Gratitude’s Vital Role in Recovery

After being sober for some time, I relapsed. I decided to take a long, hard look at what led me to relapse.  

After some contemplation, I realized I simply was not grateful for the things I had in my life, which led me down the road to despair, hopelessness and the bottle. I found myself building resentments and not using the tools I had learned to stay sober.

Gratitude plays a vital role in my recovery!

What is gratitude? To me it is an attitude of appreciation for what I have and turning my focus away from what I do not have.

I spent too much time focusing on how life would be when I had certain things: a bigger house; a better job; a new car. You get the picture!  

When I began to focus on those things I already had, my life changed drastically. Recovery has given me the space to be grateful, but it takes time to practice gratitude. 

“Gratitude is a muscle that develops with training and practice, and when we make a habit of appreciating the better qualities in life, we strengthen that muscle in our mind. When that muscle grows strong enough, we will reflexively notice the good, and we will see something’s benefits before its real or imaginary drawbacks and limitations.” as the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation says, “With this in mind, I have trained my brain to appreciate the things in my life I had not even noticed before.  A safe place to live, clean clothes to wear, a cell phone, fresh air. My life of gratitude allows me to see the blessings in my everyday life.  I no longer use terms such as, “if only I had…” or when I get…” or I wish I had…”  You can fill in those blanks for yourself. I now live a content, blessed and grateful life.

Yes, Gratitude plays a vital role in my recovery.  

It plays a large role in my life against relapse and helps me distance myself from resentment and hopelessness. Practicing gratitude can look different for everyone.Here are some ways you can begin to live a grateful life:

  1. Keep a Gratitude Journal: Set aside time each day to write down a few things you’re grateful for. Reflect on positive moments, progress, and small victories. 
  2. Write Thank-You Notes: Express appreciation to those who’ve supported you—friends, family, or professionals. 
  3. Help Others: Acts of kindness and service create a sense of purpose. Volunteer, lend a hand, or simply be there for someone else. 
  4. Focus on What You Have: Instead of dwelling on what’s lacking, appreciate what you do have. 
  5. See the Best in Others: Rather than fixating on flaws, try to see the positive qualities in people. 
  6. Make Gratitude a Daily Practice: Consistently integrate gratitude into your routine. Here are some things you can begin to be grateful for today: 
    • Something that I have in recovery for which I’m grateful
    • Someone in my life for whom I’m grateful
    • Something about my body for which I give thanks
    • Something about my mind or spirit I appreciate
    • Something valuable I have learned or inherited from my family
    • One challenge I face that I could be thankful for
    • Something people would be surprised I am thankful for
    • A lesson I most appreciate from my treatment experience or earliest days in addiction recovery

I wish you a day full of gratitude!

Julie Kons — A grateful recovering alcoholic
Unity Recovery Services Co-Executive Director 

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