If you’re sober right now I’m glad you’re standing and I am proud of you. There were days early in my recovery when I was measuring my sobriety by how many minutes I had been awake. I’m guessing some of you have experienced those days. Maybe you’re living one now. I’d like to suggest that if we can shift our focus from the number of times we have fallen to the number of times we have stood back up, we have a reason for gratitude and appreciation. So what’s the difference between gratitude and appreciation? Gratitude is a feeling or state of mind. It’s more of an internal thing and can be short lived. Appreciation, on the other hand, is being able to see and understand the value of something or someone. For example, I’m grateful that I am sober today. Why? I feel good. I feel healthy. I experience appreciation as I recognize the role my sponsor plays in my sobriety. I appreciate the members of my group because I see the way they called and encouraged me. I appreciate the way my daughters stood by me when I was at my lowest. I go beyond simply recognizing what these people have done. I express my appreciation. I tell them what they mean to me. I show them by the way I act when they are around.
Why am I talking about gratitude and appreciation? Studies show that gratitude and appreciation are major indicators in whether someone will experience and maintain long term recovery. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, Professor pf Psychology at the University of California, Davis, “The practice of gratitude and appreciation can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life.” His study States that practicing gratitude and appreciation provides many benefits including lower blood pressure and more restful sleep, an increased sense of joy and pleasure, and reduced feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Our experience of appreciation may change dramatically over time. A few years ago, I ran into the prosecutor that handled my case when I was sentenced to prison for two years as a result of my addiction. The feelings I had for him for several years would not have been classified as appreciation. When I introduced myself to him in a restaurant I literally saw him recoil as if he expected me to attack him, but I quickly told him that I appreciated the way he had handled my case. My charges could have resulted in a ten year sentence instead of two and I shared that I would probably not be experiencing the years of freedom I am currently walking in. I watched his body relax as I shared my appreciation. I can say for a fact, we both walked away feeling grateful.
I challenge you to sit down today and list just two or three things you can be grateful for. You have a lot more than two or three but that’s a good place to start. Then take a few minutes to list the people that contributed in some way to the thing you are grateful for. These are people you can appreciate. If you run into them this week, take just a few seconds to let them know you recognize the role they have played in your experience of gratefulness. Then, you can be grateful that this exercise means that you are more likely to experience long term recovery. If you can’t think of anything to be grateful for and you are sober, then be grateful that you stood up one more time than you fell. Then ask yourself, who played a role , no matter how small in contributing to my sobriety today and show some appreciation.
If you’d like to talk, shoot me an email at email@example.com.