The people in the room have seen addiction destroy their careers, relationships and many of their dreams. They often feel anger, frustration and a sense of hopelessness. No one disagrees that “addiction sucks.” So when I ask the question “do you think that you could be a grateful addict,” there are always members of the group that look at me as if I’m from another planet, am just plain stupid, or obviously have not been listening to what anyone has said. And then the discussion begins.
No one wants to deny the destructive nature of addiction. It rips through families like a tornado in Kansas. The pain is real, the despair is real, the anger and resentments are real. Why then should anyone be grateful?
The reason, I suggest, is not because of what addiction has done to your life in the past, but what recovery can do for your future. Too many people sleepwalk through life — they don’t work at making life better, they don’t actively seek happiness, they don’t address problems. Instead they accept what is, and spend years, perhaps decades, bitching about almost everything.
Recovery requires — no demands – that you work at making your life better. Each day you must begin with a determination to look for goodness and meaning and purpose. You must be ready to fight against every event, every thought, and every disappointment that threatens to pull you back into the black hole called addiction. It’s a lot of work, but it provides great rewards.
Think about the changes that must be made to live a strong recovery. You need to learn how to manage stress. Your relationships need to improve; with better communication, conflict resolution and more genuine intimacy. Questions about life’s meaning and purpose need to be addressed. Resentments must be abandoned, forgiveness offered, emotions managed and love found and shared. In short, recovery demands that life be lived better, more richly, and with greater passion.
As the discussion ends, I usually have some converts. The puzzled looks have been exchanged for acknowledgement — not without some reservations — that it is possible to be a grateful addict. While addiction is not something to be wished for, it can become the reason why people seek something far better. If life gains meaning, and becomes richer and happier in recovery, the feelings of gratitude become real.