Written By: Katie Schipper
Learning how to be grateful is a spiritual practice. It’s not something that can be forced, it comes naturally when we make a commitment and start practicing it. Gratitude isn’t something readily accessible to a addict or an alcoholic active in her addiction. There’s far too much chaos, denial, self-victimization, pity, and selfishness to leave any room for gratitude. Choosing to be grateful, to practice gratitude in spite of changing moods and circumstances, is a cornerstone of recovery.
The Gratitude List
A very simple, very straightforward way to begin practicing gratitude is to make a list. Ideally, this is done daily, but it shouldn’t be avoided simply because it can’t be done everyday. The list can be long or short, but should most definitely be handwritten. Taking the time to write everything out helps get it embedded in our hearts.
A gratitude list can be as simple as coming up with five things you’re grateful for. Even if you can’t find a job, even if you just got dumped, even if you’re in a very dark place and feel alone, there’s always, ALWAYS, something to be grateful for.
Sometimes, it helps to start simple, particularly if you tend to be pessimistic. Start by being grateful for the air you breathe. Be grateful that you’re alive. Be grateful for things you might not be grateful for! Things like rehab, IOP therapy, and recovery.
The beautiful thing about gratitude lists is that once you start, you seem to magically think of even more to be grateful for! The lists can be endless. The first step, as always, is simply to begin, even if you don’t want to.
And you might not want to. Complaining is easy. It gives a short-lived buzz and all that dumping of negative energy feels “good.” What it’s really doing is perpetuating the bad. Our thoughts become our reality. For addicts and alcoholics, it’s easy to become enslaved by the mind’s power. Putting a pen to paper, despite negativity, has an immediate impact.
Gratitude as an Action Word
Writing a gratitude list is a beautiful thing and a great start to expanding your spirituality. Continue to write until you feel the results. Share your lists. Add to them. Set aside specific times to write gratitude lists. Watch as your attitude changes and as some of your negative thought patterns begin to crumble.
Once this happens, practice gratitude in your daily life. Be polite to the person who’s rude to you. Hold the door open for someone. Buy someone’s coffee. Do service. Volunteer. Like any spiritual practice, gratitude is a discipline that gives back tenfold what you put into it. The freedom of knowing what you have, of cherishing where you are, are gifts beyond measure.