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Old 06-01-2011, 12:51 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Redefining Happiness

Looking back at the past year sober, one of the biggest challenges was rethinking my definition of being "happy." I was always trying to change or enhance my mood with alcohol. Now I was going to have to live with myself and accept whatever I was feeling in the moment. Not easy to do, especially since I was prone to depression, anxiety, boredom and lack of motivation. My moods were all over the place, usually negative..... I could feel happy one minute and unhappy the next. I realized my sobriety was going to be extremely difficult if I insisted on being happy - and what constitutes happiness anyway?

A Course in Miracles says that the ego's definition of happiness is "more" - it always want more. And it doesn't matter what it is - more alcohol, more money, more sex, more drama, more attention...... Whatever..... It's never satisfied. Even when it gets more, the feeling of happiness is only temporary. So we get more and more and more until we realize how futile it is or experience enough pain to stop. Now we're in a really tough spot: find something else to do the same job, suffer, or find a way to live with ourselves without running in pursuit of something "out there" to fix us. The pain motivates us to say "There must be better way." Just that willingness to consider another option is all it takes to set things in motion.

I realized what I wanted is a different kind of happiness, something that doesn't come and go, depend on things going my way, or getting more more more of something else. Getting sober really brought this to my attention because I knew I was screwed if sobriety depended on me being "happy." Anything could interfere with that feeling of happiness (and does - every day) You just can't have happiness when you're sad, bored, depressed or anxious. They're two sides of the same coin, and it seemed that is was my luck that it was always landing on the wrong side......

I started to redefine happiness and what I found was inner peace. I let go of the craving to be happy, to be always looking for a better emotion, or someone to give me self esteem, or whatever need I thought I had at the moment. I started allowing myself to have a bad feeling. I didn't judge it or invest in it. I just kept reminding myself that it was temporary, that it didn't need to define whether I was happy or not. It didn't get rid of the pain right away, but the more I observed it without judgement, the more I was able to look at things without the need to escape or control them. The more I practice this, the more I feel a sense of peace.

One of the quickest ways I've found to connect to that state of inner peace is to let my mind become quiet. It works every time. Without all the thinking/analyzing/worrying, where are the negative emotions going to come from? (Eckhart Tolle describes this so well as some of you know, citing examples of famous scientists, composers, etc who recollect that they "received" their greatest works/ideas when their mind was totally still. To me, this is spirituality - take away the demands of the ego and you discover the wisdom, love and peace that is always there). (Just notice the next time you feel really connected to someone, or having a moment of joy....... it's usually because you're not thinking about anything about anything. You've suspended the need for happiness, for more...... You've allowed yourself to experience a new perspective).

Sorry this is so long. I probably could have gone on and on! I wanted to share this with others who have the same question I did: "How can I be happy without alcohol?" Maybe it will open a door for someone. Thanks for listening! xoxo
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Old 06-01-2011, 01:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I dont know-way before I even started drinking Ive experienced that sort of...Catharsis, Samadhi, whatever. I CAN/could stare at the stars in the sky, stare at a running body of water, go somewhere where Im completely surrounded by nature. At those times feel moments (of varying lengths) of...bliss,catharsis, shedding of "ego" (though so very brief most of the time), etc.

Ive been into Eastern Philosophy for a long time (and that idea of enlightenment) yet...in theory it sounds both great and boring-the lack of emotional lows (sounds great) the lack of emotional highs (sounds boring). Unless "enlightenment" is supposed to be a continuous emotional high, but then wouldnt even that get boring?

I dont know.

Good luck to you!
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Old 06-01-2011, 01:42 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artsoul View Post
I started to redefine happiness...
I no longer seek happiness. I found something better.

Where happiness is singular - joy is plural.
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Old 06-01-2011, 01:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Love the topic, "Redefining Happiness". In my mind once you reach the point where you can get and stay sober on a full time basis you've just started the process of leading a new and more fullfilling life. I like what you said about letting the mind become quiet. Stopping all the mental chatter that our brains just love to engage in and bringing our focus back to the present is a usefull technique.

