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.
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.
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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