My Search for Happiness in the First Year of Sobriety


DAY 1: HOUR BY HOUR

Happiness in sobriety? Could this really be possible? Yes, I know I need to quit drinking if I want to continue to live. Survival during sobriety maybe, but happiness seems almost out of the question.

I do feel a little glimmer of hope when I see other sober women who seem happy. Could I get there too? I won't think about that now. First I must somehow find a way to quit drinking. I will try to get through today without a drink. I will survive this day hour by hour. I know that I have to begin to really try.

DAY 3: PROUD BUT SCARED

It's been three days without a drink! I feel proud of myself but I'm also scared to death that I won't be able to maintain this. Maybe if I accept the fear but don't let it take over, I can continue. The women in my group have given me praise for what I have accomplished. That feels good. I don't want to let them and myself down. Just one more day, I can do it!

I am feeling uneasy about myself. Thoughts have been coming to mind about what I don't like in my life, oh, what I wouldn't give to have a drink to numb my brain. How can I stay sober and deal with all these problems in my life too? I feel angry, it's not fair! I also feel angry at myself for letting my life get so out of control. Guilt will just get me drinking again so I can't go there. I need to try to think positive and just know that not drinking is enough for now.

3 WEEKS: MORE IN CONTROL

It's been three weeks! I heard once that to establish a new pattern, it takes 21 days. It's true that I feel a little more in control now.

My need to drink seems to occur more with mental triggers than with a physical need. When I feel sad or lonely or angry, it's the worst. Staying with my real feelings and honoring them is tough.

My group keeps telling me that getting to know myself will help me stay sober. Then why do I feel all this guilt about what I seem to need or desire. Will I have to change all the relationships in my life? Will they stick with me when they get to know the real me? It's too scary to think about if they are unwilling to grow and change with me.

3 MONTHS: COULD THIS BE PEACE?

It's been three months with no alcohol. When I was walking on the beach today, I felt a moment of peace and acceptance with myself. Could this be happiness? I noticed that as soon as I tried to soak it in, I felt a desire to drink again. Why do I want to sabotage myself? Is it because I don't think I deserve to be happy?

1 YEAR: ACCEPTANCE

It's been over a year now. My life used to be filled with busy activities, always finding a way to distract from what I really felt. Drugs and alcohol also served this purpose. Now my work is to accept my feelings, sit with them daily during meditation, and try to live in the moment as much as possible.

I used to think happiness was something big, like exhilaration or joy, when I felt ecstatic! Yes, that is happiness, but those moments come rarely. Jean Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., founder of the Women for Sobriety Program, was right when she said happiness is created, not waited for. It takes practice to feel happiness or at least peace.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Someone once told me that if I had the key to happiness, I would be happy while doing the dishes. Yeah, right! The truth is that life is often filled with many small, repetitive tasks. Happiness comes during those moments when I know that I am doing the right task, and that only occurs when I know what my bigger picture is.

My more difficult and long-term goals include keeping my Women for Sobriety group going, building my business, and learning art and dance. When I know that I am working steadily towards those goals, I can enjoy the beautiful view of nature I see outside my kitchen window and feel happiness while doing the dishes!

APPRECIATION

I need to work on developing awareness and appreciation of the small moments throughout the day that provide the opportunity for me to feel happy: a beautiful blue bird flying in front of my window while I type this, my daughter singing in the other room, me writing this on New Year's Day because I had a desire to.

I wish for you the strength to look inward and find your own road to happiness.

Jeannie Long

About the Author

Jeannie Long now enjoys 8 years of continuous sobriety. She leads a weekly support group for women using the Women for Sobriety Program.

She helps women achieve better physical and mental health through her health related web sites and newsletters.


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