Turn the Season of Giving Thanks into Year-Round Habit

Turn the Season of Giving Thanks into Year-Round Habit

Gratitude, blessings, appreciation — these are words we hear often this time of year. For the recovering addict, expressing those feelings is not easy. Especially if you’re just starting on the path to a new life.

Did you have a family dinner this Thanksgiving? Did you have a chance to give thanks to the people and things important in your life? Or did you feel ashamed, hurt, resentful even?

Those are normal feelings. If you’re like many others in recovery, you’ve no doubt made many mistakes and ruined many relationships on your way to hitting rock bottom. It’s not an easy place to come back from.

But think about it for a moment. How far have you come since that rock bottom? I bet not that long ago, you wouldn’t have even shown up to a family gathering, let alone cared to try rebuilding bridges.

Whatever dark place you’ve come from, you were not alone in your healing process. Who are the people who helped you get to here, to now? No matter how much pain you caused them, they stayed with you for the long haul.

How can you express your gratitude to them? Instead of thinking of those times that caused you sorrow and loss, start with the happy memories. Think of everything they did to help you not just pull through the tough times, but during your entire life.

Start with small steps. Express your thanks for a call you received just at the right time, a tip you followed for a healthier habit. Or don’t say anything at all — show your gratitude through your new behaviors.

When you’re genuine in your actions, people will know. They will know if you’re sincere or just “going through the motions.” You have quite a bridge to rebuild, and regaining your loved ones’ trust is a solid place to start.

Practicing Gratitude

Giving thanks should be more than a holiday tradition. Developing a new habit of gratitude will not just help you repair relationships but also sustain the whole you during recovery. Did you know that research actually shows that gratitude benefits your health, along with improving your self-esteem and wellbeing?

Gratitude is not always about external influences like your support system. You can also be grateful for your own achievements, big or small.

Use these simple tips for practicing gratitude:

  • Ask yourself what is good in your life. Make a list. This could be anything from simple goals achieved (like starting regular walks) to major milestones reached (like your one-year sobriety anniversary).
  • Practice making simple apologies. It’s tempting to say, “I’m sorry for what I caused you but…” There is no but. You’ll have to own up to it — and it’s OK if you need a little time to learn how to do this.
  • Find ways to be of service. This goes with the earlier idea of showing gratitude through your behavior. It can be as simple as helping your sibling move, offering to babysit or mowing the lawn when you visit your parents.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Write down the moments that bring you joy, no matter how trivial they seem. You’ll have days when you don’t feel you have anything to say thanks for. Quiet your mind and dig deeper and you’ll likely discover at least one thing to write about.

Gratitude, like recovery, is a process. You have to work at it consistently, and there’s always the chance of relapse. Embrace the fact that you’re not perfect, and get back on track if you fall off.

It may take you months, perhaps years, but saying thanks, both to yourself and to others, will get easier with practice. Isn’t that in itself something to be thankful for?