Writing gratitude lists regularly is one way to keep from spiraling into negative mindsets. It is important to retain the early feeling of optimism that inspires you to do the work that is required for ongoing recovery.
First, You Need to Identify Your Emotions
Identifying emotions is not always easy. In early recovery, simply identifying emotions can be a huge challenge. People often use substances to cover up emotional responses. Sometimes this goes on for so long that one can be left unaware of what they are feeling.
Finding ways to identify and process emotions is one of the tools you will be asked to use repeatedly in ongoing recovery. This can be a daunting task when you are not yet sure that you want to feel them. The two most common emotions that can be named are fear and anger. Frequently, they are confused and the two are quite often simultaneous or causal to each other.
Learning from Fear and Anger via Gratitude
Expressing gratitude can be a huge leap for people when they are experiencing fear or anger. A good way to bridge that experience is to express thanks to your anger or fear for simply existing. This is a good starting point. Here's how:
- The conversation can begin by expressing your disdain for a gratitude exercise
- From there, move into expressing the emotion(s) you feel
- Using the emotion, thank your anger/hurt/pain/fear for what it is telling you
- Breathe into the emotion
- As you release the breath, try and release the emotion, but only after you have listened to what it has to teach you
- You can express gratitude for the lesson as well as the emotion
- You can share these feelings with a trusted recovery partner or therapist or write them down
This exercise is about befriending your emotions and learning from them. Many will go so far as to develop a practice of becoming authentically grateful for the emotions they are experiencing and the process of learning to name and share them. This gives one an opportunity to begin the kind of healing that will lead to the ability to safely feel, express, and then dismiss emotions. Practicing this exercise allows you to begin to develop a life skill that allows participation in full emotional relationships with yourself, your peers, and with family and friends.
Be Thankful for Your Emotions
While people may fear the emotions that have accumulated over the period of their substance use, being thankful for emotions gives a processing mechanism that can easily be practice anywhere.
As you learn to use it often, you will become comfortable with the idea of thanking your emotions for what they allow you to discover about yourself. This is of benefit in ongoing recovery. You will be more aware, more present to your feelings, and better equipped to handle the situations and feelings that come up without relapsing into substances once again.
Learning to cope with emotions is difficult for most people. Learning to thank them for their presence and teachings is a true gift.
Help is Available
If you or someone close to you is battling addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak with a treatment specialist.