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Hello Happiness!

Image - Hello Happiness - smiley face

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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Monday Thoughts 1/14/2019

Monday Thoughts

“Happiness is acceptance.” ~~unknown

“One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.” ~~Rita Mae Brown

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” ~~Oprah Winfrey


Statement #3
Happiness is a habit I am developing.
Happiness is created, not waited for.


In our Program booklet, our founder, Jean Kirkpatrick, Ph.D. states, “Happiness never came to me until I learned the secret of making it for myself, of finding an inner glow that somehow made all other things right.”  Jean understood happiness was brought forth from within and created Statement #3 to shift thoughts of self-pity into self-contentment.

Here are 4 ways which can aid in creating happiness:

  1. Define what happiness means for you: In early sobriety, emotions can feel flat or difficult to name. Take a look back, what made your insides smile when you were younger? What made your heart sing?
  2. Let go of comparisons: Comparison kills the spirit, and squashes confidence. Comparing also puts your happiness in the hands of someone else. Instead of comparing, list your achievements and review them often.
  3. Recharge: Find ways to recharge yourself. Unplug the phone, TV, internet. Make yourself a priority, take a walk in the woods or connect with water. There is something uplifting about being in nature.
  4. Invest in yourself: Develop a meditative, journal or yoga routine, learn tai chi or karate, invest in your being. Dedication to inner and outer growth is an investment in the self.

What actions help you to create happiness in your life?

Hugzzz
Karen


Hi 4C Women,

My definition of happiness changes as my life changes, as I age, as I experience new adventures and even loss. Now that last one might seem at odds with happiness yet I guess I can compare it to new sobriety when I felt I would never laugh or feel excited about life without alcohol to foster that feeling. When my mother passed away, all I felt was sadness and grief. I still miss her terribly and yet I am beginning to feel a smile cross my face when I reflect on our shared moments in life. I can look at photos and be grateful for the lessons she taught me without her knowledge. I had been sober for a while when she passed and I felt her whispering in my ear how proud she was of me and to keep my emotional and spiritual changes in tact to honor her. I have and that makes me happy. It’s amazing what unexpected places happiness and joy can grow from.

When it comes to practicing Karen’s #4 suggestion, I would like to add to do what you love. Practically speaking, we may not have the job we love yet we can bring joy into our lives with a creative talent, volunteer work, hobbies, dance lessons, joining a book club or any number of things that bring a new adventure into our everyday life.

Lastly, be patient with yourself as you work on developing the habit of happiness. It took a while to trade in my habit of negativity to allow the glimmer of that happiness to make its way into my thinking and life. I’m glad I didn’t give up because when tough times hit, I know I have a foundation of joy to hold me up.

Bonded in creating our own happiness,
4C WFS Member

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Monday Thoughts 10/15/18

Monday Thoughts

“Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.” ~~Unknown

“If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.” ~~Lao Tzu

“Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” ~~Margaret Lee Runbeck


Statement #3
 Happiness is a habit I am developing.
Happiness is created not waited for.


Inserting the word “contentment” into Statement #3 when happiness does not appear to fit into daily life can create a bridge to fulfillment. It can be difficult and unrealistic to feel “happy” when going through extreme feelings of loss; much like when moving through overwhelming grief or anguish. By inserting the word “contentment”, this Statement can foster stability rather than trying to achieve a by-product of something else much like through alcohol, relationships or material substances.

In the past, my feelings of happiness (as well as self-worth) were attached to being in a romantic relationship. Unable to distinguish happiness separately while unskilled at how to release myself from unhealthy relationships, I lost my identity and the ability to feel joy or contentment. With happiness attached to someone/thing outside, it was impossible to create inner joy. Feeling emotionally chained, alcohol became a quick and repetitive attempt to cut away distress. It never worked.

Embracing the empowering WFS Program and Statements, it is possible to feel contentment, even while moving through unease. Yet, when my father passed away a few years ago, the feelings of grief and sadness felt overwhelming. Surprisingly, it was the continued practice of Statement #3 that helped create a foundation of ease and contentment so that I could manage the intense emotions. Instead of diving into a deep despair, I felt strong footing underneath and moved through the feelings, content in the knowledge that I could understand the process and let go. This felt so much more comfortable and I was better able to shift towards contentment and absolute joy for his life.

Here are 4 examples for creating contentment:

  1. Gratitude Journal
    Even one entry per day can set the mind to focusing on the have’s instead of have not’s.
  2. Measure Yourself with Your Own Yardstick
    We have no idea what it took for someone to be where they are; it is unrealistic to compare ourselves to another. Be gentle and measure yourself with your own yardstick.
  3. Embrace Change
    Everything is impermanent, valuing and embracing change can lead to feelings of ease, happiness and contentment.
  4. Mindfulness
    Consciousness in activities and/or choices can bring feelings of contentment. Multi-tasking can complicate life.

Hugzzz
Karen


Hi 4C Women,

I agree with Karen that just changing a word can help us better understand and practice Statement #3 and make it work for us. I always like to add, happy “MOMENTS” are created not waited for. It is the awareness of those moments that creates the joy and memory. My foundation became peace in knowing that while there are troubling, painful times in our lives, they will not last forever. Years ago, I clung to the painful times as though there would never be an end. Perhaps it had to do with my blaming others for my circumstances and being the victim felt comfortable and kept me from accepting any responsibility for my life. If happiness happened, it was because I was drinking or it was a fluke. When I first read this Statement, I was taken aback. What do you mean, happiness is created, not waited for? Great! I not only had to work on my sobriety, now I had to create my own happiness? I am here to tell you that truer words have never been spoken. Once I let go of my victim role, I embraced change as Karen suggested above and I began to build that foundation of peace. That foundation opened the door to accepting responsibility, exploring new opportunities and especially being brutally honest with myself about the burden I had placed on others to make me happy. It also helped me move through loss, hurt and enormous pain. It was challenging yet it kept me centered and I had the support of friends and the 4C women in WFS. When I am hurt or confused, it is the knowledge that I am not alone and can express my concerns without judgment. I am so grateful because even with my foundation of peace, I need the support, input and insight from those who understand.

Over the years, I have had several exercises regarding Statement #3. Here are few questions.

What gives you the greatest joy?
When was the last time you felt that joy?
What brings a smile to your face when you think of it?
What new or different paths have you taken to create happiness?
Have you explored a new hobby or gone back to the one that you previously enjoyed?
What inspires you?
When is the last time you treated yourself?
When is the last time you played your favorite music and danced with joy?
I feel happy when_________________.

Please consider any or all of the 4 examples that Karen gave toward building your foundation of contentment, peace or joy. I hope you will find time as well to answer some of the questions I posed and perhaps share them with someone you trust, in a f2f group or online.

Bonded in developing a habit of happiness,
4C WFS Member