Certain recovery dogma greatly emphasizes gratefulness. I recently came across a fellow addict in very early recovery complaining online about “not wanting to write an effing grateful list everyday, OKAY”. He was basically saying, my life sucks right now and I don’t effing feel grateful for it.
I totally got where he was coming from
Obviously gratefulness can be an important skill, recognizing what you have, what you have going for you, and how much worse it could be.
It can always be so, so much worse.
Gratefulness is an oft used tool to help people change their perspectives and keep them going.
I have issues with this, especially when it comes to recovery.
Honestly, this isn’t a thing that’s ever worked for me personally. When I am feeling strong negative emotions, listing what I’m grateful for doesn’t counteract them and often just feels false and frustrating to me. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work for anyone. I am saying we shouldn’t have the expectation of it working for everyone.
My second issue is with anyone asserting that everyone need focus on this. Maybe we should mostly be shutting up, listening, and letting the individual figure out what they need. Again for me personally, if I happen to be verbally expressing some negative emotion such as anger, sadness, or anxiety suggesting I think about those things I’m grateful for is going to feel extremely minimizing of the experience I’m trying to share.
I think about things I’m grateful for when I’m happy, often in the moment I’m experiencing it. My child’s existence when I am snuggling or laughing with them. The feel of the sunshine on my face while outside. The soft warm blankets I have to snuggle with. I am also filled with gratefulness when I am faced with absence…a few moments exploring what life is like in a third world country will leave me grateful for all I have and well aware of how superflous most of it is. My son has great disability but is physically healthy, something I learned to praise God for while I watched a friend grapple with her sons compromised immune system and the many threats to his life in what the rest of us know as “flu season”. I have another friend cope with the loss of her husband, and uet another the loss of her child. Holy hell.
Of course, my issue isn’t with gratefulness itself. The problem is when someone expects me(or others) to stifle the expression of negative emotions. Negative emotions are okay and expressing them is sure as hell okay. Sometimes life sucks, sometimes things piss us off. Being mad as hell or even feeling momentarily sorry for myself sometimes doesn’t negate my recognition of all I have. It also isn’t a weakness. Furthermore, learning how to feel and express what is uncomfortable is especially important for people in recovery-it’s definitely a skill set we’re lacking. We are a people that use substances to change-to have control over-the way we feel. I have heard so many people comment that “learning to feel” or “feel again” is the hardest part of recovery. Adjusting to these feelings, living with them and/or figuring out how to move through them is of upmost importance.
Let’s all focus on what is helpful to us and not insist it must be the same across the board.