Things are pretty rough for the first 30 days or so. We are forced to take an honest and thorough look at ourselves right off the bat – we sit through hours of intensive therapy, cry on the shoulders of our peers, and do our very best to heal our minds, bodies, and spirits. We move into a halfway house, feeling relieved and strong. Maybe this ‘sobriety’ thing won’t be all that difficult after all. We make a few close friends, land a low-key job, and begin to reconstruct our lives bit-by-bit, slowly-by-slowly. Things fall into place, and all is well. Perhaps we even decide to heed suggestions, and we stay away from relationships while focusing on ourselves for awhile. We comfortably settle into a daily routine, and considering the unrelenting chaos of our lives before recovery, we are probably quite grateful for this.
Finding Happiness in Addiction Recovery
Yes, our newfound routine is nice for awhile. The relief of stability may begin to fade after a year or so, however. We may begin to grow a bit discontented with the apparent sameness, we may begin lusting for some semblance of spontaneity once again. We may begin thinking to ourselves, “Was the chaos really all that bad to begin with?” Boredom may begin to consume us, and we may begin to feel stuck and depressed. We may feel jaded, sick of our little job and the monotony of constancy; secretly yearning for something more. Restless, irritable, and discontented, we slowly begin slipping back into our old ways.
OR everything is going swimmingly. Life is good and things are rapidly falling into place. The daily routine is perfectly suitable, and contentedness has become a firm institution. And then, suddenly, something goes horribly awry. A close friend or family member passes away, an ideal job is abruptly lost, or a long-term relationship comes crashing to a bitter end. Life is unexpectedly turned upside down, and hope is promptly lost.
Whether you feel as if a bad case of the blues has been developing for months, or if one comes on swiftly and suddenly, you may be tempted to reach for your tried-and-true solution – yes, the one you have worked so tirelessly to overcome. A drink may not sound so bad after a month or two of inner turmoil. Of course, in cases such as ours, to drink is to die. And the romanticized image of that one single cocktail or generous glass of wine is never the honest end of the story. Our stories end in handcuffs, institutionalization, and potential fatality. Heartbreak and bridge burning, self-destruction, and complete and utter misery. No, ‘one glass of wine’ is not really in our repertoires, though we like to play with the delusional idea from time to time.
Okay, so we are sad. More than sad. We feel more down than we have felt in quite some time. Life is cruel and there is no hope for the future (this is what our sick minds keep telling us, at least). What do we do? How do we regain that elusive happiness we have worked so hard to obtain in the first place? Fortunately, there are several daily practices we can engage in to help lift ourselves out of an especially dismal funk.
Seven Ways to Get Happy
- Stay grateful.
There is no better way to maintain happiness than to adopt an attitude of gratitude. If you are feeling glum, make a list of 5 things that you still have to be grateful for. So, a long-term relationship ended? Take a closer look at how amazing your friends are, and what a blessing it is to have a job and a place to live. You got fired from your dream job? Consider the fact that everything has been okay up until this point, and that your loved ones will help carry you until you can stand on your own once again. Take a look at all of the little you things you may take for granted on a daily basis – things such as air conditioning, clean drinking water, and a full head of hair. If you have no hair, try contemplating how grateful you are that hats exist. Begin each day contemplating gratitude, and you will begin to feel more optimistic in no time.
- Help someone every day.
Make it a personal goal to help someone each and every day. Helping someone can look like calling someone you met at a meeting a month ago just to check in and see how they’re doing. It can look like volunteering at a soup kitchen, or giving a carless friend a drive to work. It can look like picking up trash on the beach for an hour, or helping an elderly woman with her grocery bags. If you make an effort to contribute something to someone else’s life each day, you will be taking the focus off of yourself while simultaneously building self-esteem. You are sure to feel significantly happier in no time. Selflessness, some say, is the key to true bliss.
- Don’t take it personally.
The truth of the matter is, absolutely nothing that others say about you is really about you – ever. If someone is acting in a hostile or unfriendly way, it is simply because they are going through something themselves. Keep this in mind, and do your very best to live in a constant state of loving-kindness.
- Take a look at the worst that could happen.
The vast majority of the limitations you are placing on yourself are not real – they are simply self-imposed illusions. If you are feeling helplessly low, take a look at why, and then carefully consider the worst that could happen. Say, for example, the love of your life decided to leave you. What is the worst that could happen? You feel and cry and wallow for a few weeks, and then grow immensely and move on to find someone even better suited in a year or two or three. In the meantime, you focus on self-betterment, and slowly transform into a healthy, capable, self-sufficient individual. Say you lose your job. What is the worst that could happen? You struggle financially for a bit, and are forced to find another job – probably one that is more rewarding and amazing than you ever could have imagined. Stay positive, and remember that everything happens for a reason!
- Spend minimal time engaged in social media.
If you allow it to, social media will greatly impact your potential for happiness. Why is this? Two main reasons. Firstly, staying plugged into Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (or whatever the kids are doing nowadays), will prevent you from remaining engaged in the real world around you. It will keep you from staying actively involved in the present moment, while serving as a distraction and potentially as an unhealthy coping mechanism. Secondly, there is an immense amount of negativity circulating the media in this day and age. Engaging in social media outlets on a regular basis can quickly tear you from a serene and calm mental space. Practice engaging as little as possible and see how significantly your happiness increases. Just for a week. Give it a shot.
- Stay spiritually connected.
Work on further bolstering your spiritual connection each and every day. This can be as simple as praying in the morning and before bed at night, or devoting 10 minutes of your lunch break to guided meditation. This could mean exploring various outlets of spirituality, such as attending a Buddhist meditation or taking a self-guided tour of some local church grounds. Be creative – spirituality is a highly individualized journey, and exploring methods that work for you will only lead to more growth in the long-run.
- Say ‘yes’.
If someone invites you to a meeting you have never attended, say ‘yes’, even if you aren’t quite feeling up to it. Go to dinner after the meeting. If a friend asks for a ride, say ‘yes’. Do everything you can to avoid isolating – get out there and live your life! Step outside of your comfort zone at least a little bit every day, and you will soon find that your worries have dissipated entirely.
Feelings Are Not Facts – You Are Okay
Everyone experiences a bad case of the blues every now and again – highs and lows are an expected part of being human, and certainly an expected part of addiction recovery. If you are feeling low, try to remember that there is always someone out there who is more than willing to talk you through your uncomfortable feelings – someone who has undeniably been exactly where you are now at one point in their lives. Talk about your current state to reliable friends and mentors. If you find that talking through your issues is not doing much to help you, there is absolutely no shame in seeking a higher level of care. Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist may be exceedingly beneficial, and if you do suffer from an underlying psychological disorder such as depression, seeking professional help is likely vital to maintained sobriety.
Take care of yourself! You are important. Your well-being is important and your happiness is important. Remember that feelings are not facts, and that every difficult time will give way to reveal a greater amount of personal strength and capability. You are okay – it will all be okay.