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When the concept of gratitude comes up in conversations about recovery, it is generally considered in terms of how the person who has regained their sobriety can express gratitude. People in recovery are advised to express gratitude in a variety of ways, such as by keeping a journal devoted to tracking moments for which we are thankful, or by making sure we fully acknowledge the kindness and support of others. Sometimes gratitude looks like volunteering for or donating to a cause that is important to you. Sometimes it looks like paying forward a favor when the opportunity arises.

A spirit of gratefulness reminds us how much better life is when we are not encumbered by dependence on drugs or alcohol—and that can be a powerful reminder indeed.

But there is another way to think about gratitude besides the ways in which we can show it. A case could be made that it is equally important to think about how we receive gratitude. Finding the right way to accept the gratitude of others can be a wonderful way to build up your self-esteem and strengthen your relationships—both of which can be excellent ways to support your sobriety.

Ditching Our Desire to Deflect

When someone pays you a compliment or thanks you for a favor, how do you usually respond?

Many people—perhaps including you—have a tendency to deflect the praise or gratitude. We might say something like:

Oh, I hardly did anything at all!

We all do what we can.

No need to thank me.

You are far too kind.

Do any of those phrases sound familiar? Maybe you have a deflecting phrase of your own—something you habitually say because you feel a little bit embarrassed when someone says something nice to you. Maybe that is because you are trying to be humble. Maybe it is because you have low self-esteem. Or maybe it is just something you have done for so long that it has become a reflex.

Receiving Gratitude in the Intended Spirit

Whatever the reason for brushing off gratitude, the maneuver comes with a cost. We miss an opportunity to internalize some positive energy—and we miss an opportunity to share a real connection with someone else.

In a blog post entitled “Five Strategies to Graciously Accept Gratitude and Compliments,” Dr. Jennifer Hunt reminds us:

This person in front of you is giving you a gift, in words, and a potential bonus gift, a potentially meaningful emotional exchange. What if it was a physical gift? Would you hand it back? Would you toss it aside and reject it? Of course not, that would be hurtful. The gift-giver is in a generous mood and has chosen to give you the gift. And don’t forget, the gift giver has made him or herself just a tiny bit vulnerable. Receive the compliment and gratitude as the gift that it is. Try this for accepting compliments: “Thank you. Your compliment means so much to me personally.”

Dr. Hunt offers additional ideas for responding to gratitude or compliments—each of which relates to the ways in which these kindnesses can give you a lift:

Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed that today.

Thank you. I am going to remember your words, and the next time I need a boost, I am going to think of you!

Thank you. You can’t imagine how proud it makes me to hear that our work has been meaningful to you.

Thank you. I am really touched by your words.

In a certain sense, each of those approaches to reflecting gratitude back toward someone else is a kind of affirmation—in this case, one that affirms both of you. 

Being careful to receive kindnesses in an appropriate way rather than deflecting them is good for your mental well-being and for your long-term sobriety.

You Will be Grateful to be Sober

A substance use disorder brings chaos to every aspect of your life. From broken relationships to difficulties at work or school to financial problems—not to mention the damage to your body and brain—nothing good comes from drugs or alcohol. 

But there is plenty of goodness in the lives of those who regain and maintain their sobriety. At French Creek Recovery Center in Meadville, Pennsylvania, we are dedicated to helping you do just that. You can count on us for personalized care and ongoing support so that you can start your recovery journey with confidence. We are more than confident you will thank yourself for taking the necessary steps to turn your life around.