When I decided to stop getting high, I told myself that I just wanted to be happy.
Isn’t that what everyone wants?
At the end of the day isn’t it about just being able to feel good about yourself? Isn’t it about spending your days in a perpetual state of bliss and happiness?
That’s what people say, and I’m here to tell that is a myth.
One of the things that sobriety has taught me is that happiness is not something you can get or even earn. Happiness is a by-product of something bigger. Being happy is an effect.
An effect of what? Happiness is the result of being whole.
Happiness Is Temporary
I’ve heard many times that people drink or drug because they are trying to fill a void. I can relate to this because I have experienced it myself. Always trying to fill that void inside of me with whatever I could find at the moment. Often times with addicts there is a gap within ourselves that we fill with drugs or booze or money or sex.
We tell ourselves that filling that void is what makes us happy. The funny thing is that it does, but only for a moment. Happiness is temporary, just like pain is temporary. It would be ignorant to say that these worldly pleasures do not make us happy, they do. But happiness always goes just as quickly as it comes. Happiness is in the moment. Happiness is fleeting.
Drugs can make you happy. Getting a check for 1 million dollars can make you happy. A night filled with intimacy with an attractive mate can make you happy. But happiness only lasts as long as the stimulation lasts. As soon as it is gone, the void is empty again. There is nothing to fill it.
I do not believe in happiness. I believe in filling the void.
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What Does It Mean To Be Whole??
These days everyone is searching for happiness. There is an entire market based on this. Self-help books, exercise programs, diet coaches, make up artists, motivational speakers, clothing lines, the list goes on… all of them are selling you happiness. I do not think that these industries are bad. In fact, I believe the opposite. All of these industries are great and valuable to the human experience. I am just saying that the people participating in them are missing the mark. They will not find happiness there.
Everyone will have a different perspective on this. All I can tell you is my own personal experience.
For me, filling the void means to be part of something that is bigger than yourself. This can be a lot of things.
Next time you get a chance, find someone who has the contentedness you are searching for. Find someone who has that silent confidence that we all envy. Observe them, if you are close with them even ask them a few questions.
My guess is that you will find this person has these qualities because they are whole. Their human void is filled with something that comes with a feeling of belonging. They are part of something bigger than themselves. They belong to something that brings meaning to their lives. That is what it is all about.
It is also important to understand that money and relationships and pleasure are not bad things. These things all have the power to increase quality of life. That is great!
A higher quality of life is something that we all strive for. The difference is that those who have it will quickly come to realize that resources and excess and glamor will not bring peace of mind. That can only come from something bigger than your ego and your self-realization.
But Didn’t I Get Sober To Be Happy?
Yes… and no.
I am much happier now that I am sober. No question about it. I feel better, I feel more joy in my life. I appreciate small things like nice weather, healthy food, small favors and a good night sleep. What I am saying is that none of this stuff is what actually makes me happy.
Some days I am happy. Some days I am sad. Some days I am anxious and some days I am wound up with excitement. These are all feelings, and feelings aren’t things. They are interpretations.
My happiness is a by-product of my belonging. I belong to something now. I belong to a Higher Power of my understanding. I no longer look up at the stars scratching my head in confusion. I belong to a family of people who work to try and improve the lives of others.
Sobriety has taught me that it is not realistic to try or even want to be happy all the time. Sometimes pain and discomfort are good for you. They teach you lessons. They teach you how valuable the good days are. Pain builds character.
The dichotomy is that it is completely possible to be in pain, and still feel whole and content. As long as you are filling the void with something that makes you feel complete, you can get through anything.
Putting This Into Practice
I find it a bit challenging to explain all of this. Over time, I have learned these lessons in my mind and heart and it can be difficult to translate into common English.
I feel the best way for you to understand the value of feeling satisfied is to go apply it in your own life. I suggest you grab a piece of paper and write down what it is that makes you feel alive. What have you discovered that makes you feel content and satisfied and complete?
After that, TAKE ACTION!
Go out and do the things that you feel will bring meaning to your life. Get out of bed and get to work.
This is the reason you got sober! It may feel like you got sober to be happy, and like I said before that is a realistic expectation. But if you are searching for happiness, you need to search for purpose. Happiness is a secondary effect of purpose. You will have days when you feel like shit, but you will still have a purpose.
There will be days where the world seems like it is crashing down. That’s life. That’s part of being a human. However, with your purpose comes a deep understanding of yourself. If you know yourself, then you will not need to search for happiness. It will just come to you.
I am never surprised when people are searching for happiness, and they can’t hold onto it. Happiness is not meant to be held. You must take the good days with the bad.
Instead, you should search to be whole.