“When we talk about our recovery, we should also speak of the two H’s, essential for promoting emotional wellness and greater happiness. One is hope, and the other is help. It doesn’t matter what order they come in. We just need to know that hope can lead to help, and that help can lead to hope. And together they can bring us the desired outcome.”
I celebrated 21 years of continuous sobriety this month. I went from calling myself a high bottom alcoholic, to a recovered alcoholic, and at some point I called myself a self-proclaimed alcoholic. But eventually it no longer mattered what I called myself. The bottom line is that I was a problem drinker who needed to be something I wasn’t, full of fears and insecurities that made me unhappy, and I was often quite lonely and sad.
Thankfully that all changed after waking up hung over on April 27th, 1996, sick to my stomach and afraid that the argument I started with my wife the night before had cost me my family. Fortunately, it somehow didn’t, and the rest is history as they say. But I’ll add that it was hard and scary along the way at times.
I didn’t drink every day, and I was far from the stereotypes one sees in movies and on TV, bottoming out and losing everything. But I had bottomed out emotionally and spiritually, and at the time I only knew of one place I could go to get help—Alcoholics Anonymous.
I wrote about my experience there in my book, and how the Twelve Steps helped me to love myself and be happy in life. And I wrote about some of the answers I found outside the rooms of AA that helped me find even greater happiness. But this post isn’t about AA or my book. It’s about the two answers I didn’t find.
It frightens me some days that there may not be something after we die. And I’m still not sure what my true purpose is in life.
Yes I have a book and a blog. Yes I help people with substance use problems. And yes I currently work helping people with mental illnesses. But I have to wonder why my prayers of being able to financially support myself while writing more books and helping more people haven’t been answered?
One might say that vanity has something to do with it. If I get a swelled head and begin to think I’m more important than what I am, I could end up drinking again, right? But I’ve ruled this out. A lot of things have contributed to my growth and my happiness, and I know drinking would rob me of that. Plus I have never been more humble in my life. I don’t have a lot of money, an expensive car, or a big home. And I’m aware that I still have a lot more growing to do, both spiritually and as a person.
So what is it then? Why haven’t I achieved my dream yet? No god? Not my purpose to help the many people suffering from what has become better known as a chronic, progressive disease of the brain? Maybe I’m just not qualified? Maybe a book and blog doesn’t make me an expert on addiction and helping others? And if there is a god of some kind. Maybe I’m not supposed to be famous or well-known in the field of addiction?
I’m not sure if the answer as to whether or not there’s a god will ever be answered. And I can only hope that the term “when preparation meets opportunity” becomes a reality for me. But I can honestly say that there have been some signs that I’m on the right path in life.
I celebrated 21 years of continuous sobriety this month. I went from calling myself an alcoholic, to a recovered alcoholic, and at some point a self-proclaimed alcoholic. But it no longer matters what I call myself. I don’t need to be something I’m not, and I’ve learned how to overcome my fears and insecurities. I’m no longer lonely. And although I feel sad on some days, finally being happy with who I am sustains me during those times and the sadness never lasts.
So I guess I’ll simply keep trying to believe that something created life and the universe for a reason and that we do have a purpose while we’re here. And not worry about the answers.
If my sobriety has taught me anything, it’s that we can create our own happiness, and that living in the present moment is one of the best ways to achieve it.
The definitions listed below are why I think most people’s troubles come from insecurity, and not ego like many spiritual gurus state.
1. uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence
1. A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.
2. The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.
3. An overly high opinion of oneself.
The third definition of ego comes from insecurity. But it is a false sense of ego used to overlook our fears and insecurities and help us feel better about ourselves.
I should know. I had a false ego all through my life—even into my early sobriety. It was in my sobriety, however, that I was able to become more self-confident and grow to love myself. I also found greater happiness in life. Especially after finally becoming happy with who I was.
It is those things that I want for others. It’s why I do what I do to help people. I enjoy helping others. It makes me feel good about myself, and gives me a sense of achievement.
Not because of ego. And not because of insecurity. But because of who I’ve become.
“We have the ability to overcome our fears and create our own happiness in life. But the first thing we need to do is overcome the fear of asking for help. The easiest way to do this is to ask for help”
Research shows that some people have an imbalance of neurochemicals in our brains responsible for happiness and a sense of well-being, of which I believe I’m one of. I’m sure this played a major role in why I liked alcohol so much; it made me feel good about myself and life. Well for a while anyway.
As the fears and insecurities I had in my life grew worse, alcohol only temporarily relieved me of the unhappiness I often felt sober.
Today, I’m able to feel a sense of well-being on my own. But I admit that some days I have to do certain things to feel happier.
Click on The Neurochemicals of Happiness to read about 7 specific neurochemicals that help us feel good in life and what we can do to create more of them.
I truly believe that all most people want in life is to be happy; it’s just some of us try ways that don’t work. But no matter what our beliefs are as to what happiness is and how to best achieve it, finding a balance in our lives is important.
It can come by way of creating more of the happy neurochemicals in our brains as mentioned. However, it can also be an emotional balance—one where we no longer feel as fearful and insecure as we once did, or as angry. In my case both are important in my efforts to feel happier in life.
I like to tell people in early recovery that we should look at sobriety as an adventure. It can be filled with fears and uncertainty, but also wonderful discoveries.
Some of these discoveries help us to grow and understand ourselves better—two important ingredients for greater happiness. While others help us with our fears and to start believing we can remain sober through tough times.
We may need help from people along the way. But this can help to encourage us that our adventure will continue to get better.
Ultimately, as we continue to grow, we will discover an inner strength that we didn’t know we had. This new-found “self-confidence” is perhaps our biggest discovery and most treasured find in our adventure.
Even with fears and uncertainty still a part of our lives, we begin to believe that we can be all right no matter what our current circumstances are. We become aware that we’re doing better emotionally, and we begin to see that many of our fears are like the boogeyman; not real.
We also see how our story can benefit others, and find yet another wonderful discovery—we are no longer the same selfish person that we once were and we actually enjoy helping others.
There’s certainly much more to recovery than what I’ve written here—it can entail different paths for different people. But as I said, sobriety should be looked at as an adventure. All we need to do is remind ourselves how our lives were before we began our quest for a new life.
By doing so, we see how much better it is to live a life of discovery along with any fear and uncertainty we may have, than it is to live a life where fear and uncertainty is the only thing we know.
“I do my best to live in the moment one day at a time. It’s not always easy, but my past and present show me that living this way is essential for greater happiness both now and in the future.”