Gratitude while Drinking, Gratitude while Recovering
A Study of Alcohol Use Disorders
Background. For decades researchers have debated whether those diagnosed with alcohol use disorders can return to non-problematic drinking. Now, recovery researchers are measuring aspects of wellbeing in addition to aspects of pathology, producing surprising findings that have added to the debate. Recent studies show that some who continue to drink endorse high levels of psychosocial functioning. Objectives. Employ trait gratitude to answer the following questions: how do individuals who continue to drink but endorse high gratitude at follow-up differ from peers at baseline? Does trait gratitude correlate differently with demographic, psychosocial, and clinical factors for abstinent members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) versus drinking non-AAs? Methods. 275 individuals with alcohol dependence were assessed for trait gratitude at 2.5-3 year follow-up in a naturalistic, longitudinal study. Psychosocial and clinical indicators were assessed at baseline and follow-up. Results. Drinkers who endorsed high gratitude had higher socioeconomic status, greater levels of positive spirituality, more stable personality indicators, less addiction severity, fewer negative life events, and fewer psychiatric symptoms than their peers at baseline. For actively drinking non-AAs, trait gratitude correlated differently, and positively, with years of education, income, and purpose in life compared with sober AAs. For AA members, gratitude correlated positively with AA involvement and length of sobriety. Discussion. A subset of drinkers report doing relatively well despite meeting criteria for alcohol dependence. Trait gratitude correlated differently with other constructs for AAs versus non-AAs, indicating that gratitude for recovery might be contextually sensitive, operating differently within and without the structure of AA.