The Value of Appreciation in Recovery

The Value of Appreciation as it Relates to Addiction and Drug Abuse

Thursday, January 9, 2020 | By Cooper Samp

By Matthew D. Federici, MA, LMHC

5 Minute Read

Who are we to get to use substances to “shut off” the world, or numb our pain? What makes us so special that we get the “easy way” out in life, as opposed to facing our struggles with courage, dignity, integrity, and gratitude like many others? Of the many perpetuating factors of substance use, the entitlement factor described is one that can be challenged and defeated entirely within the self. 

Yes, People Are Happy Without Drugs or Alcohol

Have you ever noticed when you turn on the news (if you still watch traditional news) in the morning, maybe as early as 4 am, there are a lot of people already at work? You have the anchors, the production team, the camera and make-up crews – a bunch of people staffed and ready to go no matter how early you have rise. Those people didn’t just stroll into work at 4 am either – they probably got to the studio much sooner, maybe as early as 2 am or even midnight on the previous day to “start” their workday.

Imagine the sleep schedule. Think about the negative implications of family life. Imagine the implications on responsibilities, hobbies, other activities, and other normal day-to-day functions. Some of us would rather not work, then work a job like this. But these people do it anyway, and they seem pretty happy, at least objectively to the viewer. 

There are many other jobs, responsibilities, and tasks of life that require some burdening effort, but people still do them, and they don’t need to get themselves intoxicated to do so. We do these things because we have to, and we do these things because this is real life.

I become concerned when I hear phrases like “I’m adulting this weekend, can’t hang out, its a bummer.” No, you’re doing what’s expected of you as a productive member of society, that doesn’t take hand-outs. To call it something trivial and silly like “adulting” takes away the seriousness and responsibilities of the whole notion of being human in a civilized society. It also takes away the gratitude, and integrity that comes with adult life. It’s selfish and unappreciative.

Learn To Appreciate What You Have

Be glad you own clothes and have laundry to do. Be glad you have sufficient enough credit to have bills to pay. Be glad you have a floor that needs washing. Be glad you have a grandparent that needs a ride to a medical appointment. Life expects these things of you, it’s not some cute joke between you and your friends so you can hide how lazy and unappreciative you are of your life.

Consider the individual who is about to paint their new house with some loved ones, yet they acquire a large amount of amphetamine in order to “make it easier.” This is a true story from a former client, and the rationale was just bizarre. “Well, painting a house sucks and this will make it fun – it will make it easier.” But shouldn’t we have more gratitude here? You just bought a house. Some people are not so fortunate.

Painting a House Sober

This is what we call first-world problems, and the entitlement is profound and obscene.

Another client would tell me “well, doing my school work sucks, why can’t I get high first to make it more enjoyable?” This is an individual granted the privilege of education and is outright disrespecting it by not approaching it in their best cognitive presentation. Another individual might complain about their job and its responsibilities. Be glad you are paid, be glad you have a job at all.  In these cases, the biggest disappointment is with the self for not having the appreciation and gratitude required in healthy daily functioning. 

The Activity Itself Is Suppose to Be Fun…Why Do You Need More?

Furthermore, why is there a relationship between, and contingency on fun as attributed by substance use? So many individuals equate substance use with fun, and they take it further than that – they add substance use to the already leisure-purposed activities. Going to the movies? Let’s get high first. Seeing friends tonight? Let’s get high first. Got a date tonight? Get high first. Nothing else to do tonight? Well, let’s just get high. This whole mindset is unhealthy because the activity itself is the fun thing. We don’t need to drink or drug to have a good time. 

Children Playing together without the need of alcohol or drugs

Look at children – the process to have fun and enjoyment is biologically within us. Regardless if one wants to make the counter-statement that children don’t understand the “real world,” and its associated struggles and conflict, kids are a lot more in tune with the real world than many of us realize. They see the same stressors and struggles we do, and they are also at a disadvantage because they don’t have the knowledge, or cognitive ability to adequately process and fully understand what’s going on, and for that reason, things actually may be more frightening to children despite this perception of being care-free, and therefore for able to experience natural contentedness more readily.

Age, development, and experience don’t matter. We all carry that natural, biological readiness because, evolutionarily speaking, the ability to seek contentedness has attributions on overall mental health, and much like the ability to hunt or reproduce, is significant as a safeguard to the general survival of human species.

We Are Not That Special

A very wise person once said

“Life can be hard. Who are we to get to feel so good? Who are we to get to feel different, like you won’t ever normally feel when the rest of the world has to dig in and just get the job done.”

This is such a profound statement because it highlights the notion that, frankly, we’re not that special. There is a real struggle in the world; there is real sadness in the world – it just exists whether we like it or not.

Furthermore, there are almost 8 billion people on this planet presumably noticing the same things – and you are one of them. The world is full of these people – people who have ideas, emotions, talent, struggles, worries, and heartbreak. Who are we to get to drink and drug to numb our pain? What makes us so significant that we can take a free pass on actually feeling things? 

Unfortunately, many people, and many people in recovery, don’t usually learn and/or understand this notion until they’re already unappreciative, and many important lessons have to be learned the hard way. This is very detrimental to daily functioning because once someone is already drinking and drugging to numb their pain, they forget how daily life typically feels.

One has “raised the bar” where the normal ups and downs of life typically revolve, and now contented functioning is a much higher threshold than the average person. The natural contentedness encompassed in life has been compromised. The mindset shifts from entitlement to struggle and necessity, and therefore profounding reinforces said entitlement. What started off as ambivalence and lack of appreciation to make average daily life feel better, now becomes a struggle to function at all, a struggle just to “feel normal.”

We Must Break the Cycle

This cycle must be broken, and this is why gratitude is such a cornerstone in not only substance use recovery, but appropriate mental health in general. Once individuals see how the necessity of substance use can be made obsolete, regardless of history and quantity of substance of choice, their chances of resilience are much greater, in recovery, and overall mental health.

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