Gratitude in Recovery this Thanksgiving Season

The Thanksgiving holiday begins a month of celebrations that involve the spreading of joy and gratitude. However, this is not so easy to take part in for the recovering addict.

Most people suffering from addiction feel that they are different from everyone else. Perhaps they believe they have been wronged or that “the system” continues to be stacked against them, but this sense of apartness often fosters and fuels the destructive behaviors of most addicts.

The most important thing for people suffering from addiction to remember is how much does come down to choice, including and especially attitude. Choosing one’s attitude or state of mind may sometimes be the only freedom available to them at a particular time.

Why is it important to choose gratitude? Gratitude will establish the way people act with the world around them. Gratitude is also what can keep people calm in the face of jealousy. Gratitude can help people focus on what they have rather than what they don’t have, and this can open addiction recovery patients up to a greater experience of positivity.

Sure, this might be easier said than done. Feeling gratitude every day is something that must shift the addict’s mindset completely, something that is part of a new way of being during recovery. Feeling grateful is not something that can be checked off a daily list.

Addiction recovery patients: Don’t dwell on what your addiction has taken away from your life; instead, focus on the opportunities now available to you. Don’t think about what could have been; focus on where you are now and what you have that you can work with. Think of the many things you have to offer the world around you, and what you can contribute. Being able to make some kind of contribution in the world is a form of taking back power from the destructiveness of your addiction.

It is critical to appreciate the little things, however they come. Don’t get tripped up during your recovery process in comparing yourself or your experience to anyone else’s. Comparison leads to both jealousy and self-pity. Instead, remember that everything that comes to you, a moment of joy, a small gift, a sign of progress, no matter how small, it is yours. You aren’t entitled to anything, so appreciate the times of joy with friends, the acts of kindness, the beautiful day.

Then, keep track of what you are grateful for every day. Get a special journal for this, and make sure to follow through, no matter if it feels awkward at first. Even if what you have to write at first seems inconsequential, many patients in recovery have found this a beneficial way to not only take stock of the good things but to have a major shift in attitude and positivity.

Then, focus outward by doing something for someone else. During the throes of addiction, the attitude of most addicts is one of narcissism and self-absorption. This focusing on the self breeds entitlement and then comparison, and all those feelings of jealousy (which feed into the idea that one person matters, deserves, or is entitled to more than others). But finding humility and seeking to help others provides a gratitude that comes with no strings attached, which is better for the mood than any drug can be. This will be especially critical during the holiday season, when it’s easy to fall into habits of self-pity and resentment.

If being with your family on Thanksgiving may seem overwhelming or provide too many triggers during your recovery period, consider the many forums for volunteering that can greatly benefit from your participation. When people are grateful to you for your service, or for helping them in any way, it is easier to feel that powerful force of gratitude within yourself.

Therefore, cultivating an attitude of gratitude this season not only helps to improve the mindset but it can build authentic bonds between people, lessening the isolation that addicts in recovery may experience. It is also important to keep in mind that gratitude boosts optimism—that there is hope in the future beyond addiction—and can even positively impact health by reducing blood pressure and anxiety.

Finally, it is important for patients in addiction recovery to understand that recovery is a process and that imperfection is part of that learning process. Being negative fuels addiction; however, gratitude is a balm during recovery. Feeling gratitude in the face of addiction recovery is part of the overall process toward self-awareness and becoming a complete person without the drug that once filled up so much of the addict’s life.

If you are in La Jolla or the surrounding areas and want more information on addiction or treatment at our outpatient program at La Jolla Addiction Healing Center, visit us at, or contact our office at 858-454-4357 (HELP).