Choosing Gratitude

When I was first introduced to treatment and recovery in a 12-step group, I heard people laughing and talking about how grateful they were to be an alcoholic or drug addict in recovery.  These people talked about the years of happy sober living they had.  I simply could not believe that anyone could put together any length of time without using, OR, that they could be happy and face the challenges in life without mind-altering substances.

I was sure that I was the only person who had suffered from the abuses that lead me to drinking and drugging, and that if ‘they’ had gone through what ‘I’ had gone through, they couldn’t face a single day without using either. And, I was sure that these people were lying – no one can stay sober for that long!

I was a mess when I landed in treatment, and could not imagine ever being happy again.  I was victimized by physical and verbal abuse for so long that I believed everything my perpetrator said was true about me, even though I also knew what a liar this person was.  I had lost everything I’d worked for my entire adult life – including my kids – to this abusive person.  I was angry, vengeful and very broken.  I had been a victim for so long, it was my identity and I didn’t know how to not be a victim.

At some point early on in my recovery, my sponsor suggested that I start a gratitude list.  I scoffed.  After some discussion, I agreed to write down 2 things I was grateful for every day for the next week.

This was the beginning of my growth from being a victim to taking back my power, finding joy, and eventually finding sobriety and serenity.

A Tool For Recovery

The transition away from a life of impulse and feeding unhealthy desires, into a lifestyle of self discipline and thoughtful action is not an impossible journey but it is a most difficult one. To make such a journey we need support and we need tools, tools that help raise our self awareness and give us confidence in times of weakness. There is an old acronym familiar to those in recovery which serves as a helpful reminder that, when we find ourselves vulnerable and battling temptations, we are often ignoring some very basic human needs.

H.A.L.T.

Each of these letters represents a very natural human condition and a high-risk situation which can lead to us inviting a harmful thing back into our lives.

Hungry: When we are hungry our bodies are trying to communicate a vital need that requires attention, “nourish me”, it says. Hunger is not be confused with feeling like having a snack, it is the deeper, more persistent, voice that craves good healthy foods and water. Our brains and body can only function using the nutrients found in the food and drink that we put in. For example, when we eat too much sugar and not enough proteins, vitamins, and minerals, our ability to focus and to think clearly soon suffers. Many drugs and alcohol are appetite suppressants and when we stop our hunger returns. Without enough hydration our energy level will sink and we can begin to resort to our quick fixes or pick me ups, in order to quiet the unsatisfied voice of hunger.