Imagine that the top story on your newsfeed today was the announcement of a brand-new miracle drug, a medication guaranteed to create positive emotions, make you feel more alive, improve your sleep, reduce inflammation and blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, and increase your capacity for compassion and kindness— with absolutely no negative side effects.
Would you be interested?
What if this medicine were also proven to significantly reduce the cravings associated with addiction- would you want it?
If you could get it for free, without a prescription, would you make an effort to obtain it?
A Medication Is Available For Addiction
As it turns out, there actually is such a medicine. It isn’t new, but multiple scientific studies in recent years have proven the miraculous power of gratitude1.
I learned about the power of gratitude in the early days of my recovery from sex addiction. The cravings for pornography and prostitutes were still very strong back then, despite my determination to quit, and I was relapsing regularly. It didn’t help that there were approximately a zillion massage parlors and adult bookstores between my house and my office in Nashville. (Well, maybe not a zillion, but there were at least a dozen, and I had seen the inside of every one of them.)
One afternoon the craving struck with particular force. It was at work, trying to get things done but feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Suddenly the idea of visiting a massage parlor popped into my head. I pushed it down, but it resurfaced almost immediately. I tried praying it away, but it kept coming back. In fact, the harder I worked at resisting this temptation, the stronger it became. I was headed straight to another relapse, and I knew it. My car was about to drive itself to the nearest massage parlor, where a few fleeting moments of pleasure would be followed by a tidal wave of shame and regret. I was doomed.
All You Need Is a Pen and Paper
In desperation, I called my sponsor and told him about my dilemma. He listened patiently, then gave me a simple set of instructions. He told me to sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of things I was thankful for. “I know life is challenging right now,” he said,” but there are plenty of things that are going right. You’re in good health. You have a bed to sleep in, food to eat, friends you can call—and that’s just a start. If you think about it, I’m sure you can come up with plenty of things to be grateful for. After you have filled at least a page, call me back.”
Twenty minutes later, everything had changed. I called my sponsor back. “The craving is gone,” I told him. “This is amazing! I can hardly believe that something as simple as creating a gratitude list could tame my obsession!”
A Treatment, Not A Cure
My sponsor chuckled. “The urge will return,” he assured me. “The assignment I gave you is a treatment, not a cure, which is why it’s a good practice to write a gratitude list every day. Your addicted brain wants you to believe that you are deprived, that you need something—some forbidden pleasure—right away, in order to be happy. Gratitude, on the other hand, helps you see that you are already rich beyond measure, that you really don’t need a thing. It’s the key to contentment.
I now know that there is a biblical link between ingratitude and lust. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul described humanity’s descent into depravity this way: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. …Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts, to sexual impurity, for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” (Romans 1:21, 24, NIV, italics added)
I now know that there is a biblical link between ingratitude and lust.
I no longer write a gratitude list every day, but whenever I’m feeling restless, irritable, and discontent, I know exactly what to do. A pen, a notebook, and twenty minutes focusing on what I’m grateful for does wonders.