I am a sober woman and I am happy! There was a time in the not too distant past when I believed those two words – sober and happy – were mutually exclusive. How would I ever socialize without my beloved wine? How could I relax after work, without sipping my cocktail? In my pre-sober mind, alcohol and happiness were so tightly linked that their connection held me hostage. I believed that I absolutely needed to drink to be happy. It was precisely that strong association between booze and happiness that prevented me from exploring a life without alcohol.
I spent years knowing that wine was not my friend, but my alcohol dependent brain was highly adept at overriding my sensible thoughts, assuring me that sobriety was boring, and that I’d never fit in without alcohol. Sadly, I fell for those lies. For the most part, it was fear that kept me from even considering sobriety. We tend to make blanket judgments about the unknown, and I did just that with sobriety. I knocked it because it wasn’t glamorous, tsk tsk-ing those who declined alcohol, conjuring images of them grasping their brown bag bottles. Yet for many of us, substance dependency robs us of our health, our relationships and yes, even the simple happiness of everyday life.
But can happiness really be synonymous with sobriety? Absolutely! Some experts suggest that people in recovery are happier than their non-alcoholic peers. According to Christopher Murray, a New York-based psychotherapist, “folks in recovery have learned to manage their emotions without reaching for a substance in order to let loose.” He suggests that our recovery work has taught us how to better access our feelings, including happiness, with greater ease. I would agree.
William Berry, a Psychology Today contributor, explains that recovery leads people down growth paths they might not otherwise travel. While personal discovery, emotional growth and supportive peers are available to everyone, he asserts that we in recovery deliberately expose ourselves to more opportunities for happiness. It’s a process of our recovery, and yes ~ our lives DO depend on it!
When I stopped drinking, I chose Women for Sobriety (WFS), an organization dedicated to helping women discover happiness in recovery from substance use disorders. The WFS New Life Program has as its foundation thirteen Acceptance Statements. Unlike a step-based program that is hierarchical in nature, these statements may be applied to recovery as they are needed. Embracing the Statements has helped me discover my true self. I have gained so much knowledge simply by sharing experiences, hopes and encouragement with other women who are walking in my shoes. Their advice, support and compassion make a difference in my recovery every single day! WFS helps me learn behaviors that enhance my happiness and well being, while at the same time, makes me feel empowered!
Happiness is a habit I am developing.
Happiness is created, not waited for.
Acceptance Statement 3
One of the WFS statements tells us that Happiness is created, not waited for, suggesting that happiness is ours for the making. Some think that we are either eternally happy, or that happiness is fleeting or elusive. They believe they will find happiness when they meet the right person, land the perfect job or find their forever home. The New Life Program suggests that happiness springs from inner peace and contentment. It comes from within us ~ happiness becomes ours as we nurture it. Once I realized this, I decided that I wouldn’t wait for happiness to find me!
I’ve discovered a new kind of happiness on my sober journey. Sometimes I experience happiness that is as sharp and crisp as the brightness of the sky on a cold winter morning, or the brilliance of the sun sparkling off freshly fallen snow. Happiness might also be cozy and soothing, like the easy smile that lights up my colleague’s face when I greet her in the morning, or the warmth of a familiar hug as I welcome an old friend. I find happiness in ordinary things like freshly laundered sheets or a hearty cup of homemade soup. I am mindful of happiness in everyday occurrences ~ waking with energy and anticipation to face the day ahead or simply appreciating the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Don’t even get me started about snuggling with my old pup!
The best happy moments are those that catch me unaware ~ like glimpsing a group of toddlers during story hour, or busting some killer moves on the dance floor ~ without a drop of social lubricant. I’m actually a much better dancer sober! There’s some subtlety in my newfound happiness, as if it’s always been there, but now I am the new addition to the equation. All of a sudden, I’m an active participant in my own life, gratefully aware of my happy surroundings. My body is happy, too ~ feeling the satisfying tension in my muscles after a great workout, or sensing the rhythmic pulse of my heartbeat while meditating. I’m content and comfortable with the person I’m becoming. My sober happiness is normal, yet extraordinary!
If you’re a woman who suspects that you have a substance use disorder, but you worry that you won’t lead a happy life without alcohol or other substances, I hope I’ve given you something to consider. Recovery and happiness don’t live in separate hemispheres; in fact, it’s the genuine happiness I’ve come to know through my recovery that has fortified my sobriety. Yes, I’m sober, but I’m anything but somber! I encourage you to check out the WFS New Life Program! Be assured that happiness is a habit you can develop!
This is the first in a new blog series sponsored by Women for Sobriety (WFS). Your thoughts and ideas are important to us, so please take a moment to comment on this post. What are some examples of happiness that you have discovered in your recovery?
Stay tuned for our next blog post to be submitted by another sober sister from Women for Sobriety.
If there is a specific topic you would like to read about, please let us know!
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29 thoughts on “Hello Happiness!”
