Will I Ever Be Happy Again?

Posted on August 9th, 2011

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” – Epictetus, Greek sage and Stoic philosopher, born a slave (AD 55 – AD 136)

The temptation to ask ourselves if we’ll ever be happy again is normal. It very likely happens to each of us, no matter how long we’ve been in recovery or where we are in our lives. Those new to recovery, however, are more likely to engage in this type of thinking, largely due to the recent hard climb out of addictive behavior. But it’s certainly not unique to the newly-recovered, as anyone who’s experienced a lifetime of sadness and misfortune can attest. With or without having to overcome addiction, sometimes happiness seems to be an ever-elusive state of being.

Life isn’t all sweetness and light. Life can be cruel and capricious, filled with unexpected twists and turns. With birth there is also death, part of the cycle of life. Knowing that may help us to realize that it’s better to learn how to swim with the tide than to try to buck the currents and flail against it. Moving forward is a much better way to experience happiness than any time spent dwelling on the past. While we do need to examine our past behaviors and acknowledge and take responsibility for what we have done that may have resulted in harm to ourselves and others, spending too much time thinking about the past is counter-productive. It simply won’t help us move forward today. How can it? The past is dead and gone – and needs to stay that way. Similarly, we can’t be so consumed with worry and wonder about the future that we don’t act today. After all, we live in the present. That’s an important distinction that we should all keep in mind. We breathe and act and feel now, today – not yesterday and not tomorrow.

Keeping in mind that we act now, it’s also important that we learn to find the joy in simple things. To do this, however, we need to learn how to open up our eyes and hearts and minds to the beauty and possibility in all things in and around us. We can train ourselves to do this, although it may take some doing for those of us who insist on being analytical and detail-oriented. We can begin by looking at a rose or a sunset or listening to a beautiful piece of music. Allow ourselves to become immersed in the sheer beauty and/or enjoyment we feel when we look and listen. The same thing applies to our sense of touch and taste and smell. We don’t have these senses for no reason. They help us enjoy and appreciate life – to feel the emotion of happiness.

Instead of chasing after happiness and incessantly worrying if we’ll ever be happy again, we should stop asking ourselves the question and concentrate instead on just living. Be in the moment. Live each moment to the best of our ability. Find joy and pleasure in the simple things in life. Share our lives with those whom we love and care to be with. And, yes, take it one day at a time. Life is a great and precious gift. And now is the time we have.

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