Appreciating the Little Things in Addiction Recovery
Because we are going through so many major changes in early recovery, it can be somewhat difficult to hone in and focus on being grateful for the small stuff. We’re pretty focused on the major things – doing all we can to stay sober, learning to live a happy and functional life, and beginning to work on repairing damaged relationships (including your relationship with yourself). So many reparations and “firsts” may make early recovery seem overwhelming, and when you feel overwhelmed, you are less likely to stop and bask in gratitude. “What do I have to be grateful for,” you might think to yourself. “I screwed my entire life up! I live in a halfway house, I don’t have a car, my parents won’t forgive me, I flunked out of school!” Or, “I lost a good job!” Or, “My friends all hate me!” It can be easy to focus on the negative – but doing so certainly won’t help us progress in our recovery! What can we do to ensure that we’re staying grateful?
Staying Grateful in Recovery
One of the most important aspects of staying grateful is remembering that you are not alone, and developing your own families for addiction recovery. Seeking forgiveness from your family of origin is a necessary and important part of recovery, but it’s also important to understand that forgiveness will happen on their time frame – not yours. You can’t force it. Just have faith that once you’ve really proven yourself, forgiveness will eventually come. Additionally, your family of origin might not understand addiction recovery as authentically and thoroughly as someone who is living it would. For these two reasons, it’s essential that you create your own families for addiction recovery. In most cases, these families will consist of different groups of friends, mostly friends you’ve met in 12-step meetings. They will support you through the hard times and celebrate with you during the good times. When you feel down, focus on a specific friend that you’ve made, and all of the positive qualities they bring to the table. Remind yourself that you bring positive qualities to the table too – and that now you finally have the capacity to be a good, lifelong friend.
It’s the Small Stuff
In your recovery support groups, you will probably be introduced to mindfulness. Essentially, mindfulness is the practice of being conscious and aware of the world around you. It has to do with focusing on the present moment, and accepting all of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that you experience where you are, when you are. This practice helps with gratitude a huge amount – if you’re living in the present moment, you aren’t dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. You aren’t depressed (living in the past) or afraid (living in the future). You will be able to look around you, and find at least one thing to appreciate. Many individuals who are new to recovery will practice writing down ‘gratitude lists’ in the morning or in the evening, reminding them of the good things they’ve got going for them. You can write your own ‘gratitude list’ in your head at any point in time. Take a look at your surroundings, or examine how you’re feeling physically, emotionally, or mentally. Do you feel happy? Did you feel happy at all during the day? How do you feel physically? Are you withdrawing? Do you have all of your limbs? Can you see? Can you smell? Are you living in a dumpster? If you boil it down to where you used to be and where you are now, you’ll likely find that you have a ton to be grateful for. “I’m grateful that I have good days now – I used to just have bad days. I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head and food in my belly. I’m grateful that I’m clean and sober, and that I can experience things – the good and the bad – the way they’re meant to be experienced.”
Day to Day Activities in Recovery
In order to stay grateful for the little things, it’s a good idea to develop a somewhat structured day-to-day routine. This routine could look like hitting a different meeting every day and exercising for 30 minutes, or waking up, reading a Daily Reflection, and drinking a cup of coffee. As you discover more about yourself, you’ll figure out which routine works best for you. In the meantime, we’ve gathered several helpful hints that might inspire you to shape your own daily routine!
- Try and incorporate yoga into your routine.
It has been proven that a daily (or near daily) yoga therapy practice is extremely beneficial for those in recovery. Not only does practicing yoga help with mindfulness and living in the present moment, but it has been shown to promote better self-awareness, improve sleep, and bolster self-esteem. Many yoga studios will offer “recovery classes”, which are specifically designed for those that are healing from a substance abuse disorder.
- Find an inspirational daily reader.
There are many daily readers geared towards those in addiction recovery, though you can also find one geared towards anything that you are experiencing (for example, overcoming grief, recovery from eating disorders, overcoming trauma). Find a reader that speaks to you, and start every morning off with a quick read and reflection.
- Work with your sponsor at least once a week.
Your sponsor will take you through the 12 steps of whichever program you choose, and will offer you advice and insight when you need someone to talk to. In most cases, your sponsor will leave it up to you to decide when to meet – you’ve got to put in the necessary effort! Make sure that you’re meeting up with your sponsor at least once a week, and work on your stepwork in between meetings.
- Incorporate meditation and prayer into your daily routine.
Prayer is a big part of recovery – not religious prayer, but prayer that will help you to bolster a relationship with a higher power. It’s said that prayer is talking to your higher power and meditation is listening. Even if you only meditate for three minutes a day, incorporate both into your daily routine.
- Find a sober activity that you enjoy and dedicate some time to that every week.
One of the most beautiful parts of sobriety is the opportunity to explore new activities, and figure out what it is that you enjoy! Take a dance class, or take a painting class, or go on a hike, or go paddle boarding – try as many things as you want, and make what you like doing part of your daily life.
- Volunteer on a regular basis.
One of the best ways to stay grateful and get outside of your own head is to volunteer. Work at a soup kitchen once a week, or find a local animal shelter. There are endless volunteer opportunities, and not only does volunteering help you to appreciate all that you have, it works to even further bolster self-esteem.
Staying grateful in very early recovery may seem difficult, seeing as you’re trying to navigate the world around you through entirely new eyes (so to speak). Practicing showing appreciation for the little things will help you stay grateful, and after awhile it will become second nature. For more tips regarding gratitude, please feel free to reach out to us at Guardian – our staff members have extensive experience under their belts, and they’re available to help out in any way they can. If you have questions about our IOP (intensive outpatient) program, give us a call any time, 24/7 at (888) 693-1894. We look forward to speaking with you soon.
Reviewed for accuracy by:
Anna Marie Barrett LCSW, CYT
Anna earned her Masters of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL in 2017 and completed her internship in co-occurring disorders. Anna has a Bachelors of Art in Religious Studies from Naropa University and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Anna has received specialized training in somatic counseling with an emphasis on body-centered psychotherapy.