“Gratitude is not just an option for me—like, ‘Oh I can choose to be grateful or I can choose to not be grateful.’ Gratitude is literally a life or death thing for me.” That’s Thomas, Oats Overnight’s head of customer service. Thomas has struggled with addiction for much of his life. Years ago, he learned gratitude was the key to helping him break free of his addictions and move forward with his life. Aware that addiction still has the potential to lead him down a dark path, he practices gratitude every day, moment to moment, in order to survive.
A passionate leader of his team and teddy bear around the office, Thomas is a luminous soul who can brighten up anyone’s day. But he didn’t become this incredible person by accident. His story is a difficult one to share, and for some time he deliberated whether he should do so. In the end, he believed there were people who might benefit from reading it—some of whom he could even help directly as a result of this post. This is what pushed him to go on the record and talk about his lifelong struggle with addiction, and how he overcomes it every day by practicing gratitude.
“Drugs, alcohol—just about everything you can imagine…I get addicted to things I don’t even like,” Thomas explains. This includes seemingly harmless items like cell phone games or temptations as obvious and insidious as unhealthy food. His upbringing and genetics play a central role in why he is so prone to what’s better described as “addictive behavior,” rather than just addiction. “I’m always going to be an addict,” he explains. “It’s literally a part of my DNA.”
About 10 years ago, Thomas realized that his addictive behavior was severely impacting his life. At this point he had formed addictions to painkillers and several other substances, all of which were taking a heavy toll on his mental and physical health. “I’d been an addict before that, but that’s when I realized I had a problem.” When he finally decided to seek treatment, his counselors suggested practicing gratitude as a way to combat the negative thoughts that were feeding his addictions—patterns of thinking he had developed in his youth that caused him to dwell on his shortcomings and failures, rather than all the good that surrounded him. At the time he was too deep in the throes of negative thinking to find the will to fight back, and he struggled with addiction for several more years. But then something happened that helped him break free.
Leaning Into Gratitude
Thomas eventually entered a four-week treatment program after his addictive behavior brought him to the brink of suicide. “I was in so much pain and mental anguish… I just didn’t want to live anymore. What addiction did to me mentally—it turned me into a miserable, miserable person.”He wasn’t expecting this treatment to be different from the others. But the staff at the treatment center approached gratitude in a way that made him reevaluate its role in his life. At least once or twice a day at random times, people he had never talked to before would ask him to name something he was grateful for. He didn’t know why or whose idea it was, and it was always a different person who asked the question. “I’d have to stop and really think, ‘What am I grateful for?’”
Over the weeks, the continued efforts of the staff began to have an effect. “It helped me really think, Wow, I really should be focusing more on what I’m grateful for, not the current pain I’m feeling, or what I need, or what I don’t have. I should be focusing on what [I] do have, on what’s great about life.”
Upon leaving, Thomas decided to make a change. “Gratitude is something you hear about a lot, but people don’t always incorporate it into their daily lives. I know it’s something I never used to think about.” But Thomas did incorporate it into his daily life. With practice and patience, he began to break the thought patterns that had fed his addictions and was finally able to move forward with his life.
Thomas continues to practice gratitude to this day. But his method is not like other methods. He doesn’t sit down and write gratitudes (though this is close to how he got started, and can be an effective method for people who are just beginning their gratitude practice). “For me,” he says, “it’s incorporating it into every second of my day—making it habitual so it’s organic.” By making thoughts of gratitude routine and habitual, he commits the behavior to his subconscious, which makes him freer to fight the negativity that can lead him back to addiction.
For Thomas, a vital part of practicing gratitude includes being grateful for his very struggle with addiction. Being grateful for one's struggle sounds counterintuitive, but he has a good reason: It puts him in a unique position to help others who are also struggling. “I don’t resent these negative experiences I’ve had. I’m grateful for them. Now I’m uniquely qualified to help certain people. I understand what it’s like to be struggling with addiction to the point where you don’t want to live anymore. I can empathize with people who’ve made terrible decisions, who don’t have the will to move on. I can relate to people in ways that a lot of others can’t.”
Thomas is an active member of the Alcoholics Anonymous community and attends AA meetings twice a week. AA gives him a platform to share his story with those with similar struggles, and he’s no stranger to lending a helping hand to those in need. He wants to extend the same helping hand to anyone reading this right now. If you’re struggling with similar issues, know that you’re not alone. Thomas has made it his mission to help others in need who can relate to his story. He’s not a licensed therapist, but he would love to be a listening ear. If you wish to communicate with Thomas directly, you can reach out to him at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s Practice Appreciation Together
At Oats Overnight, we believe that a mind fed with gratitude is a powerful tool for personal growth. When combined with a body that is nourished by healthy daily rituals, positive change happens. We want to fuel your goals through a premium breakfast and a community of support that practices gratitude and mindfulness daily. Join us as we journey together.
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