Practicing Gratitude in Recovery

Published on November 29, 2019 by First Responder Wellness

Being told to count your blessings and be grateful for what you have during one of the most challenging times of your life can be hard to process. During recovery from addiction, you will likely be picking up the pieces of your life that fell apart while you were abusing substances. This experience can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed. However, practicing gratitude is far more powerful and complex than simply saying, “thank you.” There are several ways to make a gratitude practice a priority in your life. You may find that in doing so, you can connect more authentically with yourself and others.  

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is a feeling, an action, and a way of life. People in recovery often experience a powerful rush of gratitude in early sobriety. They’ve come so far and are acknowledging all the people that have supported them along the way. It is vital to hold on to that sense of humble appreciation and the drive to pay it forward, even when life inevitably throws challenges your way. For those who have participated in a 12 step program for addiction, practicing gratitude is especially emphasized in the twelfth step. At this point, the individual is encouraged to appreciate the gift of sobriety by being of service to others. Helping other people who are also struggling with addiction becomes a driving force in recovery. In this way, gratitude goes beyond a subjective experience and becomes a behavior. It helps you remain conscious of your blessings while also improving the lives of those around you.

In addition to appreciating life when everything is going well, gratitude is about finding a way to be thankful even when times are difficult. Having “an attitude of gratitude” allows you to take on challenges with a positive outlook. This makes it easier to overcome adversity and to keep pushing forward even when you experience setbacks. Gratitude also helps to foster a sense of self-love and respect, which enables you to form better relationships with your loved ones and set healthy boundaries. Research continues to prove that gratitude contributes to better mental health and overall quality of life. It’s also one of the most effective ways to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, just as with any skill, gratitude requires practice and persistence to master. Several strategies can help you implement a gratitude practice during recovery and beyond. 

Putting Gratitude into Practice

The most straightforward way you can begin to practice gratitude is by taking inventory of all that you have. This does not only include material things, although material items deserve recognition as well. Focus on the people, institutions, resources, and advantages you are lucky enough to encounter and enjoy. Committing to making a gratitude list every day can help put you in a grateful and compassionate mindset. This list can refocus mental energy you may have been using on worry or regret. During recovery, it can be easy to slip into negativity and wallow over what your life is lacking. Physically putting pen to paper to acknowledge what you have can make your circumstances seem a bit brighter. It can also prevent mental health symptoms that threaten your sobriety.

In addition to the tangible things you have in your life, make a point to feel grateful for your own personal growth. Recovery is an extended opportunity to take pride in your capacity for change and your ability to learn from your mistakes. While it can be frustrating to think of how far you have to go, take the time to acknowledge how far you have come. Acknowledge the work you have put into self-improvement. Not everyone who falls into addiction can pull themselves out of it before it is too late. Even if everything seems to be working against you, every day alive and sober is something to be grateful for.

Gratitude and giving go hand-in-hand. If you feel you are struggling to experience gratitude in your life, start by finding ways to help other people. You can be of service to others in big ways by donating a significant amount of time or money to individuals or organizations in need. Alternatively, you can start small by in your daily life by helping someone carry their groceries or offering to give someone a ride. Generosity and compassion are foundational aspects of many spiritual practices. They have also been shown to increase the experience of gratitude and improve mental health for the individual who is lending a helping hand. Above all, practice gratitude by protecting your sobriety and reaching out for additional help when needed. 

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers. Existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially tricky. Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career. Nor do you have to resign yourself to a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.

At Simple Recovery, we take a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction. This approach makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing. First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community. At Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we dedicate our time to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490