This might sound really crazy to you, but as I reflect upon the last 14 years of my journey in recovery, I can truly say how grateful I am for the road that I have walked. Might I even go so far to say, I’m thankful for the pornography addiction I walked through. “WHY???”, you might ask me as if I’ve lost my mind. (BTW, that’s a perfectly fair response)
I’m thankful for both the addiction and the recovery that accompanied it because it revealed the kind of person I really was for 13 years, and helped me to see the kind of person I COULD become — both the healthy and unhealthy versions of myself. I understand that it’s not an easy task to come to grips with the reality that both our struggles and our recovery deserve our gratitude. Who feels like giving thanks when they’re walking through fire? When they’re walking with a spouse that has felt the sting of betrayal? These are incredibly difficult moments to walk through.
In a recent group meeting, I shared with the guys that one of the benefits to the recovery journey is that as you progress and experience healing, you also gain perspective. Perspective over your past and everything that you’ve walked through that got you to the place that you’re at now. This doesn’t happen quickly or instantaneously. It happens after you’ve committed your life to the day in day out process of growth. It’s so important to be able to ask valuable questions like, “What has my addiction taught me about myself? How has my recovery journey changed me?
This month I want to share 3 ways gratitude will change your recovery — all for your betterment and your health. I’ve seen in my own life the fruit of expressing gratitude in each of these areas and how it has essentially enhanced my journey and helped me to keep going over the past 14 years:
When I made the decision to take my first steps out of darkness and into the light, I believe there was a barrier that fell in my relationship with Jesus. Sure, I had given my life to Jesus at the age of 16, but I hadn’t really given him EVERYTHING. For so many years, I had hidden so much in heart and refused to allow the Holy Spirit’s touch upon the darkest parts of my life. But that truly all changed in the Fall of 2009 when I decided I wanted to become a different person. And I haven’t looked back since. I needed a total overhaul in my understanding of who God was. I’m so thankful today for the grace He gave me through Jesus. It was first and foremost by His grace that I found freedom. And today, I’m truly grateful for His touch on my life. I believe He used the most painful moments within myself and even between my wife & I to bring about healing. I’ve often told people in recovery that I feel like the Lord waits for us to do all we can do so that He can do the things that only He can do. It’s a beautiful partnership, isn’t it? Today, I feel like I have a relationship with God that I never could have had if my addiction had continued.
As sort of a bi-product of choosing to walk in honesty and truth, I was finally able to allow other people to see the real me. For so long I felt so much fear and shame over my porn addiction. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I just couldn’t stop. What first started as a discovery had grown into full out medication and escape from the pain I wanted to avoid in life. But that all changed when I was able to let others inside. I love how one of my SGO guys said it best, “We’re on a journey of being fully known.” What a beautiful picture! And who are we really becoming fully known to? Chiefly to ourselves, but also to others. I’m so thankful that I have people in addition to my wife that KNOW the me. I can’t tell you how important it is to have safe, healthy people in your life too. Regardless of whether you ever walk through addiction or not, you need people in your life. We weren’t created to walk through life alone. And yet, that is exactly how so many people live in our world.
I feel like this little known fact bears as much repeating as possible: Gratitude has the ability to literally change the structure of your brain! Meaning your brain, your thinking, your processing becomes healthier and more responsive when you live from a place of thankfulness. This according to Brain Balance:
“Scientists conducted a study in 2008 to measure the brain activity of people thinking and feeling gratitude. What they found was “that gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions, and lights up parts of the brain’s reward pathways and the hypothalamus. In short, gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine.” Dopamine is our brain’s pleasure chemical. The more we think positive, grateful thoughts, the healthier and happier we feel.”
How cool is that?! As neurosurgeon Dr. Lee Warren likes to say, we have the opportunity to perform self brain surgery whenever we need to. The recovery journey is a beautiful journey, but it’s not an easy journey And if we’re not careful, it’s easy to emotionally spiral through discouragement, shame, and the slow progress that is often the case. That’s why it’s so important to keep your heart rooted in gratitude. What do we have to be grateful for? I have some suggestions that you may have not considered before:
- Gratitude for being exposed.
- Gratitude for those who helped me navigate through pain.
- Gratitude for hard fought healing.
- Gratitude for being given way more chances than I deserve.
- Gratitude for the struggles.
- Gratitude for what the struggles revealed inside.
- Gratitude for freedom.
Small Groups Online provides a platform to join other men who are also growing in gratitude. Men from every different background and walk of life. Some at the very beginning of recovery and others you might call “veterans”. But all are men who have forsaken isolation and have come to grips with the reality of real community in their lives. I encourage you to check out all the benefits of becoming apart of an SGO group today!
There are so many ways that gratitude will change your recovery if you allow it to. For me, I’ve made it a goal from the moment I wake up to the moment I lay my head on the pillow to be a man who remembers all that he has been given. Thanksgiving has become more than just one day a year for me. It’s a lifestyle that I try to live 24/7 365 days a year.
Frank is passionate about helping individuals live with sexual integrity. He also works alongside his wife Tracey in helping spouses who have been devastated by their partner’s addiction. Frank & Tracey live in beautiful southern Delaware with their two children: Nathan and Addison.