Everybody went to him for advice. He knew the history of a lot of the recovery groups in town. He remembered guys who had mended from alcoholic binges in the back room of a Twenty-four Hour Club down by the Ship Channel, when they got left by the tanker that brought them to town. He knew women who had gone into subway tunnels in New York City, to pull female alcoholics out of service alcoves and take them to the hospital. He had been around a long time.
The newcomer asked him for help. After a few months of not drinking or using, the newcomer wanted to know about happiness. “I am better off than I was, I know that. But I don’t feel very happy. I wake up, I go to this job, I stay out of trouble. I can pay my bills, for a change. I’m getting out of the trouble I caused myself. But I don’t feel very happy.”
His friend said, “I don’t care about happiness.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“I mean I don’t care about happiness. Mine, or yours.”
“Well, thanks, that really helps.”
“Glad to be of service.”
“So you don’t care what happens in your life.”
“I said no such thing. I don’t care about happiness, the way it’s defined by most people these days.”
“Not sure I understand.”
“Most people seem to think that happiness is a certain place, or a certain new job, or a particular possession. Problem is, the newness wears off quickly with those things. They’re great, but they can’t give you lasting happiness. At the same time, people seem to think that happiness is an endless series of peak experiences. Besides the fact that two days of non-stop peak experiences would probably put you in the hospital,“ he said, laughing, “that idea is completely unrealistic, no matter how much money you have. A normal or dull hour is just going to sneak in there.”
“So I have nothing to look forward to?”
“Here’s the thing. I’m not looking to be happy. I’m looking to be satisfied. Satisfaction comes from having some consistency in my life—some friends and loved ones that I can know for the longer haul—having some social intelligence. Satisfaction comes from getting things done: finishing that diploma or degree—showing some perseverance. Finding useful work, and bringing some optimism to it. Building trust with people—being honest. Fixing my past mistakes, when I can, and offering forgiveness when I can. Trying to be less of a houseguest in this world, and more of a host—recognizing the humanity in others. I’m not always happy about a day’s events, but I am satisfied pretty regularly.”
“No shortcuts, huh?” said the newcomer.
“Nope, and you don’t get a parade for trying, either. What you do get is a clear conscience and a lot of good days. Some laughs, too, and some gratitude. It’s pretty satisfying.”
“So what do I do?”
“Do the right thing whenever you can. Admit to yourself when you’re not doing the right thing. Get small things done, when you can’t do anything big. Save time for stuff that’s fun, and hold on to your sense of humor.. Ask for advice, and be true to yourself. Try to find wisdom where you can. Be kind.”
“Sounds pretty straightforward.”
“Let’s go get a cup of coffee,” said his friend. “This one’s on me. You can pay next time.”
Do you need some advice on healing from the damage caused by your addiction? Would you like some satisfaction in your life? Call Sobriety Matters at 713-904-4699. We can get you started on the path to recovery and freedom!