Taking the Path to Happiness
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
This quote by the wise Eleanor Roosevelt, beautifully threads the richness of life with the power of the mind. It reminds us to reach for our heart’s desires while subtly requesting that our mindset allows us to believe it can be possible. For if we do not believe that we can experience true happiness, we will not take action that will help us move in that direction.
When navigating the road of recovery, one often finds themselves pulled in two directions. One side is concerned that giving up the drug of choice will cause life to become somber, while the other side points out that in reality it already is in many ways. People are often scared that if they give up their addictive patterns, they will be left to experience an emptiness too great to bare. And despite pain often being the catalyst for someone choosing to become sober, the desire for happiness is not far behind.
A Personal Angle
The self-help world tells us that we must first believe we can be happy and fulfilled before we will be able to actualize it. The ideology is that if we do not believe it, we will subconsciously sabotage our efforts and create a self-fulfilling prophecy that ends up proving we will always be miserable. While this is accurate in many ways, it doesn’t tell the whole truth. Truth always encapsulates the whole and can never live under the doctrine of one or the other. The whole picture would speak into the fact that for some, the experience must come first. Through the experience of what is possible, this person can start to believe that their heart may find happiness again.
In my life’s journey, I have walked both paths. I have had times where I had to understand that I deserve happiness before I was ready to move in that direction. An example of this was when I was severely anorexic many years ago. When I was forced into recovery after nearly dying, I did not have the mindset that life could be any better. It wasn’t until I checked myself back into treatment a after nearly dying, again, that I started to believe that healing and a better life could be possible for me. Through this belief, I took action toward happiness. I trusted that it would be possible to taste joy and kept my chin up as I worked toward it.
That being said, I have also had experiences where suffering had ensued so relentlessly that I wasn’t connected to the feeling of hope. I was so miserable that the heaviness I felt inside weighed me down and robbed me of my joy. I needed a miracle because, left to my own devices at that time, I couldn’t think my way out of it. Things had become so difficult physically that my emotions followed suit, and I was losing hope that life would ever improve. The only thing I clung to was my spiritual life and my will to keep going. My life was small, bleak, and painful, but I kept putting one foot in front of the next for over two years. I prayed regularly. I learned to pray from the depths of my heart rather than my mind. And when it became sincere and pure in its request, grace came in the form of a person to help me.
Finding Joy in New Places
I was, for all intents and purposes, forced back into remembering the joy of life through a series of events with this person. My body and mind were given an opportunity become inspired again, allowing the underlying issues that were wreaking havoc on my physical body to be healed. I found myself happy to be alive for the first time in years. In this case, I needed to have the experience prior to actualizing happiness. I would not have gotten there should I have continued to do the work on myself without a new experience showing me what was possible. It was the experience itself that brought new energy into my life and opened my eyes and body for a true transformation.
This was a very important lesson for me in life. I came to understand that often the body and our mind have to actually experience something new before it can rid itself of the old. That we cannot think our way into everything or therapy our way into hope. At times these are the perfect solutions, but at others we actually have to find a way to have an experience of such joy that we are reminded of the goodness of being alive. By having the pleasure of the experience we reawaken the part of our soul that had been covered by the suffering. It’s as if a blanket gets pulled off just like that.
Let’s be honest. Who would want to live a life of recovery if they felt that they would not have the possibility of joy again? When we actually see the light we have something to move towards. Sometimes it’s at the end of the road we are walking and at other times we have the luxury of it just coming out of the blue and changing our life in an instant. Either way, we are reminded that life without possibility, inspiration, and happiness is not for us.
So how does one reconnect to this if it’s lost? I know that many self-help books would guide you through a 10 step process on recovering your joy, but I prefer to remind people what is possible by speaking my truth. What I can share is that there have been periods in my life where I honestly was just hanging on by a thread. And while I was never suicidal, I did have times where being alive meant very little to me. I remember thinking that if this is what life will be like forever, I don’t want it. In times like these it’s important to get out of the downward spiral because it will lead you nowhere except further away from joy and remember that the best you can do in a given day is all you can do. If there is anything I want to remind you of right now is that things do and can change. I am a living testimony of this and there are many out there who can say the same.
I found my joy again in the things that are simple in life. Swimming in the ocean, romance, music, poetry, and travel. It was more about my heart opening up again and my body coming back online than it was what I was doing. To this day I am most happy when I am in a state of openness, so when I find myself feeling closed or negative, I reach for what opens me up. That is always the first step for me. I know some can turn on a good mindset and it works for them, but I am not that person. My pathway is always my heart. By finding ways to open it, my entire paradigm changes in an intent. We all have our strengths, so far my mind hasn’t been mine, but my heart is a warrior and understands things my mind could only dream to catch up to. My point is that we have to find what works for us. And while I continue to work with my mind to evolve and grow so that I can become happier and freer, I still choose to reach for what works for me.
Overcoming Fear and Finding Happiness
Some people say happiness is a choice. And in many ways it is. But when someone is held back in fear, anger, or under the thumb of a sickness or addiction, happiness isn’t an easy pick. In times like these faith and baby steps become the road to happiness. I would be remiss if I didn’t share that I believe a lot of what leads us to happiness is vulnerability. As we open and let people see us for who we are, we are inviting more love into our lives and this brings more joy.
So while the world wants to feed us methods and steps to be happy, I want to remind you that it is there already. The issue is that when a person has been carrying an enormous amount of weight on their shoulders, that happiness is covered up and hidden. The work then becomes slowly making your way towards it. For me, I try to accept where I am at, watch to see if I am totally identifying with my thoughts (because they can take me down if I am not paying attention) and then taking steps to bring me back to my warrior heart. I know that if I am out enjoying life and participating fully then I am happy. Sometimes we have to push ourselves and sometimes we have to pray and listen for guidance on what our authentic self really needs in order to be happy again. Once this guidance comes in, it’s simply a matter finding the courage to follow it.
I think the most important thing to remember as you embark upon recovery, which includes recovering your happiness, is that giving up is not the solution. Keep going. Keep praying. Keep sharing your truth. Keep reaching for what reminds you that your heart is beating for you. Things really do pass and although I realize this phrase is cliché it can be life-saving. I know I have needed it so many times in my life and I will continue to I am sure. For we are all just doing the best we can and that means being able to stand tall when we are still in our process of remembering joy.