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Redefining Happiness in Sobriety

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. -Thomas Merton



Alcohol was my happiness for a quite some time. I remember having lots of fun going to wine festivals, concerts and parties. I thought that I was the life of the party, and I had many, many friends. Drinking relaxed me, made me feel carefree and fun! I felt like I had no cares in the world as seemingly boring things appeared fun, and anger and stress just melted away! That was my definition of happiness, until of course, my drinking spiraled out of control and my life became one huge misery! I do not recollect the point when the change happened; it wasn’t overnight, it was kind of quiet, slow and sneaky.

By the time I finally decided to quit drinking, happiness seemed like a distant memory that got washed away with the booze. My first year sober, all I could do was muster enough energy each day, to go to a meeting, and not pick up a drink. My emotions were all over the place, and although I had a few glimpses of what I thought happiness was, I was mostly trying to just get thru each day sober. It seemed like all the fun and happiness was just gone and I wondered if I was ever going to be happy again.

But, I had very high expectations for my sober life, especially happiness, because I heard, and saw that sobriety made people happy! I thought that my life was finally going to be happy too and I waited for it to arrive, with the impatience of a little kid waiting for Santa!

Except, I did not realize that after years of drinking and numbing out all my feelings, I truly didn’t know what happy was, let alone how to be happy. I believe that I often compared it to drinking, and I wanted what drinking gave me, but without alcohol. I was comparing happiness to the kind of high I used to get from drinking, that general carefree feeling. But that never happened, and I was disappointed and wondered what was all this for?!

I looked for answers to happiness everywhere and finally realized that if I wanted happiness I had to find it, because it was not just going to magically appear! I had to learn it, and I had to practice it. AND, I had to start with me! I had to start with my crappy attitude. I decided that since I didn’t know what things made me happy, but I did know what made me unhappy, I started by changing those. Each day, I picked one of these three things that I believed were my worst enemies, and I worked on NOT doing them for one day at a time.

Stop negative self-talk.
I found that this was a constant chatter in my head. All day, I continuously beat myself up for the past, for my mistakes, or for just being me. My favorite thought was, “I am so stupid,” and I didn’t even realize how often I thought it, until I decided to stop. The simple act of not thinking anything bad about me, made my day more pleasant.



Stop complaining.
I often relished in complaining about anything, and everything. I believe that it was a way for me to get attention and make people feel sorry for me, which then felt like they cared. But in reality no one cared about my dissatisfaction with it all, and I watched people often walk away, after I was only half way into “my” conversation. When I first tried to stop complaining, I remember not having anything to say to people! It was so very strange, and uncomfortable.

Stop gossip.
Gossip is like another way to complain, but it is usually about someone in particular, and it’s never positive. I think gossip was a way of talking negatively about other people so that, I may appear or feel like I was better than them, because of course, I would never do the things they did! I also think that it was a way for me to focus on someone else so that I didn’t have to think about my own issues. This too proved to be difficult and left me with nothing to say to people!
After a few months of practicing not doing the negative behaviors, I was able to add some positive behaviors that cultivated happiness. Here are some of the things I started adding to replace those negative feelings and thoughts with.

•    Giving myself complements
•    Writing in a gratitude journal
•    Greeting people with a smile
•    Showing genuine interest
•    Saying hello to strangers
•    Being kind to others
•    Reading motivational quotes

Happiness, it’s what we all strive to find and keep, even when it’s as elusive as ever. Nobody is cheerful and ecstatic all the time, but with a little practice, you can definitely find happiness all within reach. Today, even on a bad day, I know that not being dunk is happiness in itself!

What is your happiness?

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  1. Negative self talk is my biggest obstacle to happiness! I too don’t even recognize I’m doing it and just how often…every single day…I do it. I am now trying each morning and each night to say something positive about myself, my day, my life:-) I have 22 years and I never stop learning! Thank you for sharing and teaching me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, thank you! I went through a though patch in the beginning of the year and I was really surprised how quickly that negative talk just started up again. I am such a critic and it does me no good, and it seems to have the same cycle of drinking. Ugh. But, yes! We can change that thinking and that’s a great news! Thanks for stopping by. Hugs!


