You will hear me talk a lot on my blog about the gifts of recovery and the new life I have been given since I began this journey. It may sound cheesy, but the biggest gift I have been given is the ‘gift of gratitude’.
The ‘at least its not THAT bad’ variety of gratitude
Gratitude isn’t a new thing for me. I was brought up to count my blessings and to be thankful when I received things or someone helped me. I saw on the news that there were so many things I take for granted in life that I should be grateful for. Safety, shelter, medical care, health. And I was grateful for them.
When bad things happened I looked for the silver lining. I felt grateful not to die when I had my first seizure, I was grateful I could get a loan to fix the teeth I dissolved with my purging, I felt grateful I had health insurance that helped with my rising medical costs, I felt grateful I could afford the monthly repayments for the loans I needed to get to feed my habit. The gratitude I felt during my active addiction was typically of the ‘thank god it’s not THAT bad’ variety.
The problem with the ‘not THAT bad’ variety was that they filled me with the fear of when things would be THAT bad, or with guilt that I was given so much and yet abusing all the blessings I had been given. Gratitude was a bit of a chore for me, a stick for me to beat myself with when I felt down. I felt ashamed I couldn’t be happy despite how much I had.
The ‘just for now’ variety of gratitude
In my recovery I learned that gratitude was more than a feeling, it was also a coping strategy. I used gratitude lists to bring me back to the present moment, to spend some short time reflecting on what my world was like right this minute and what I had to be grateful for. Gratitude lists in the moment are the best in my opinion. There is no pressure to think of what you are MOST grateful for. There is no one expecting a thank you and you can just sit and be present and look around for what is pleasing. I used mindfulness techniques to notice what I saw, smelt, heard, felt and tasted and then noted what I was most grateful for in the moment. I never realized what beauty and vivid color is out there in Hong Kong to be appreciated or how soothing the midday traffic passing my house could be before. I never appreciated the gentle warmth of the coffee cup and the amazing aroma as I sipped as I now find I can do by just stopping for a moment and noticing. These moments are beautiful and make me happy.
A daily gratitude list or gratitude journal is a practice I started in early recovery and it had been really rewarding. When I feel good it allows me to take stock of why and when I feel bad it helps me see the bright side. I have learned so much of what makes me happy and grateful and this self awareness is a great gift. It allows me to do more of what makes me happy. All it takes is a notebook and a pen and a time that suits you each day to sit down for 3-5 minutes and write what you are grateful for.
Gratitude is infectious
After treatment I found it useful to share these gratitude’s with my husband or people I was in recovery with. They began to share what they were thankful for too and I learned more about what they like and who they are and often found things to be grateful for that I never noticed before. This conversation definitely beat my usual daily rant about how unfair life was.
You can gift someone gratitude by thanking them when you are grateful or by sharing what you are grateful for with them. As I said, it is infectious. But I have also been lucky to receive physical gifts that promote my practice of gratitude. One friend bought me an empty jar and instructed me to use it to drop in good things that happened each month for a year. I then got to share this with her on New Years Day. My brother gave me a beautiful diary for logging my feelings and gratitude and I write in it with a smile. I am looking forward to opportunities to give such thoughtful gifts myself.
So, how about you? What are you grateful for? What do you love about your life, or this moment in your life? What makes you happy? I would love to hear more in the comments below.