Gratitude is a term most in recovery are very familiar with. In fact, it is likely second only to serenity. However, not everyone is as aware of the need to express gratitude on a daily basis in recovery.
Much of active addiction is based on a victim mentality. Hence the cliché phrase often used in recovery communities to describe this experience; “Poor me. Poor me. Pour me another drink.” As the saying indicates, most active addicts use the circumstances in their life to justify their addiction and validate the negative behaviors that accompany it.
Because victimization is a characteristic of active addiction, it is also a precursor to relapse. Therefore, the process of practicing gratitude is a key factor in preventing relapse.
Gratitude is the opposite of victimization. Focusing on abundance rather than lack shifts the perspective to a positive one and returns full accountability to the individual; an internal locus of control versus and external one. As such, a daily practice of gratitude keeps a recovering individual mindful of all the positive aspects of their life regardless of circumstances and accountable for their own choices and resulting outcomes.
So how does one practice gratitude daily? Here are three ways:
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
Keeping a daily gratitude journal is one very simple way to practice gratitude.
Simply purchase a spiral notebook or an official journal and write down at least five things you are grateful for. Do this daily, and try not to repeat any of the five things from your previous day’s list.
If this sounds like a difficult task, go back to basics. For instance, you can be grateful for your ability to breathe, walk, talk, use your arms, etc. When you begin to look at your life from the most basic level, you will discover there is much to be grateful for, including (of course) your sobriety.
2. Employ daily affirmations.
Another way to practice gratitude on a daily basis is to employ daily affirmations. You can create your own or purchase a book of them. Either way, it is best to find or write those that not only speak positive intentions and affirmations but also express gratitude.
If you are utilizing a published book of daily affirmations that does not include expressions of gratitude, you can always add your own at the end of each.
3. Hold a gratitude ceremony.
A more formal way to employ a daily practice of gratitude is to hold a gratitude ceremony. This can be as involved or simple as you like. It is certainly something you can customize according to your own spiritual beliefs or culture.
To begin holding daily gratitude ceremonies, first find a convenient time of day to do so. Preferably, a gratitude ceremony should take place either first thing in the morning or before you go to bed at night.
Once you have decided on a time that fits for you, decide what things you would like to incorporate into the ceremony. For instance, sage, crystals, prayer cards, candles, incense, specific prayers, etc. can be included to make the experience feel more ceremonial. Again, this should be customized to fit your specific beliefs and/or culture.
Regardless of how elaborate the ceremony is or isn’t, the point is (of course) to express gratitude. In doing so, you may wish to speak gratitude to merely your Higher Self for guidance, your younger selves for surviving and learning needed lessons and the Universe itself or to family members who have passed on, angels, saints, your Higher Power and more. This is again something you will individualize.
As long as you are speaking gratitude, that’s all that truly matters.
When we focus on the positive and that for which we are grateful, we are less likely to get overwhelmed by the negative or that which causes us grief. That fact keeps us from victimizing ourselves or swimming in self-defeating thoughts or behaviors. It keeps us focused on all we have and are, rather than all that’s lost or isn’t. More importantly, it keeps us in active recovery, rather than in relapse thinking.