Thanksgiving is on its way, and many of us are probably already planning menus, identifying topics of conversation that won’t lead to arguments around the table, and trying to decide if any of our relatives can bring a pie that anyone else will want to eat. It can be a stressful time for just about anybody—and it can be even harder for a person in recovery from a substance use disorder.
But amid all the holiday hoopla, there is also a good reminder for those in recovery: A spirit of gratitude can provide a firmer foundation for your ongoing sobriety. There are a number of ways that spirit can have tangible effects in the world, especially during Thanksgiving. Let’s look at a few of them.
You Can Record Your Gratitude in a Journal
It might seem like writing down your gratitude in a private journal is a lot like hiding your proverbial lamp under the proverbial bushel. What good is gratitude that isn’t shared with others?
It is a fair question. But we suggest looking at it like this: When you take the time to keep a gratitude journal (which often takes the form of recording three or so moments or interactions from your day that you are thankful for), you remind yourself that even the toughest day has bright spots. Taking the time to focus on those bright spots is a good way to build your resilience—which in turn supports your sobriety.
Also, it is important to remember that keeping a gratitude journal does not replace telling the people in your life that you are thankful for them. The journal is for you; the direct expression of thanks is for both you and those you are grateful to and for. It doesn’t have to be just for Thanksgiving time, either.
You Can Express Gratitude by Volunteering
Most all of us have benefited from the kindness of others at one time or another—sometimes in small ways and sometimes in ways that can be truly life-changing. By volunteering for a cause or organization that you believe is doing good work in the world, you can pay your gratitude for those kindnesses forward.
And there are seemingly endless options. You can volunteer to help ensure more members of your community have enough to eat. You can volunteer with an arts organization to help bring beauty and creativity into people’s lives. You can volunteer at an animal shelter to help connect pets and people who can enrich each other’s lives. You can even volunteer to pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, rake leaves for an individual with disabilities, or offer to drive folks to their appointments or their polling place.
Each of these activities, and others like them, can be a reflection of your own gratitude for those who have helped you over time—including those who have stood by you as you have battled a substance use disorder.
You Can Express Gratitude by Make Donations
Sometimes the best way to support a good cause—say, in the case of disaster relief or when specialized services are needed—is to donate dollars. Directing some of the money you have earned to support the work of others is another excellent way to pay your gratitude forward.
In this case, you may be able to directly link your gratitude for your sobriety to your donations. Odds are that you spent quite a bit of money on drugs or alcohol before you got sober. You might make a rough estimate of how much you spent a week or a month or a year and give a percentage of that amount to causes that are important to you and to your community.
In the past, you used a portion of your hard-earned money to support a habit that was destructive to you and those around you. Redirecting some (or even all) of that money to help others is a powerful way to demonstrate your gratitude.
We Are Grateful for the Opportunity to Help
All of us at French Creek Recovery Center in Meadville, PA, count ourselves fortunate to have the opportunity to help individuals who are struggling with drugs or alcohol reclaim their sobriety—and their lives. As Thanksgiving approaches, we are reminded of all the lives we have been honored to touch via evidence-based, compassionate, and personalized care.
If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, the time to get help is right now. You will truly have something to be thankful for as your recovery journey gets underway.