Gratitude: An Essential Part of Sobriety
Early recovery feels like a whirlwind of fluctuating emotions. The rollercoaster of learning how to live life without the use of drugs or alcohol can be pretty intense. It can be easy to fall into the trap of self-pity and ingratitude. These feelings are normal early on but it is important not to get stuck in them because they have the power to sabotage a person’s sobriety.
There were many times in my early days of being sober where I would feel jealous of other people who seemed to be able to drink like a “normal person.” I felt like I was missing out. I felt like I was no longer allowed to “have fun.” I felt like there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t drink in moderation.
Instead of feeling grateful for the opportunity for a better life, there were times I felt angry that I couldn’t drink. Instead of being happy that I was still alive, I focused on all of the things that I thought I was “missing out on.” Instead of being thankful that I didn’t have a hangover that lasted the entire day, I missed the feeling of an evening buzz.
I would go back and forth between wanting a better life and wanting to get wasted. Logically I knew that alcohol was ruining everything for me and that the longer I drank the worse it would get. The tricky part was that there was still that nagging voice in the back of my mind saying, that maybe this time would be different. Addiction causes us to lie to ourselves and we believe the lies because we want so badly for them to be true.
I kept going through the motions of working on getting better. I didn’t always like it but I figured it was worth a shot. As much as the idea of never drinking again terrified me, what scared me even more was the thought of what my life would look like if it kept getting worse. This helped me to keep pushing forward and the more time that went by the easier it all became.
Then one day it all seemed to click. I woke up one morning clear-headed and without a pounding headache. I had never felt so grateful to wake up not feeling sick. I began to appreciate not feeling the way I had after waking up from passing out. I realized that I began to sleep better than I had in years and actually felt rested in the morning. I realized that I was able to live on a lot less money because I wasn’t wasting it all on booze. I learned to feel grateful for my chance at recovery and my entire outlook on life changed.
The difference between a life of recovery and the life of active addiction is that the downs are not as low as they are during substance abuse and when you are sober, the ups are genuinely real.
A few years later I had another realization. I realized that I wasn’t unlucky for not being able to “drink like a normal person”—I was lucky that I no longer had to try to! I no longer had to have the inner battle of trying not to drink too fast so I wouldn’t get too drunk. I didn’t have to worry about what other people thought of me the morning after a blackout. I never had to re-experience the dread of not knowing what I had said or done the night before. I stopped continually losing my belongings and sense of self-worth. I was free. I was lucky. I was blessed.
Just like any other life, the life of addiction recovery is a series of ups and downs. The difference between a life of recovery and the life of active addiction is that the downs are not as low as they are during substance abuse and when you are sober, the ups are genuinely real.
It’s been said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When we compare ourselves to others, it becomes all too easy to become ungrateful for what we have. When we become ungrateful, we forget how far we have come. When we forget how far we have come, we are walking a slippery slope of self-sabotage.
“Gratitude provides for me a sense of joy
that I could never find at the bottom of a bottle.”
I am not perfect, none of us are. Sometimes I still have moments where I compare myself to other people and wonder what my life would be like if it were more like someone else’s. Then I remember how lucky I am to have the life that I do now. How it is one that I could only dream of having before. How it would never be possible to be where I am now if I were still wasting my life away with alcohol. When I remember the importance of being thankful, I feel at peace with where I am. I remind myself that life is a gift that can be lost at any moment. Gratitude provides for me a sense of joy that I could never find at the bottom of a bottle.