circumstances. 

Gratitude can be as simple as writing down three things that went well everyday or as extensive as hours of meditation. It can be acknowledgment of thanks to someone who helped you or internal recognition for appreciation. Written, verbal, stated or unstated, how it’s done doesn’t matter nearly as much as the consistency does. 

Everyday presents us with tiny miracles if our eyes and hearts are open to them. Even the painful moments, those heart-wrenching experiences and difficult lessons, provide us with gifts as well, whether it be tests of patience, acceptance, or simply resilience.

Recovery is a working existence of gratitude. By all means, it is sacred and worth cherishing and preserving with love and compassion. Yes, it will be hard, and yes, it will hurt. But, once you lose the gratitude for it, you risk losing the memories of how difficult addiction was and how difficult life felt. You risk losing the original pain and desperation that brought you to this journey, that made you take those first few steps into a new way of living.

So, be with the moment right now. Be with the gratitude for whatever is in your life, was in your life, or will be in your life. Be with it, all of it, and enjoy it as much as you are able to for as long as your able to. And, then repeat this process. Over and over again.