Choosing to step away from an addiction and into recovery is an important choice and one that will intrinsically change your life forever. Getting help means that you are deliberately working to build a better version of yourself, one unconstrained by substance abuse and addiction. At the same time, it’s important not to lose sight of what you are getting, which is essentially a second chance at life. Practicing an attitude of gratitude is a common 12-step technique to help you rediscover who you are and what you love, but it is something that can be important, even if you are recovering on your own.
Long-term substance abuse can change how we think and approach the world. It changes the ego, often replacing your sense of self. People who are addicted are often very self-centered, focusing on themselves and not on anything externally. Changing that mindset and practicing an attitude of gratitude as you move into recovery and your new life will give you a new way to appreciate and enjoy the world around you. It will also work to actively remind you of why you’re fighting to stay clean or sober, because it enables you to appreciate and enjoy your life to the fullest. It will also help you to let go of negative emotions like stress which can trigger a relapse, setting you up for a better recovery.
1. Work to Build Closure
As an addict, you likely made bad choices, may have done bad things, and likely hurt people you love. Carrying those negative emotions will continue to hurt you and can get in the way of your recovery. It’s difficult to feel grateful for your relationships and your life when you carry guilt, so making amends and moving on is an important step. This might include something as simple as apologizing for a wrong or something as complex as fixing something you did wrong. Most people need to find closure in their own way which means that you will have to decide how to find closure or to make amends based on what you think is enough.
Working to reestablish relationships or to close them off in a good way is an important step to building gratitude because it means you’re actively working to change and build new relationships for yourself.
2. Appreciate Little Things
Substance abuse changes your brain and how you’re able to appreciate things. Many addicts experience a phenomenon known as emotional blunting where they are no longer able to feel or experience emotions as richly or at all after some time on a drug. This happens as the brain adjusts to a constantly stimulated reward center and the normal dose of serotonin and dopamine released in the brain in response to activities such as walking outside, giving someone a hug, or doing something nice for your friends.
Working to appreciate those things again will take time, but it will become easier as your brain adapts to a normal level of serotonin and dopamine. Here, many psychologists recommend using a gratitude journal or journal to record the things you have to be grateful for each day, which you can then review
3. Ask for Help
If you’ve already joined a 12-Step or self-help group, you know that asking for help is sometimes a necessary part of the process of recovery. Even if you haven’t, talking to people who have shared similar experiences, asking for emotional and psychological support, and asking people to listen to you will help you to gain a better appreciation for yourself and the work you’ve put into yourself through the eyes of others. 12-Step and other group therapy options can be a valuable part of recovery here because they can allow you to seek out help from persons who have very similar experiences and who have overcome addiction in their own time and way.
4. Help Others
Whether you volunteer your time, help others, participate as a sponsor at a 12-step group, or simply work to make the lives of your friends and family better, helping others is an excellent way to gain perspective and gratitude. Helping others actually releases chemicals known as neurotransmitters in your brain including dopamine and serotonin, which will help you to feel happier, more satisfied with yourself and what you are doing, and more confident and capable in what you are doing. Helping others with their problems will also give you perspective on the fact that you’re not the only person in pain or who is dealing with problems, which can help you to establish more gratitude for what is going well, how far you’ve come, and your life.
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5. Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment, not worrying excessively about the past or the future, and deliberately doing what you are doing now. This is often extremely difficult for addicts, and most people in general, because studies show that people spend about 47% of their time worrying, lost in thought, or thinking about the past and future. This promotes anxiety and it will contribute to relapse because you only think about bad things, and most substance abuse works to relieve that tension. Practicing mindfulness and living in the now rather than worrying about the past or future allows you to step out of that vicious cycle to appreciate and be grateful for even small things in your life.
6. Accept Imperfection
No one is perfect, no one can achieve everything, and no one can make everything right. Accepting imperfection in yourself, in your life, and in others will give you a basis for appreciating what does go right. Many of us become stuck on where we went wrong in the past, often forgetting to appreciate the massive amount of work that’s gone into moving away from addiction and into recovery. Similarly, you must accept imperfection in even small parts of life. Traffic jams will happen, food will arrive cold, people will sometimes be disappointing, if you can accept that, you can better appreciate when things do go right so that you can be grateful for them.
7. Forgive Yourself
It’s important to hold yourself accountable for things you do wrong and when you’ve wronged or hurt others in the past. However, it’s also important to recognize that you have changed, and you are working to better yourself and to make amends. Being grateful often means being grateful for change, and you have to recognize it to get there. While you should never develop overconfidence in your ability to stay clean and sober, you have come this far. Forgive yourself, move forward, but continue to hold yourself accountable for your actions in the future. From here, you can create a basis on which to move forward positively and with gratitude.
When you hear terms like “Attitude of gratitude” in 12-step or other groups, it’s often primarily surrounding the idea that you have to think positively. Negative thinking will create stress and anxiety, which can act as triggers that push you back into substance abuse. Developing gratitude and working to think positively will give you the basis with which to move forward without needing substances to enjoy things, because you actively appreciate your life and the things in it.
If you or your loved one needs help, please contact Beginnings Treatment Centers today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors, we’re here to walk you through recovery.