If you’re just starting detox, treatment, or recovery, or just starting to think about it, gratitude may be far from your mind. If your struggles with addiction have forced you to confront the possibility you need treatment, your life is almost certainly not what you want it to be. What do you have to be grateful for?
It’s only normal to be preoccupied with anger, fear, anxiety, and suffering. We have a natural bias for identifying threats. While this preoccupation is normal, it’s often not helpful. Cultivating a sense of gratitude is a powerful way to fight addiction and become a happier person.
If you have spent any time in 12 Step meetings or reading the Big Book, you know that anger and resentment are powerful drivers of addiction. If you hold on to anger, it simmers and you constantly think about all the ways others have wronged you. Gratitude is the exact opposite of that. Instead of keeping track of all the ways others have hurt you, you keep track of all the ways others have helped you. It is helpful to understand the fear and hurt behind your resentments, but that is only the first step toward being happier. The next step is to change your focus completely. Letting go of anger is much easier when you habitually focus on the good things in your life.
Gratitude reduces your fear and anxiety. When you focus on what you lack, your vulnerabilities, and your weaknesses, pretty much everything is a possible threat. That makes you anxious. You interpret innocuous comments as insults. You see minor setbacks as catastrophes. On the other hand, if you focus on what’s good in your life, the people who support you, your personal strengths, and any advantages you may have had, you feel more secure. You know problems are not likely to be very serious and you can behave more charitably toward others.
This realignment is one of the best things you can do for yourself in recovery. Reducing stress and anxiety will protect you from depression and relapse. It will also improve your health. Stress and anxiety have been linked to numerous health problems including obesity, heart disease, and frequent illnesses. It also impairs sleep. Studies have shown that cultivating gratitude improves overall health and helps you sleep better.
What’s more, gratitude strengthens your social support network. One of the best ways to strengthen relationships it to let people know you appreciate them. This is hard to do sometimes, especially when people have helped us in ways we can’t possibly repay. It’s worth the effort anyway because a strong social support network is crucial in recovery and in life.
Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig provides consulting psychiatrists who diagnose associated mental illnesses like anxiety states, depression, ADD, PTSD, eating disorders, compulsive gambling, and compulsive relationships. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).