  2. Hi Maggie,
    This is a wonderful post. I love it and it is the first thing I read after getting home from a meeting. Today was a 1 and 1/2 meeting day. I went to a 9 a.m. but had to leave at 9:30. I always feel gypped if I only get a half. I too have way too many negative thoughts.. I never thought of myself as negative until about 6 years ago someone I worked with asked me “why are you so negative all the time”. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. 6 years later my ex wife tells me I’m always negative. If people tell me I’m negative I must be. But that’s not what this alcoholic thinks. I believe that other peoples opinions of me are not my business. And are not true. I must add that even if it’s not my business it still effects how I think and feel. I remain teachable. I’m not really one for gossip but I do find when I talk to people they walk away half way into the conversation. Your post has really enlightened me tonight. I try to make a gratitude list every night and it is mostly the same things for the last couple of decades.

    I’m beginning to do a lot of work on myself because although I haven’t had a drink to my lips in a few 24’s, I stopped going to meetings about 4 years ago because I began to feel bored. Mentally and spiritually I went out the only thing I hadn’t done was drink. That’s because I was always to embarrassed to tell the group I went out. In January I became so miserable and bitter that I committed to doing 90 in 90.

    I’m beginning to feel that I’m rambling on in your comment section so I will end on this note. To reiterate what our friend Tracey said ” I have 25 years and I never stop learning! Thank you for sharing and teaching me!”

    Thank you for this post.


    • Hi Nelson! I am glad to hear that you have recommited to meetings, I believe that they are our medicine! And I can so relate, that happened to me too, someone said that I had nothing good to say ever! Ugh. That was painful, but needed because I didn’t realize that I was. And I know what other people think of me is none of my business but sometines I have to look and see if they’re is any truth in what others say. My dad used to say, if 1 person tells you you’re and asshole then it’s on them, if 10 people tell you you’re an asshole, then it probably is you! Lol!

      Anyway, it’s good to know that we can work on being positive. Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Hi Maggie,
    I love the post. The negative self charter has always been an issue for me. As soon as I make a mistake or feel uncomfortable in anyway, it begins. I agree that once you are aware, you can begin to work on it. As for gossip, I work in an office an gossip is rampant, but I see how it can bring my coworkers and myself down.
    I like your quote that happiness has balance, rhythm, order and harmony and I think that when I am happy, I have all those things happening in my life. The intense happiness that is fleeting is great but cannot be sustained. When I am balanced, and have order and harmony in my life and relationships, that is when I feel calm and serene.


    • Hi, thank you! Gossip was weird for me, I think I didn’t even know I was engaging in it, I mean I never starred gossip I though, but I would find my self right in the middle of it, like how did that happen! And yes work of course is the worst. I have to just walk away.

      I love hat quote too, it reminds me that Happines is not explosive, it’s calm and steady and peaceful.

      Thanks for the great comment!


  4. Love this! It’s funny how many things in life are comparable to sobriety. As I have been attempting to eat healthier, just this week it occurred to me that I need to redefine happiness in terms of eating. Substitute soft pretzels for alcohol in your post above, and you have just described me! So, once again, recovery is a life-long process.

    I love your list above, and have done lists very similar, with great success. I will add one to the “to do” list for happiness: go out and help someone. It doesn’t have to be recovery-related, it can be as simple as holding a door for someone at the store. I’m telling you, consciously doing small acts of kindness grows happiness in a big way!

    Thanks for sharing this, Maggie, and for the reminder that, just for today, I am going to stop one self-defeating behavior, and add one positive one in!


    • Hi Josie! Thank you! You’re so right, it does fit with healthy eating, I can totally see it. And changing bad habits with good ones can be a challenge. I was reading a blog yesterday, about the way we view change even if it is for the better, we may view it as bad because it’s not something we are used to and our perspective in general maybe skewed. I think happiness is the same.

