Sunday, October 24, 2010

“Addicts/alcoholics often compulsively pursue happiness no matter how bad it makes them feel”

Addicts/alcoholics are famous for doing self-destructive things over and over again. A DUI. Jail time for a barroom brawl. A lost job. A divorce. You get the picture. Their continual, insane behavior leads to horrible results. The unfortunate part is that the addict/alcoholic is just trying to be “happy”. Everyone deserves to be happy, right? Not exactly.

Life is not fair. I know, shocker, right?!? Part of the problem of the scourge of addiction is the reality of dealing with bad or negative feelings. Addicts/alcoholics are known for their desire to always feel good, or happy, or content. When life intervenes to prevent such feelings, they usually go bonkers trying to find a way to remove the bad feelings and find better, happier ones through their addictive substance/activity. The turnaround begins when they realize if they compulsively pursue recovery, happiness will show up but not necessarily in the form they expect. While external events are often uncontrollable, internal reactions are not.

There are a very important group of words that caollectively are referred to as the 9th step promises in the A.A. Big Book. They talk about all the ways in which life will change for the one who is willing to embrace the steps and do the work of recovery. For example, one promise states that, “we will know a new freedom and a new happiness” (p. 83). It continues covering such items as “no regret for the past” (p. 83), the experience of “knowing serenity and peace” (p.84), eradication of, “feelings of uselessness and self-pity”, and a shifting of their outlook on life (p.94). These are hefty promises and might seem too good to be true. But, what if, they’re not? What if, when recovery principles are directly applied, lives change dramatically and cause people’s quality of life to be “rocketed into the fourth dimension of existence of which [they] had not even dreamed” (p. 25)?

We know that this is the case. Time and time again the steps have proven as a solution to a brand new life. There is person after person after person who can testify to how life has changed for them since they embraced the steps, stopped living for themselves, and focused on helping others and living a spiritual life. Only then, did true happiness finally arrive. And it was (is) a happiness of the heart not of external circumstances. It was (is) a happiness just to be alive. To smell the fresh air. To eat blueberry pancakes. To feel the warmth of a hug from a friend or loved one. To see the colors of the leaves change at the beginning of the fall season. And, it was (is) the realization that happiness, while elusive externally, can always be chosen internally.

As you go through the course of your day, think about what would truly make you happy. Is it realistic? Is it obtainable? Would it really satisfy? Maybe so, maybe not. More importantly, can you choose happiness through the gifts of the steps and sobriety no matter what happens externally to you and your life? Think about how ineffective, temporary and damaging attempting to fix your emotions with drugs and alcohol really is. Resolve, just for today, to let go of the drive for happiness and let it come to you. Otherwise…you could look like this guy!

Chris Newcomb - Aftercare Coordinator


  1. I was treated at Jampolski's Recovery Outpatient center in Monterey CA in 1987 for out of control Beer drinking. After being sober for 12 years, I had a beer on a flight from So-Cal to Nor-Cal. Remembering one of the Recovery centers short sayings-"slip-ups are part of the disease", I didn't feel SO guilty. The beer actually tasted like crap and I still do have one on rare occasions. I could have used that saying as an excuse to keep beer drinking but I choose not to. In 1999 I injured my neck which has a bone spur rubbing on my spinal cord so all the surgeons(4) I was referred to said I would be in a wheel chair in 9 months if I didn't let them fuse my neck together. They prescribed Vicodin for the pain and I have been on opiates ever since as they slowly increased the strength and dosage for 11 years. I hope when I am admitted there in December that the 12 step "Big book" isn't something I am required to embrace. I am very thankful for all the people the 12 step program has helped but its not for everyone.
    I just want off of these opiates that have ruined my life. Even my "Pain Doctor" doesn't understand when I am having a good day without severe pain why do I still take the Drugs? I respond with "I would go into withdrawl!" He looks at me with a blank stare as if he has never heard of such a thing! I am unemployed,on welfare and Medi-Cal. So 1950s state of the art surgery or Maintaining a Drug Dependent Patient are my choices. I have found real state of the art procedures in the mean time and will pursue them as soon as I am free of the opiates. Also, I am in the middle of a Divorce brought on by my wife trying to choke me to death which the D/A dropped all charges because of my 22 yr. old Duke Graduate Step Daughters lie saying she saw ME physically beat my wife over a dozen different times! My youngest Daughter is Cutting herself so we are both seeing therapists AND Shrinks weekly -me for PTSD and her for clinical depression. Sorry for the rambling post. You will be earning your money come December!

  2. Anonymous,
    Wow...thanks for sharing your story! I encourage you to practice compassion with yourself regarding your opiate addiction. You have a hard set of physical circumstances that are not easily fixed and it sounds like a high level of pain as well. It sounds like you did not set out to get addicted to painkillers rather it was a by-product of pain management.
    No worries, we are proponents of the 12 Steps but we never force anything on anyone. Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all process and while we think the 12 Steps are very effective, we are open to many different treatment components to help people achieve and maintain sobriety (nutrition, exercise, meditation/prayer, counseling, community support, etc.).
    I look forward to meeting you in December and working with you. Never give up before the miracle! Take care!