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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.
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