Finding Gratitude in Addiction Recovery

Many times, addicts are led to drug and alcohol abuse from continual feelings of hopelessness and depression. A tragedy may have happened in their life to lead them into this train of thought, or they may have troubling relationships, or they may just not feel good enough. And being in the snares of addiction can wear at someone’s self-worth and sense of hope, further digging them into the hole of despair.

Building gratitude can help them dig their way out as they move toward recovery. First, some bad thought processes and behaviors have to be changed. Then the addict can more fully begin to gain and express gratitude.

Unlearn Bad Habits

For addicts, it is difficult to focus on gratitude because of the mental blocks that are common in addiction. Many addicts feel isolated and alone because well-meaning family and friends just don’t know how to interact with someone who is perpetuating destructive behavior with disregard to the negative consequences. The addict will welcome this isolation, as he doesn’t receive any more questions or nagging about his substance use. Addicts also feel a weakened sense of societal behaviors and norms, and thus feel uncomfortable in a crowd or group setting. They lose the ability to socialize normally with others.

These awkward social encounters are brought about by the addict’s sole all-consuming mission: finding the next high. His brain and rational thought are essentially hijacked by out-of-whack chemicals unbalanced by drug use. The brain demands to have the euphoric high it previously felt, felt again, and again, and again. While this part takes more physiological healing, the others can be healed more through emotional recovery.

In order to help an addict, you need to know how addict’s think.  Check out this resource to learn more. As suggested, as the addict progresses toward sobriety, help him learn not to isolate himself and help him to rebuild relationships, perhaps even your relationships with him. Family counseling is perfectly appropriate in this situation as the addiction has deeply affected not just the addict, but also his loved ones.

This move toward social interaction can significantly help the success of the recovery, and so can gratitude. Once the addict is moving toward recovery, he can gain a better perspective on what to be grateful for.

Gain Gratitude

Gaining gratitude for healthy parts of life can be a catalyst for change in the addict. He will begin to experience true and wholesome happiness again through a grateful attitude, away from the artificial and dangerous rush of ecstasy felt by his drug of choice.

An addict may not feel like he has a lot to be grateful for, as his life may still be in shambles due to his addiction. But, he can be grateful for the small steps of picking up the pieces and restoring order.

What is very beneficial for a recovering addict to do to develop a knack for grateful and positive thinking is to keep a grateful journal, where he lists everything he is grateful for each day. He can write down small, seemingly inconsequential things like, “the sun is shining” or “I have food to eat” or “I have a bed to sleep in.”

He can also be grateful for his recovery, as it is giving him a future. Alcohol Rehab explains the importance of a grateful mind in recovery: “A grateful attitude will mean that people can face the challenges that confront them in recovery calmly. They will tend to see problems as a chance to grow rather than some type of [hardship]. This positive way of dealing with things will lead them towards the ultimate goal of recovery, that is, complete serenity.” Indeed, peace is the highest goal for recovery and a grateful heart leads there.

Express Gratitude

Once the addict learns to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, this gratefulness needs to be expressed in order to rebuild healthy relationships. The addict should express gratitude first and foremost to his supportive family and friends who have helped him throughout the recovery process. Showing gratitude to these selfless, and often emotionally exhausted, individuals will help form stronger bonds and help the loved ones to feel appreciated.

The addict should also find self-worth again, or build it if it never existed in the first place. With self-worth comes self-love and gratitude for oneself. This gratitude should be expressed in the addict saying positive things about himself. Help the addict by asking him to say three things he loves about himself every time you see him. He may roll his eyes at first, but you both will see the positive effects it has on his demeanor and sense of self-gratitude.

With these steps, the recovering addict is on his way to full healing and a happy, peaceful state of mind.

Taming the Beast with 12-steps

I had a long discussion with my sponsee last night. She had expressed that after a recent relapse, she thinks she may never “get” our 12 Step program.  I once was as hopeless and remember that feeling well, so I told her this:

I have a beast inhabiting me. It is a living and breathing entity and this beast wants me dead.

Before I found a 12 Step program I did not know how much I was nurturing this beast.

When I stopped drinking without a program I only had “arrested” this beast. I hand cuffed it and put it in the back seat of my car.

