What’s a “Grateful Addict”? By Nadia Sheikh
How could anyone be grateful for their substance abuse problem? Because of it, I had lost my job and spent all of my money, I had damaged relationships with my family, and I had severely compromised my health. When I started my recovery journey, I couldn’t find many reasons to be grateful.
I blamed my addiction for all of the destruction in my life. I lost a full scholarship to the creative writing program of my dreams. I became so sick I had to learn how to walk again. It made me feel different from my family—inferior, inadequate, out of place. It made me feel weak and selfish.
I started hearing people say that “a grateful addict will never use.” That sounded like a good plan, but I didn’t understand what it meant. Sure, I could say I was grateful to still be alive, that I was returning to health, that my family supported me. All things I thought I should be grateful for.
Then, I started to hear people say, “gratitude is an action word,” and I started to realize that I didn’t understand the actual meaning of gratitude. I knew how to be polite, how to say “please” and “thank you,” but gratitude is more than words we say to each other.
Gratitude, as defined by the dictionary, is “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.” In sobriety, this feeling came upon me slowly. First, my senses started to come back to me—fruit tasted sweeter than I remembered, the greens around me turned vibrant, a hug felt so warm. Then, I started to laugh again, full-bellied and knee-slapping laughing. I started to notice my thoughts weren’t racing like they used to, that I could have a conversation with someone and pay attention the entire time. I felt so glad to not be in the place, mentally or physically, that I once was.
A truly grateful person reflects this feeling in their actions. When I am grateful to a friend or a sober support for spending time with me, I can say thank you, but I can also show them my gratitude—I listen to them, I share my time with them. When I feel grateful for support, it means I truly understand the value of support, so I give that support to others.
You can see the gratitude I feel for my family’s love when I stay in touch with them, when I am honest with them, when I make time to visit them. You can see the gratitude I feel for my job in my enthusiasm to work, in my daily motivation to write, in my reliability as an employee. You can see the gratitude I feel for my health in the food that I eat, the exercise that I do, the rest that I allow my body and mind to have.
Gratitude is realizing these things are gifts to be cherished. When I receive a gift that I love and that I am truly grateful for, like a brand new journal, I take care of it, I keep it clean, I carry it with me, I use it every day because I feel so lucky to have it. We can treat the gifts of our sobriety with the same reverence, never forgetting that, at one time, we could never have imagined such a life for ourselves.
Gratitude comes from having been to the edge of your limits, knowing the darkest of your depths, and never wanting to return to it again. Gratitude that comes from pain and suffering is strong and resilient. It is no longer a forced “thank you,” but a tangible feeling. I have known despair, but I am no longer there. I hope this feeling never fades.
Guest Blogger: Nadia Sheikh is a content writer and web developer for Sober Nation. She is passionate about recovery, creativity, and adventure.