      Thank you for adding to the list! Helping others is amazing way to find some happiness, I would stick it right there next to being kind, I think it goes hand in hand. 🙂


  5. Yes, gossip – the killer sometimes. I get caught up in it now and then at work, and I am still trying to tow that line of discussing someone’s work and then getting into character defects and personal stuff. But that certainly ties into negative talk, even if it’s not about self.

    I have a lot of work to do in the not beating myself up department, and also in the complaining one too. I always thought I wasn’t a complainer, but then I catch myself and then…busted! I try to keep the St. Francis prayer at top of mind when these things crop up.

    Thanks Maggie – love this post 🙂



    • Oh, me too, me too, and same scenario, as you described with co-workers. And as the weather started being nice, me and one if the girls are doing walks at lunch and OMG, I get an earful of this person and that person and blah, blah, and I have to seriously the it out so I don’t jump right in! Good grief!

      Yep, but either way it’s all negative talk. I keep reminding myself of acceptance too, and not judging anyone as good or bad, just that they are, and that is it.

      Oh, we are works I progress my friend!

      St Francis prayer is awesome. Love it, thanks for reminding me. I am gonna go read it now!


  6. Hmmmm . Great food for thought as I’m almost to 6 months and have been really struggling lately. I’ve been feeling so blah for really no reason. Everything is great in my life, no reason to be unhappy or blah.. Guess I need to be proactive and quit thinking how drinking wine would make me cheerful……. Cause it’s only an illusion.
    Thanks a bunch for sharing.


    • Hi, thank you! Yeah I get those blah moments too and I have to view them as good because I also was addicted to the drama and the mental games I used to play and all the hiding and sneaking and lying. So now all that is gone and I was feeling blah. But blah is not necessarily bad. It’s just a time before the next growth spurt and finding new things to get you happy and motivated can really help with that!

      Thanks for stopping by. Hugs.


  7. I totally agree with what you say about not knowing what happiness was and trying to compare it to how I felt when I was drinking. When we stop drinking, we have to redefine just about every feeling because they’re all so different without the veil of alcohol. It’s funny that you mention negative self-talk because I didn’t realize until I read this that it’s been a long time since I bashed myself. I’m not even sure when that started to change for me but I don’t talk to myself negatively the way I used to. It changed without me even realizing it! Great post Maggie. 🙂


    • Hi Karen! Love he new pic!

      So true, I had to redefine many feelings, or actually just define them because I had no idea what I was feeling most of the time. In rehab we had a chart with the faces and description of feelings. It’s funny thinking back because my son brought one of those home from preschool once! Lol!

      So cool that you just naturally stopped bashing yourself. Mine comes and goes. But I’ll just keep trying. 🙂


  8. Great, great post
    This post seems so evolved for me. There is no way I could have understood most of what you wrote when I was new to a sober life. I feel a little like the other readers. I see that I’ve changed because I understand and relate to what you’ve written: the more I work on changing Lisa, the more the world changes. I especially love the last part when you share about the alignment of what I ‘think, say, and do’. Living from a place of integrity requires this type of discipline. Every sober day isn’t great, but everyday I don’t drink I’m happy about it. Very, very happy.


    • Hi Lisa! I giggled because I was remembering how frustrated I was being newly sober and unhappy and it never dawned on me that not being drunk alone was a reason be happy. But all I could think about was that my life sucked because I couldn’t drink. Well, I was also not in jail, or rehab, or passed out, or hungover, or jobless… and those were some huge reasons to be happy! I heard this saying once – I good day is when nothing goes wrong and I don’t drink, a great day is when everything goes wrong and I don’t drink!

      Thanks Lisa! Hugs!


  9. I think we as a society are confused about what happiness means. We equate “happiness” with “pleasure” and drinking gave us a lot of PLEASURE, but did it really ever make us happy? No. At least not in any lasting way.

    People often ask me if I am happier now. I think it’s such a thin word for what we’re really seeking, which – for me – is to be free. Happy is one of a thousand emotions I feel on any given day, you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you foe this great comment! I totally agre. I had a very squed perception of happy. I thought it was all butterflies and rainbows. But you’re right it’s the freedom that’s my happiness today. And it’s a whole bunch of things that together make up happiness.
      Thanks for stopping by. Hugs.


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