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Noticing the Joy

‘When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘what’s the first thing you say to yourself?’

‘What’s for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’

‘I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?’ said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. ‘It’s the same thing,’ he said.”

                                                                                  — A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh


I have fond memories of reading Winnie the Pooh stories when I was young. What I love about Pooh, and the Hundred Acre Wood stories, is the childlike honesty they possess. There is no pretense except by Rabbit ~ but then, he represents adult behavior with all of its constraints. Eeyore, with his absolute lack of enthusiasm, is accepted by the others exactly as he is. I love that Tigger, as a newcomer and a troublemaker, is folded in with all of his faults and included as well.

Winnie the Pooh and his friends speak to the happiness, greatness, and especially the enthusiasm that we come to appreciate through our acceptance of Statements 3, 6, and 11. 

All of the (WFS) Acceptance Statements spoke to me in some way when I first found Women for Sobriety, but Statements 3, 6, and 11 were the least accessible for me as a newcomer. I did NOT feel happy, enthusiastic, or that life could be great again. I was at the bottom of a black hole. Frankly, the only statements I could easily grasp were Statements 1 and 2.  I clearly had a life threatening problem and negativity was rampant in my thinking. Whenever Statement 11 was discussed, I put on my sarcasm hat and participated with my tongue-in-cheek: “I will enthusiastically try to survive my cravings.” “I am enthusiastically trying to fix my failing marriage.”

My inner cynic was strong… and it took a long time to soften to the happiness/joy statements enough to begin to work on them. Even then, I had to focus on the very small. I found joy in a sunrise or the smell of the desert after rain. I found enthusiasm for Earth on walks with my dogs and in the silence and beauty of my surroundings. I’ll come back to the smell of freshly baked bread and how a beautiful loaf could put a smile on my face like nothing else. Waking up without shame ~ yes, I could embrace that enthusiastically, but I could not face the rest of my sober days with the same level of joy and acceptance until I finally turned the corner on what, how, and why I was doing this. 

My “sober firsts” were a mixed bag. I was in a good place on my birthday and on the 4th of July.  I did my first Wimbledon finals and birthday weekend without alcohol. It was just lovely. My first vacation was a nonstop struggle ~ I could see the beauty of the coastal Carolinas, but I could not feel it. My first sober holidays were filled with fear, but ultimately became full of pride for devising a plan and sticking to it. 

The first time I realized that someone didn’t like me, and I neither needed to change nor feel badly about it, was eye opening. I recall feeling like I was going to lose my mind around my one year mark, but then SO MANY people told me that was absolutely normal. I recall the day that I realized that I didn’t know how many sober days I had accumulated… I actually had to count. I cried for the joy of that ~ it was my new normal and that day I knew I had found my New Life!

The big events are easy to treasure. Who would argue with the birth of a first grandchild? But the small ones ~ the little stuff ~ well they are the yeast. They fill my life and lift it to voluminous proportions. I simply have to take the time to notice. 

I had an epiphany at about six months. I was walking my dogs in the desert where the sunrise is almost always glorious. I noticed that day that I was walking under pink clouds. I had been focused on the ground ~ rattlesnakes are real and some focus on the path in front of me is always necessary ~ but I had stopped to look around and take in the clouds. Sobriety is like that. The pink cloud is always there. I just have to pause and appreciate it. That is Statement 11 in a nutshell for me… noticing the joy.

Statement 11: Enthusiasm is my daily exercise.
I treasure the moments of my New Life.

Emily K.

12 thoughts on “Noticing the Joy

  1. Am just reading The Book of Joy (conversations b/t Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu), and His Holiness comments that noticing the joy doesn’t eliminate hardship. Both are inherently part of life. Our choice lies in what we choose to notice and focus on. “I am responsible for myself and my actions.” Even in the midst of struggle, he says, we can notice that our hardships connect us with other struggling humans–and be glad for that connection.

  2. Wow, this rang true with me on so many levels. I also wore a sarcasm hat at times, and Statement 11 was probably the most difficult one for me to figure out. Thank you for writing and sharing this.

    1. I too, thank you so much. My experience echos yours. I am 4 plus years sober. I still have moments that are a struggle. I am grateful to read that there are statements that were hard to own. Some still are. Thank you so very much.

  3. It is the little stuff that makes up our lives. I loved reading about your appreciation for these things. I find that I am now able to notice so much more in my life as special and amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Emily, your post was beautiful. I love Pooh and find so much truth there also!

    Thank you for all you do to support us women in sobriety as we walk the path of being alcohol free!

    Love, Jen

  5. Emily, your feelings of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary resonate with me on a very deep level. Realizing that happiness doesn’t have to come from “swinging from the rafters” but can be found in the tiniest, seemingly ordinary thing has been my saving grace. Thank you for this lovely description of your journey.

  6. I absolutely LOVE this Emily…such joy that you have manifested in your life. I think Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends are a great visual for our WFS tribe – we are all excepting of each other, support each other and embrace each other right where we are.

    You have had to overcome so much strife in the past 5 years, but you do it with grace and dignity. You are a role model for so many of us and I am always humbled and grateful that I get to be a part of your new life. The adversity in our lives brought us together as we desperately sought out new ways to cope….but strength, courage and genuine love for each other keep us going.

  7. Thank you for your thoughtful post, Emily! You have an amazing way of putting into words what so many of us think and feel, and you guide and help us to dig deeper. So grateful for all of the work you do for us!
    Statement 11 is one that we discuss in our F2F often – not easy to grasp, especially for newcomers. For me, statements 3, 6 & 11 are ultimately about mindset, and being open to and aware of, all that is good. It takes sobriety and effort, but it is life-changing!

  8. What a beautiful post, Emily! Thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom. You make me feel joyful!

  9. Emily this is beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing with us!! xoxoxo Susan

  10. Thank you for sharing your story, Emily. This resonated with me on so many levels. I’m glad to have found your blog and will be sure to bookmark it. At 18 months out I still haven’t softened to the happiness/joy statements but will keep working on them and moving forward. Your experience gives me hope for the future.

    Joanie – x

  11. I too, thank you so much. My experience echos yours. I am 4 plus years sober. I still have moments that are a struggle. I am grateful to read that there are statements that were hard to own. Some still are. Thank you so very much.

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