How a gratitude list can help

One of the things we learn when in addiction recovery is to write a gratitude list and to look on the positive side of life. This is a very important part of working our 12 Step Programme and keeping well.

At the end of our drinking or using our life is usually at its lowest ebb. Many of us are only just living. In fact we are not living, we are existing. Some people feel suicidal and some even try to take their own lives. Indeed I have heard that more people die from the mental torture and commit suicide than are actually destroyed by the physical debilitation caused by addiction (many also die in accidents, be they road traffic, falls, house fire etc). However, the lucky ones get a new chance at life. We get the help we need to stop the drinking and using and to live life without them (but note we get the help, usually through going to rehab or through AA or NA or another support group. I know very few – if any – who have done it on their own).

Living life free of mental obsession

In a relatively short space of time we can be physically detoxed from alcohol or drugs. If we are getting help and in AA, NA etc, we are also working a programme which is helping us to live life free of the mental obsession with drinking or using. Life is suddenly good and some of us go through a period of living ‘on a pink cloud’ – because our life has changed so dramatically from that miserable existence we had at the end of our drinking and using.

Then, though, we have to return to real life with all its ups and downs. No one ever says that our life is going to be great and smooth for ever now we have stopped drinking or using. Some of us still have consequences to face from our days of active addiction. Relationships may be permanently over or damaged, our families may still not trust us. May have to face the loss of jobs, ill health etc etc. We get through these things we know we have to face that are a direct consequence of our substance abuse.

We begin to live a much happier life. But then things happen similar to things everyone else has to face and we are floored. We did not sign up to a life free from alcohol and drugs to be unhappy. This is when we have to be careful and very protective of our recovery. It is too easy to focus on what is wrong in our life and not see what is right.

Gratitude list

So the tool we have at our disposal is our gratitude list. Maybe we are struggling financially – but we have a roof over our head and are not going hungry. Nor are we having to fund an expensive habit…. Maybe we are going through a bad patch in our relationship – but we will work our way through it or survive its break up and come through stronger and with more experience of life…. Maybe a friend has upset us – but we can deal with it and let us remember all the good friends we have… And we still have our families etc to be grateful for. And most importantly we still have ourselves and our self esteem and blessings from within our character to be grateful for.

Writing a gratitude list usually reveals that the things that are getting us down are relatively small and certainly can be overcome, compared to all the greater things we have that are still good in our lives. And absolutely nothing will be made better by having just one drink or drug.


The Haynes Clinic is an alcohol and drug rehab clinic which offers detox and counselling for people with addictions.

Call 01462 851414 for free and confidential advice.

How a gratitude list can help