Thanks for making the effort to get Women for Sobriety out as a recovery resource to more women. It’s still like a secret club that you can only seem to find by a Google search when looking for alternatives to a 12 step program. Change take time, but I can see WFS and its powerful 13 Acceptance Statements as the “go to” program for empowering women.
We CAN create happiness. Jean Kirkpatrick’s New Life Program has helped me to create a life full of happy moments. It has challenged me to change my negative thought patterns, accept responsibility for myself and my actions and to give and accept love to myself and others. Who wouldn’t want that???
Now we just need to get the word out….
You’re right, Lisa – who wouldn’t want happiness? Let’s hope more women discover this program, and our secret gets out! It’s just too good not to share!
Loved this and even shared it on my Facebook
Thanks for sharing this on FB, Bobbie! Our program has so much to offer to women with substance use disorders. Sharing our message is one way to spread the word!
Awesome post about alcoholism and women! WFS offers such a fresh approach, all positive and growth oriented. I am so grateful I found Women for Sobriety and was able to stop drinking. I hope many other women will give this a try.
I’m grateful too, Jen! It was the positivity and growth mindset that are embedded in the Thirteen Statements that attracted me to the WFS, and what ultimately helped me stay sober. I’m with you in hoping that other women discover this fabulous program!
I am new to sobriety, but getting glimmers of what you’ve talked about here.
Drinking alcohol had become synonymous with pain for me. I couldn’t enjoy the everyday beauty of life while trying to recover from hangovers.
I drank for decades, so I’m not sure I can do this….but I have hope. The simple pleasures you describe is how I used to experience life before I needed the crutch of alcohol.
Thanks for this thoughtful blog post….it makes me want to stick with sobriety and get to where you are.
You’ll get there, Barbara – be sure! Let those lovely glimmers offer you hope! There is no need for the ‘crutch of alcohol’ anymore because sobriety makes the ordinary great! Happiness is a habit that you can create! Keep creating it!
I’m learning little by little how to create a different life. Thanks again for the lovely description of your new life. It is inspiring!
I am glad you are creating a new and different life for yourself. It seems that every day is about learning and noticing how wonderful this New Life can be!
I have a serious drinking problem. I want the happiness you describe but I’m afraid of a life without alcohol. I can’t imagine never being able to have another drink. I don’t know if that’s even possible for me. You seem to offer hope and I haven’t felt hopeful in such a long time. I haven’t found it anywhere else, so maybe here?
There is hope, my friend, I promise. Looking ahead to never taking another drink for the rest of your life can be challenging, but it is possible. There are many women just like you who have done it with the help of this program. Check out WFS and our Thirteen Statements. Happiness can be yours, too! Thank you for your honest comment!
Definitely here!!! I was much like you. I have a great imagination, but I could not imagine a life without alcohol. Oh, but the reality of how wonderful it is, is far far greater than anything I could have hoped for or imagined.
Now, I have a life and it is full with love and friends and joy and no alcohol whatsoever to numb it. Is life always easy? Of course not. But it is so worth living. And WFS is a great place to start experiencing this new life that is so full of possibilities.
Now, I cannot imagine ever going back to the way I was. Nor can I imagine every wanting to return.
Oh there is hope. I felt the same way – after a few years of binge drinking 24/7 up to 5 days at a time. It was horrible. Please give WFS a shot and know that this program is different than others and always here for you 24/7.
Love and hugs, Terbie
Thank you, Pat. I appreciate your thoughts.
For me, life is more about joy than happiness. I was once told that happiness usually revolves around a happening, but joy just is and exists within. I’ve also heard that joy is happiness dancing. Both those thoughts appeal to me.
Right before I embraced this final sobriety I had a difficult time visualizing my life without alcohol, specifically wine, in it. I didn’t think in terms of joy or happiness then. Wine was just too interwoven in the day-to-day fabric of my life. Drinking wine was just what I did. But within weeks of choosing an alcohol free life, as the heavy shroud of alcohol began to dissipate I began to feel again. Instead of numb, I had real true emotions. And joy was in there. Sure there were so not so pleasant emotions, but even as I sat with them and felt the unpleasantness, there was a bubbling joy. I was living. I was feeling.
I’ve released the negativity of those early days, but I have kept the joy that comes from being fully present in my life, whatever life throws at me. Now, I show up and I feel. And as I walk away, I take the joy of having been brave, of having been present with me.
Sadly, wine was just what I did, too! That is, until I recognized that it had confiscated my life. Once I decided that alcohol had to go, the happiness and joy began to emerge. Your comment is a beautiful ode to your joy, Ginger! “Joy is happiness dancing!” I love the image that conjures! I also feel joy – that peacefulness of simply being in the moment. Thanks for taking a minute to share your thoughts!
I think the distinctions between happiness/joy/well being are interesting. I don’t think of myself as happy or joyous as constant states….more like content and peaceful when things are going well. My goal is a sense of well-being. I know I cannot have that when consuming alcohol because the kick-back is too enormous.
