Wondering if you’re happy
‘Wondering if you’re happy is a great shortcut to just being depressed.’ – Dorothea (20th Century Women)
This is a great quote from a mother, played by Annette Benning, to her son when he asked her if she’s “happy” in the movie 20th Century Women. It is also something that all of us should take note of in our daily lives.
Chasing happiness via short term methods is one of the main conduits to suffering through addiction. And if you have recently become sober, it is also likely that you will find little solace in thinking that without substances life is less fun, and you are therefore less happy.
Breaking the pattern
The truth is even having tried every available short cut, and finding the outcomes futile at best, our memory still points us in the direction of substances because it is likely those are the most readily available memories of moments where immediate relief was sought.
Therefore, finding a way to break that pattern of thought is paramount to early recovery.
A great starting point is to stop wondering if you are happy.
You can not think your way to happiness, so this is where Mindfulness can become an extremely helpful way of living.
Being present, and utilizing tools such as meditation, exercise, art therapy, etc. are amazing ways to start breaking this unhealthy pattern.
Stoic traditions will also bring forth a great deal of peace. By learning to re-frame circumstances that from the outset seem negative may give you a new set of eyes in looking at something.
Here are three examples of situations most people in early sobriety face:
- “All of my friends are going to be having fun, and I’ll be stuck doing nothing at home” – First and foremost, were you really having fun to begin with? That question may baffle you for weeks, months, and even years down the road because the answer is obviously – well, not really. Not to mention you have regained control over your experiences in life, whereas your friends “having fun” likely means they are ingesting substances in varying degrees of efficacy, and if they stay out of trouble will still be left tattered the next day both emotionally and physically.
- “I’m bored, and most of the things I do sober aren’t fun.” – Well, there is some truth to that, especially early on. This is why it’s so important to find fulfilling things to do with your free time. In the throws of substance abuse, it is likely you never saw things though or finished projects that were once important to you. You now have the opportunity to switch that narrative, and shape your life around things that will make you appreciate them in the moment which invigorates the importance of enjoying the journey more than the destination. Early on these may include recreational activities, meditation groups, journaling, reading, photography, writing fiction, and on and on; each one equally expansive and limitless in potential now that the person who is taking this on will see these projects through rather than casting them aside.
- “Will I ever enjoy things the same way as I used to?” – Then answer is a resounding no. The reason is you will enjoy them more, in ways you likely never thought were possible a very short time ago. When you treat your time with the respect deserved, and focus on sober ways to fill your soul, then the thoughts of “am I having fun” will naturally begin to fall away. As you think less and enjoy the moment more, happiness will inherently find you as soon as you stop looking. When peering towards a Saturday for example, once you’ve freed yourself from the shackles of substances, there is nothing stopping you from doing whatever it is you want. No longer are there things stopping you such as impaired driving, a search for substances and money, and the ever-closing door of friends who want to take this dangerous journey with you. Now, with this new freedom, your potential has no mitigating factors, so there are infinite opportunities available and spread out in front on you for the taking.
Reframing the picture
It is important to note these are merely examples, but really the over-arching ideas here apply to most things early on in sobriety. Re-framing experience will be one of the greatest changes you will ever make, and starting simply with eliminating thoughts like “am I happy” or “other people are having more fun” will be an outstanding first step. Of course, the goal is to extinguish these type of thoughts all together. This can be very hard to do, especially initially, so try and find these smaller and more attainable goals to move toward. Then let the rest begin to fall into place as they will as time goes by.
If you’re interested in learning more about Centered Recovery and addiction recovery from a mindfulness perspective, call Reed at 800.556.2966 today.