Of course this beast escaped as it is so powerful and knows me so well. It lives inside me after all.

Once I entered a 12 Step program I acquired the skills, tools, and weapons to incarcerate and contain my beast. I built a prison for it to sit in. If I could wipe the beast out completely I would, but I don’t have those tools. Yet.

When my beast starts to speak I silence it by starving it not only of alcohol, but from the negative thoughts that the beast will use to manipulate me into helping it escape from its cell, overtake my life, and then finally end it.

Some days I have compassion for this beast and I find myself indulging it with my negative thoughts. When I catch myself talking to it I take my tools and my higher-power and I get back to work on maintaining its prison.

I “get” this program so well because I know how this beast operates now. I have learned how to arrest and contain it because I followed a program of action, sought out advice from many others in the fellowship who have successfully contained their beasts.

I know not everyone wants to be part of a 12 Step Program. I was that way for many years. That beast was a master at convincing me a program wasn’t for me.

So if you are on the fence about trying a program, think about what your beast wants you to do.

I hope this doesn’t offend anyone, I know from experience the beast can be can tamed. My thoughts are geared toward the people who are in active use or chronically relapsing and are considering AA or other programs.

Treat yourself like a Toddler

“Treat yourself like a toddler” Overheard at the tables last night and it gave me that slow opening ‘ah ha’ moment. Why are we so hard on ourselves in recovery? Often times our #1 resentment or critic is ourselves… Day 5 or day 500. 😕  Would I carry these same thoughts towards Toddler LF?

So I’m going to try something different today, treat myself like a Toddler. Talk about my alcoholic self in the 3rd person, give her a bit better care and understanding…

  • “LF gets cranky when she’s over-tired. We really need to stick to the usual bedtimes.” – Perhaps I should stop the Netflix binges after 8pm…
  • “LF shouldn’t wear those cute boots for work, they will get too tight after a few hours and her feet will hurt” – okay, I will wear something more comfortable, yet fashionable.
  • “LF doesn’t need to eat donuts in the morning, too much sugar – will make her tired and cranky later” – let’s by-pass the coffee shop at the train station this morning.
  • “LF needs some quiet time each day.” – perhaps a little bedtime story is in order tonight.  🙂

The fact for me is, if you’re dealing with a toddler, you have to plan. You have to think ahead about eating, sleeping, proper winter clothes, necessary equipment, a limit on sweets, etc. Because with a toddler, the consequences can be very unpleasant. In the same way, to be good-humored and well-behaved person in recovery, I need to make sure I have my coffee, my cell-phone charger, healthy snack choices, and my eight hours of sleep.  😆

What type of things would you say to your ‘toddler’ self to guide in the right direction for your recovery journey?

Holiday Parties: 5 Tips to Stay Safe and Sober 

  • Be Prepared to Turn Down a Drink – It’s common to be offered a drink at a party, so be prepared to turn one down. An effective way to avoid an awkward line of questioning is to claim an allergy to alcohol. Addicts and alcoholics have an abnormal reaction to alcohol and in this sense we are indeed “allergic” to it!
  • Hold a Non-alcoholic Drink – Keeping a non-alcoholic drink in-hand will ward off potential offers of a drink. People will likely assume anything that isn’t water is alcohol.
  • Use the Buddy System – When attending a party, it helps to buddy up with someone who is available to talk. That individual can also be in attendance or connected by phone. For those with a designated support system – such as a sponsor for those in AA – plan to check in both before and after the event.
  • Reach Out to Others – Support networks are extremely useful during the holidays, so be sure to use them. Reach out to sober friends and supporters, even if you’re not in trouble. It’s important to stay plugged in, especially during this time. The Sober Grid community is a great place to connect with others with similar experiences.
  • Take a Break – Maintaining sobriety is more important than any party. Don’t be afraid to step outside, or even leave if necessary.
  • Travel Smart –  If traveling, plan out support group meetings – AA, NA a local Alano Club or other 12-step fellowships- in advance. You can visit a 12-step fellowship or local district website, or use addiction.com/meeting-finder/ to get information about resources in different areas when traveling.

Miss Manners: 8 Things Not to Say to a Recovering Addict…

Just because you mean well doesn’t mean you’re not being rude.