Meditation, letting go of the past, acceptance, opening your mind to new ideas, admitting that you may have been wrong about some things, living in the present, the list is endless but these are some of the things I'm trying to work on. Again, great topic!!
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Old 06-01-2011, 04:21 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Exactly! What I eventually realized was what I really wanted is a quiet mind. With a lot of time and hard work I've largely achieved it. It's my default setting now. Thanks so much for your post!
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Old 06-01-2011, 06:49 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks for this post, Artsoul! You always seem to have magical timing and say whatever it is I need to hear.
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Old 06-01-2011, 07:27 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thank you so much for sharing that. I'm going to print it and put it in my folder.

I love it here.
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Old 06-01-2011, 07:38 PM   #8 (permalink)
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so I've been sober 30 days today....anxiety has been really intense. Constant worry and analyzing every sense in my body wondering if a panic attack is going to come...any suggestions from people on this??? I went for a walk with my dog today thinking about this exact topic....its been so long (8 years) that i've been "normal" that what will happiness mean to me or look like? will the anxiety dissipate the further i get from drinking? Thank you in advance for the thoughts!
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Old 06-03-2011, 07:28 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
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I started to redefine happiness and what I found was inner peace. I let go of the craving to be happy, to be always looking for a better emotion, or someone to give me self esteem, or whatever need I thought I had at the moment. I started allowing myself to have a bad feeling. I didn't judge it or invest in it. I just kept reminding myself that it was temporary, that it didn't need to define whether I was happy or not. It didn't get rid of the pain right away, but the more I observed it without judgement, the more I was able to look at things without the need to escape or control them. The more I practice this, the more I feel a sense of peace.
Funny how redefining happiness can mean not defining it at all. The less I compete with reality, and the less I seek to contain and compartmentalize it, the more ease I find in accepting itů And accepting each moment of my reality is, somewhat paradoxically, an incredible freedom.

Freedom & peaceful contentment trump an artificial buzz & the upkeep of a temperamental chemistry in my book any day.
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Old 06-03-2011, 08:48 PM   #10 (permalink)
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so I've been sober 30 days today....anxiety has been really intense. Constant worry and analyzing every sense in my body wondering if a panic attack is going to come...any suggestions from people on this??? I went for a walk with my dog today thinking about this exact topic....its been so long (8 years) that i've been "normal" that what will happiness mean to me or look like? will the anxiety dissipate the further i get from drinking? Thank you in advance for the thoughts!
Golf, everyone is different in recovery times. It took me 3 or 4 months until the anxiety subsided. I was abusing vodka and valium so my time might be extreme. If you have underlying anxiety/depression issues you'll still have to treat those with a Doctor. It does get much better though as time passes.
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Old 06-04-2011, 02:23 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Thanks Artsoul... I can completely relate to this. I am redifining happiness myself, and find that it is having a meaning similar to the one you hvae found.

Living in the now, accepting, non-judgementally all that the now holds, truly being present for each day and each moment, and for our loved ones....this is how I would love to live the remainder of my life. Embracing all that life holds, the good and not so good, does bring a certain kind of freedom, and I believe without this freedom there is no happiness.

Not the kind of happiness that I seek anyway. Peaceful happiness.
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Old 06-04-2011, 05:14 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Thanks for the thread. I have read it a few times now. Thanks for reminding me of what is possible. This whole thread stirs something in my soul.

When I accept whatever is present, I often get a strong sense of contentment. Even when I hold sadness, reactivity, anger, etc. with love and gentleness, I feel content. It's so peaceful. Much more peaceful than trying not to feel something.

I love the idea of redefining happiness, since happiness was often part of my goal with drinking. Yet- there is a profound sense of joy, happiness, and contentment that comes with sobriety.
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