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Why Gratitude Matters in Addiction Recovery

Starting recovery is difficult. You have to go through detox, which can be painful, then you have have to gradually learn to live without the destructive thing that had become the center of your life. Many people experience anxiety, irritability, depression, anger, and frustration during this period. You may also have to deal with a sense of loss as you learn to live life without your usual coping mechanism and often without the friends who are still using. One way to deal with all these feelings it to cultivate a sense of gratitude instead.

One of the biggest challenges people often face early in recovery is lingering resentment. People decide to get help because they finally accept that addiction is ruining their lives and hurting their families. While admitting a problem and getting help are big step, they are only the first steps. Going forward will require facing some uncomfortable truths about yourself, and may include many lingering resentments. The Big Book of AA identifies resentments as the number one driver of addiction.

A resentment is essentially a festering anger, typically over a threat or a loss. You may resent someone for getting a promotion you wanted, for being more popular in your friend group, or for ruining a big opportunity for you. Resentments are poison and they’ll eat away at you. What’s worse, they are often a way of blaming others for your problems. One way of dealing with resentments is to look at the situation objectively, and identify the reason for the resentment. Often, you’ll discover you played a big part yourself.

Then what? Be angry at yourself and carry around regrets instead of resentments? A better approach might be to accept those losses and focus instead on what you do have. Studies have shown that gratitude is one of the biggest predictors of happiness. People who regularly count their blessings can actually become happier. Gratitude makes you focus on what you have and what’s going well, as opposed to what you might have had but don’t.

Another major benefit of gratitude is that it allows you to build stronger social connections. Having a strong sober network is one of the biggest predictors of long-term sobriety. When you practice gratitude, you are generally more positive and therefore more pleasant to be around. But expressing gratitude to people also shows you appreciate them and what they’ve done for you. This can be extremely difficult for some people, but expressing your gratitude to someone even once a week can make you much happier and cement a friendship.

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