Gratitude is a central component of addiction recovery for many, yet it has received scant attention in addiction research. In a sample of 67 individuals entering abstinence-based alcohol-use-disorder treatment, this study employed gratitude and abstinence variables from sequential assessments (baseline, 6 months, 12 months) to model theorized causal relationships: gratitude would increase pre-post treatment and gratitude after treatment would predict greater percent days abstinent 6 months later. Neither hypothesis was supported. This unexpected result led to the theory that gratitude for sobriety was the construct of interest; therefore, the association between gratitude and future abstinence would be positive among those already abstinent. Thus, post-treatment abstinence was tested as a moderator of the effect of gratitude on future abstinence: this effect was statistically significant. For those who were abstinent after treatment, the relationship between gratitude and future abstinence was positive; for those drinking most frequently after treatment, the relationship between gratitude and future abstinence was negative. In this preliminary study, dispositional tendency to affirm that there is much to be thankful for appeared to perpetuate the status quo—frequent drinkers with high gratitude were drinking frequently 6 months later; abstinent individuals with high gratitude were abstinent 6 months later. Gratitude exercises might be contraindicated for clients who are drinking frequently and have abstinence as their treatment goal.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by grants R01 AA014442 and R21 AA019723 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, and partially by grant DA035882 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
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- Alcohol use disorders