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Recovery is not all sunshine and rainbows.
But there are sunshine and rainbows.
Earlier this week, I watched Remember the Titans with my daughters. It’s one of my favorite movies, and they had never seen it. I laughed and cried like it was the first time to watch it (my girls thought I was a little nutty). When a certain scene happened, I had to keep myself from jumping up and down and clapping my hands, and I only kept myself from it because my laptop was in my lap and that would have been inconvenient.
I’ve seen it probably 20+ times at this point. It was something other than just joy from the movie scene. The joy of cuddling up with my preteen daughters, sharing something with them. They were done with school. We’d survived. We could all stay up past 9pm without feeling miserable the next morning. It was just a good night.
There’s a passage in The Big Book that my group and I were reading together the other night, and it really struck me. I haven’t thought about the happiness of sobriety very much. I think about the gifts, and the promises. I’m immensely grateful for the peace and serenity. But the laughter? I forget about that too much.
“We have been speaking to you of serious, sometimes tragic things. We have been dealing with alcohol in its worst aspect. But we aren’t a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn’t want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life. We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the world’s troubles on our shoulders. When we see a man sinking into the mire that is alcoholism, we give him first aid and place what we have at his disposal. For his sake, we do recount and almost relive the horrors of our past. But those of us who have tried to shoulder the entire burden and trouble of others find we are soon overcome by them.
So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn’t we laugh? We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.” – The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, pg 132
We absolutely insist on enjoying life.
I love that.
It’s easy for me to get lost in the mire and lose my focus. I may not have picked up a drink in 3 years now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been emotionally stable and peaceful for 3 years. This blog is only a tiny fraction of evidence to that fact. Depression and anxiety follow me around. Sometimes they are simply buzzing like annoying mosquitos. Other times, they seem to be roaring like lions.
Negativity is so easy to focus on, yet we absolutely insist on enjoying life.
To me, that means that even when things are tough, I push through. It means that it’s my responsibility to do whatever I need to do in order to regain my serenity and enjoy life.
It doesn’t mean that I can arrange reality, or other people, to fit my expectations and only then enjoy life.
It doesn’t mean that I should pretend to be ok when I’m not. Sometimes, I can only enjoy life when I process those emotions. I’ve tried bottling up, pretending, pushing down. Sometimes, I have to sit through the darkness – but I always know the sun is coming back. I don’t know why I have to do it like this, but I’ve tried rushing the process and it never works. It always comes back worse than before.
For the most part, I cry when I need to cry. I take a break. I do uncomfortable things that I’ve been putting off. Man, do I hate doing uncomfortable things. If there was a gold medal for procrastination, I’d get it every single day.
But I laugh more honestly now than I ever did at the height of my drinking. Of course I experienced happiness and joy at certain times before I got sober, but not like I do now.
Now, no matter what is going on in my life to steal my joy, I feel this deep underlying foundation that I never had before. Everything always felt shaky before I really embraced recovery, even in the good times. Like I had to keep looking over my shoulder, waiting for the storm to hit. The other shoe to drop.
When I was laughing and (I thought) enjoying life, there was still always a sense of foreboding. Don’t enjoy this too much. It’ll get taken from you.
I don’t feel that way anymore. Acceptance is a powerful tool.
I’ve always loved this Scripture:
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” – Proverbs 31:25, ESV
The truth that I’ve finally learned to (mostly) live with is that life never stays the same. The bad days, weeks, months, and years will happen. They are part of life, but they don’t have to define my entire life. There is always something to be grateful for, something to smile about even when it feels impossible. Even during the darkest times, I’ve worked very hard to scratch around for some gratitude.
It’s not easy. It’s work. But the payoff is worth it. Let’s absolutely insist on enjoying life, together. ♥
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Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around. Read my story...
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