Exercising Gratitude

Gratitude reflects back the subtle changes that occur over the months and years of recovery

Recently I was at my cabin and truly recognized how good my life is. It was early morning, my husband was still asleep, the cat was on my lap, the dog at my feet, and I looked out at a perfectly still lake, surrounded by the brilliant colors of fall. As I basked in the well-being of the moment, I felt something I have searched for my entire life—a sense that this is enough.

In active addiction, I had no clue what enough was, so noticing quiet contentment takes practice. To savor moments of connection, beauty, and inner peace, such as laughter before a meeting, a hug afterwards, or someone honestly telling her story, is the joy of lifelong recovery. Gratitude makes a difference because it shows me the subtle changes that occur over the months and years of recovery.

Gratitude is a muscle that develops with practice. The more we appreciate, the more we are able to see the daily gifts of life in sobriety. Taking time to notice natural beauty, keeping a list of things that are going well, and sharing what we appreciate about our partner or children with them daily, keeps us on the path of recovery just as strong muscles keep bones in place.

Gratitude is a magnet. By focusing on what I do have rather than on what I don't have, gratitude draws the best of any given moment, person, or situation. Everyone has character assets and defects, and when I focus on the best in others, that's usually how they show up. Appreciating what I have, savoring the good, focusing on what's working, and thanking others are actions that change my consciousness.

Gratitude is a gauge of spiritual fitness. Resentment and resistance are the calling cards of my inner addict. Gratitude and appreciation come from my innermost self, which is connected to my higher power. The more grateful I feel, the more useful I am, which is a goal of Step Twelve. Being grateful, truly grateful, actually feels a lot better than talking about what I'm missing, what's not good enough, or what could be better. A Tenth Step inventory helps me notice when gratitude is seeping away and pray for change.

As we head into a holiday devoted to appreciating what we have rather than on acquiring more, the following may be helpful to gauge your level of gratitude:

  • Something that I have in recovery for which I'm grateful.
  • Someone in my life for whom I'm grateful.
  • Something about my body for which I give thanks.
  • Something about my mind or spirit I appreciate.
  • Something valuable I have learned or inherited from my family.
  • One challenge I face that I could be thankful for.
  • Something people would be surprised I am thankful for.

Gratitude is contagious. Look for generosity, kindness, and joy wherever they appear; give thanks; and watch your life bloom.


JoAnn Campbell-Rice, inspirational speaker, writer and a teacherJoAnn Campbell-Rice is manager of Renewal Programs and Spiritual Care at the Dan Anderson Renewal Center. A former professor of writing, she has a private practice of spiritual direction in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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