My Love-Hate Relationship with Gratitude by Rose Landes
Posted by Rose Landes on 14th Feb 2016
As someone in recovery I am grateful for my life today. But I have my days where I just want to throw a pity party. In treatment the go to response from peers and therapists alike was to help me change my perspective and see what I could be grateful for, if I chose to do so.
Some days I just wanted to scream “What the F@#%$ do I really have to be grateful for?” I’m in a drug detox center , away from my kids, I have no job, no money, my family is done with me, and I’ve burnt all my bridges.
Please someone tell me why I should be grateful for this!
Pause--I breathe and then I remember; I am grateful that I don’t wake up shaking and puking, that I am starting to sleep at night, that I can physically feel my body, that I don’t have to do a single drug or drink to function. Those were all amazing reasons to be grateful even when I didn’t want to be.
Fast forward and I’m out of treatment. I have a sponsor and I’m working the steps slowly but surely. This is when real life happens you don’t have the bubble of protection that inpatient offers. This is when you really have to use gratitude even if it's for things that you think are silly. Like a sunny day, or the sand beneath your feet. Practicing gratitude is a staple for your diet in recovery.
I will not sit here and tell you it is easy to learn how to practice being a grateful person. It wasn’t. It was especially hard when I turned to a favorite coping skill of mine which can be described as harboring a ‘victim’ mentality. If you are a victim than it is hard to be grateful when you think that life is out to get you. Bad things always happen to you and it’s always someone else’s fault.
I lived like this for months, and I don’t suggest it. Especially when you don’t have drugs or alcohol to escape with. It brought a lot of pain into my life. Unfortunately like other addicts/alcoholics pain is the motivator I used to change. I hope that this will not always be the case.
Gratitude, is the perfect antidote to self-pity, and I had a lot of that. My sponsor kept suggesting for me to write a gratitude list.
Sigh-- Ok so maybe she knows what she’s talking about, I mean she does have 10 years of sobriety and I hadn’t even picked up my one year medallion at this point.
So I started a list every morning. After all, I was so scared of relapsing and going back to the emotional hell that my life had been. I was willing to try. I did it and it helped as much as I grudgingly did not want to admit it.
I realized that in my recovery it's the little things that really matter and build momentum for the good or bad. I have to practice certain things on a daily basis. Some of these include morning meditation and prayer, 10th steps to keep my conscience clean, meetings, and talking about the things that eat me up inside. All of these routines are my medicine that keep me in a healthy place. And when I skip doing these things I feel it.
Life Happened-I Kept At It, Though
Getting out of treatment brought with it a nice reality check--not really. I had to grow up and begin to act like an adult although I had no idea what I was doing. I spent a lot of time envying other people. I always felt like I was missing out in life and that other people always had it better.
My biggest resentment was my ex and how he limited my contact with the kids. I tried to call and for the first 4 months I was not allowed to speak with them. I refused to sign divorce paperwork, without consulting a lawyer, so he restricted my contact with them as punishment. I had no say in that and the helplessness left me infuriated. I spent so much time and energy on anger and hatred.
Enter Gratitude, it was the tonic I needed to learn to let go of anger, an emotion that had fed me so many years. It provided me with the opportunity to change my perspective and focus on the positive, not the negative.
My therapist had told me something which stuck with me “what you resist persists”.
Think about that for a minute…..If you examine your life how many times do you try to change behaviors by resisting them. And what usually happens? Well for me they got worse because all I could think about was trying to not do them.
So I began to focus on what I did have and not what I didn’t. The list of what I did have begun to grow as time went on and after the first year I was impressed by what I have to be thankful for. When thinking about how many things I did brings tears to my eyes. These are tears I’ve never cried before; tears of joy, not sadness. They come from a place of thankfulness for EVERYTHING in my life.
Truly living is being present in each and every moment. When you feel and process every emotion your life changes. Circumstances can go up and down but you now have the tools to face life and what it brings. I would not trade this for anything in the world.
So, I try to follow that suggestions I have been given. I write a gratitude list most days, whether I am feeling grateful or not. Although on the days I’m hating everyone and everything I might write my gratitude list with a couple of f-bombs thrown in. Ironically even on those days the lists help me. They change my perspective.
I will put this out there. There is a time and a place for a temper tantrum, I have them I admit it. Guilty as charged. My therapist actually encouraged me. She said just one requirement-- put a time limit of 15 minutes. You have to process those intense emotions. You can’t spiritually bypass them. What I mean by that is you can’t just tell yourself you are not able to feel those feelings because you want to hold onto your spiritual beliefs.
Sometimes you need to vent and it is nice to have someone just listen they don’t have to offer advice or solutions just be present. It is important that they also know when this venting turns into playing the victim and call you on that.
Going to a meeting never fails in changing my perspective when I’m stuck in feeling sorry for myself. I get to hear about someone else’s problem and I get to think about someone else for a minute. See the beauty of this program is that when we give of ourselves we receive a moment of relief. It’s exhausting to be stuck in your head and service work always gets me out. I have to say that in sobriety the best feeling I’ve had is when I help someone else. That is my high. When they say it is better to give than to receive I finally understand what they mean.
Rose Landes is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.