“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
Maintaining gratitude in recovery is an incredibly underrated skill. Not only does it help with appreciation of all the little things around us, but it also helps us maintain our day to day recovery program.
During active addiction gratitude was non-existent. Not only was I unable to be thankful for the big things, like my family and my ability to be alive, I was unable to even appreciate that next high. I was so wrapped up in the process of getting that next drink or drug, that life would just pass by. In no way did I ever stop to smell the roses. I had forgotten that roses even existed.
Learning to be consciously thankful and grateful is something that I had to develop, and it takes time. Early sobriety is the time to begin practicing gratitude on a daily, and even sometimes minute to minute basis. Like the quote at the top suggests, sometimes the simplest acts can have some of the biggest impact farther down the line. Just choosing to be a more thankful person can drastically affect our overall happiness. By making a decision to begin trying to be more thankful, we become happier, we become more determined to not let the little things bother us as much, and we start to create a life not only free of drugs; but free of negativity and strife.
Practicing the exercises below, I am becoming a person I am proud to be and grow into. Once I decided that negativity would no longer rule my life, my happiness, relationships and productivity increased ten fold. I have to put in a little effort, but the results are absolutely worth it.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal
I cannot begin to express how much maintaining a gratitude journal has helped. Devoting myself to this practice was difficult in the beginning; it’s hard to remember to put pen to paper each day and actually process what I’m grateful for. These can be everyday things – having a network that cares about me, or a paycheck – but they don’t need to stop there. I also try to consider bigger ideas that “put me in my place” in a positive way. Take for instance the water crisis in the world. I am so lucky to have access to clean water when there are many people around the world who struggle every day to have something to drink. I am also incredibly grateful to have my arms and legs, my sight, my relationship with my higher power.
These big picture ideas really put my problems into perspective. I can get so wrapped up in attitudes of selfishness and self centeredness, thinking my problems are so big, when in reality they are some of the smallest things on the planet to worry about. They are First World problems that come from a life many people would give anything to have. Writing and remembering what I am grateful for in this journal helps me remember that.
Small Acts of Thanks
Staying centered and thankful throughout the day can be and is a challenge, but some of the simplest acts make it not only possible, but relatively easy. I spend the majority of the day in the car. I make a point of catching my eye while checking my rearview mirror, and smile. Granted this may not be the safest way to drive on the planet, but that little interruption of me seeing myself smile reminds me how good my life is.
Another thing I always try to do is put my shoes underneath my bed at night. This seems a little silly at first, but while I am putting my shoes underneath my bed I always try to say a prayer of thanks. I don’t consider myself the most religious person on the planet, however this practice does tend to ground me. Then in the morning while I am getting my shoes up off the floor in the morning I ask for guidance for the day ahead. Doing these little things help tremendously. They remind me of how I need a higher power in my life to guide me, as well as reminding me that I should be thankful for that higher power.
I get wrapped up in my own head so much, it’s hard to get out. These small acts keep me in a daily practice of gratitude and thankfulness.
Looking for inspiration
Recovery isn’t something you want to do alone. Whether you get reinforcement from friends, your family, your higher power or from internet blogs, it’s important to find people, places or ideas that make you grateful you’re on the path you’ve chosen.
I have a hard time with down time. I have to make myself take a day off, and when I do, I usually have to ask Google what I should do. Through this I have discovered a place and activity that inspires me and makes me feel thankful for the world around me: hiking. I make time for this every week as a way to refuel. In Asheville, NC, I am surrounded by natural beauty. Hiking up a mountain and enjoying the view reminds me how small I really am. It kills my ego and gives me proof that I can see of how lucky I am to be alive, how important it is to not waste the opportunity I have. It puts my life into perspective.
Through an active focus on gratitude, I’m able to see that my “problems” aren’t really problems at all. They are learning opportunities. How I approach my life has a lot to do with how often I recognize and remember this fact. During active addiction I caused so much suffering, not only for myself but to all those who entered my path. I created chaos, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I can’t do that anymore. I want to help, I need to. In recovery, we have a giant opportunity, and all the little things we do add up to a big impact. We all have the ability to embrace this life with love, selflessness and gratitude. Let’s not waste it.
Stay strong, stay in the center,