By Andrew Cormier
Gratitude In Action
I often hear people say that they are grateful to be sober. Gratitude is such a common theme in recovery programs that an entire month has even been dedicated to it. The month of November is considered “Gratitude Month.” During that time, many support groups have constant “gratitude meetings” where people take turns standing up and talking about their gratitude. Perhaps “Gratitude Month” falls in Novembers because of the Thanksgiving Holiday, where we count our blessing for what we have, and then eat until we can barely move. It’s one thing to say we are grateful though, but it is another to show it.
How Important is Gratitude?
I don’t want to stand on a spiritual hilltop and pretend I know what I’m talking about. That isn’t my background. I am, however, fairly well-versed in some aspects of various theologies. I have heard it said by a Catholic priest that “the greatest sin is ingratitude.” I had to ponder this for a while. I would have guessed that murder or adultery would be worse. However, as I thought about what was said, I realized the priest made a good point: if we are truly grateful, we don’t covet for what others have. We don’t lash out at the world. We don’t bemoan the state of society, or constantly feel a need to fill a “spiritual hole” inside of ourselves with physical things: money, cars, electronics, and the like.
When we learn to accept and like what we have, which also includes our bodies and physical characteristics, we go about life with much more purpose, meaning, and joy. We are able to eliminate the “want” that leads to so many problems that we say every single day.
Gratitude in Action
When I hear someone constantly talk about how grateful they are, I don’t doubt their claims. Obviously, to recover from substance abuse, it takes a lot of hard work. There are a series of physical changes that occur in a person from day one. There are also many emotional hurdles to leap over. An entire change of a persons’ psyche indeed takes place. What does go through my head, however, when I hear someone constantly spouting their gratitude is the following: what have you done to show you are grateful?
For me, the proof is in the pudding. We can’t have our pudding if we don’t eat our meat, so to me the meat of gratitude is through our actions. I want to see that you are doing something more than just providing lip-service.
When I see people who are truly grateful, I look at how they behave. I look at what they do for other people. Everyone who is really truly grateful in my mind, does more than talk. They also give back. They help other people. Actions speak much louder than words. Don’t tell me you are grateful: show me by doing good things and being a good person.
Gratitude for Recovery
Once sober, it is all too easy to accept the status quo and go along with the flock. After all, you’re now not drinking or using drugs, and that’s what matters most, right? It is certainly a huge core of recovery. No progress can be made without physical abstinence but there is so much more that can be done besides just not drinking or using.
It is important to be grateful for what we have. If ingratitude slips in and creeps up on an alcoholic or addict, it becomes quite easy to forget what life once was like. Did you lose your license, family, job, or friends? Were you homeless once? Chances are good that if you have stayed sober for at least a year, but perhaps several, that you have earn much of that back. Even if you haven’t earned those things back, you should certainly have your self-respect, and an ability to look the world in the eye. Ingratitude can lead to a feeling that life is pointless and you are getting nowhere. So why not drink?
This is a danger that all recovering people must be aware of.
Andy is a blogger for Step One Rehab. Through his writing, he attempts to raise awareness about addiction, substance abuse, and mental health issues. The goal of Step One Rehab is to match premium addiction treatment facilities with the needs of clients. Andy writes daily articles for Step One’s blog. To learn more, visit their website or check them out on Facebook or Twitter.