I have read that people who recover from “alcoholism” or a substance use disorder are actually happier than people who drink non-alcoholically. That’s something to ponder!
I agree – contentment and peace just seem to be a way of life now that I have taken alcohol out of the equation! You’ve set a wonderful goal for yourself.
You know, it’s an interesting thing when you’ve quit drinking and you attend social events sober. You become an observer and it can be eye opening. So much of the jolly heartiness, overly loud laughter, camaraderie , ring false. I’ve thought to myself, are you really that happy? Are you enjoying yourself that much? Is your life that fabulous? And, in many cases, I know the answer because I’ve known these people for the better part of my life. They aren’t happier than I am, they’re simply avoiding their problems, numbing themselves, using wine, beer, whatever, to get through the night. Their problems are still there in the morning along with the inevitable hangover, embarrassment, and all too often regret. Regret for words spoken or texted, regret for poor choices, stupid behavior. I’ve left that all behind, I’m dealing with my problems not hiding from them, and yes, like you, Pat, I’m finding genuine happiness in my New Life not the false happiness I once sought in a bottle and that left me empty the following morning. Thank you for reminding me of this in your beautiful blog.
Great observation, Mary Sue! You are absolutely correct that our ‘substance of choice’ only provided false happiness for a short while. The genuine happiness that we experience in this New Life is something to be recognized and cherished, as I can tell you do!
Pat, this is a wonderful description of my new sober life. Thank you so much for your dedication to WFS, and to start this life saving blog. For those who are just investigating becoming sober, and feel that you need to give up alcohol, but you can’t see your life without alcohol, that was a common feeling for most of us. We went into this sober life taking on one day at a time. I would not commit to forever when I started this. I think believing “forever sober life” takes time, building what we call sober muscles and building this new, bright life.. It takes time to feel the happiness that you’ve created for yourself. But when it happens, it is technicolor. Pat beautifully describes the gratitudes that I now have throughout my sober day, and many are little vignettes: a child giggling at something she just read in her guided reading book, my pup rolling on her back…again…exposing her belly to be pet, the sound of my Keurig in the final stage of creating my cup of coffee, the trickle sound of water in a creek, the hum of my dishwasher, the accomplishment of completing my exercises and doing these daily, the stare of my kitty demanding to snuggle, the garage door opening indicating a family member has arrived home, feeling the energy to take on the day, mornings are now my favorite time…the list goes on and on. WFS is a welcoming site for women wanting to become the best versions of themselves.
Wow, Lakegirl – you’ve captured so many more examples of sober happiness in ordinary life! I love that the sound of your garage door opener signals to you that a dear family member is arriving home! Statement 6 – Life can be ordinary, or it can be great! – is another one of my favorites! Your response here is a welcome invitation to anyone who is curious about WFS!
Much like joy and happiness, I am now able to feel all feelings, good, bad or indifferent . And it is great to feel, rather than numb the feelings. All feelings are manageable when you are able to learn be present and learn new skills and utilize them. WFS has helped me in so many ways.
Yes, Ginny, it is great to feel all of the feelings, isn’t it? I’m glad you’ve learned some skills to feel more present in your life through WFS! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Women for Sobriety!
Since I got sober with WFS 21years ago, NOTHING in my life feels better than knowing in my heart that I live a life in truth and that I have nothing to hide. Even in the really difficult times and when trying to make a decision, as long as I’m sober and even if I make the wrong decision, I know I did it all with a clear head and a clear heart. For just that alone, for me, sobriety is so worth it!
Wow, Susie! Attaining 21 years of sobriety through WFS is awesome! I agree that living life with the clarity of knowing that I am the person I was meant to be is one of the greatest outcomes of my sobriety! Your words are truly a testament to this organization!
I spent a lifetime thinking I had to drink to have fun and to be fun. Taking alcohol off the table made me realize It was all fake fun. I wasn’t that fun at all. I was a loud, sloppy and embarrasing fool. If I was having fun, I didn’t remember it. There’s nothing fun about waking up in a panic trying to figure out what I did, who I offended and how I could make it through the day feeling nauseous, anxious, depressed and worried about my deteriorating future. As I reflect I know without a doubt it’s all fake fun and absolutely nothing fun past the first hour. One was never enough so for me one was too much. For me one will always be too much. I’m so thankful I can now choose authentic feelings of happiness and contentment over fake fun followed by self loathing, shame, alcohol fueled drama and a future spiriling out of control. An alcohol free life is not a deprivation. It’s a gift which makes life purposeful and fulfilling.
It’s amazing how much fun we can have without ever putting a drink to our lips! I am so glad you’re experiencing some of those authentic feelings of genuine happiness – not the fake stuff! Thank you for your thoughtful reply!
I am one day alcohol free. I cannot say I am sober because the effects of daily drinking take their toll for a long time.
i have been searching for a place to get the help and support that i need———. Now I feel lost.
Wish there was a WFS support group I could attend closer to me.
The Blog has helped encourage me. I also receive the Monday Thoughts which I try to let “sink in” but am not always successful