As weird as this may sound, it’s not easy for me to talk about happiness. When I do I feel like, who am I to share about happiness when I‘ve only just started to experience it? But I know it’s only my mind telling me that it’s not a topic I have enough knowledge in to be able to share about it. I suppose it’s realistic to think that there may be a lingering demon in my mind whispering, “how dare you suggest how anyone else can become happy?” But I sure am willing to kick the demon’s ass (again) and remind myself that I’m actually a pretty awesome testament to how it’s possible for anyone to achieve genuine happiness…and why wouldn’t I want to share that? So while my collection of blogs have been primarily filled with documents describing my darkness and pain, now that I don’t experience that dark world very often anymore, I can’t help but share how this rookie happiness-experiencer, experiences her happiness.
Over the last seven months I have become quite educated on the science and implications of my addiction. I know how my drinking became a habit, that I drank easily, I perceived value in it, I criticized myself for doing it, and was persistent regardless of the outcomes. (These criteria came from a hand-out in Save My Life Grad School, but I can not locate the author’s name). My addiction was so strong that I had to be hospitalized and go to a Treatment Centre to basically reprogram my mind, because over the past 38 years my mind was made up of negative habits so engrained in me, that I could not see a way of changing them on my own. I constantly wondered how I of all people could ever be truly happy when even all the love in the world from my family and friends couldn’t change me? But throughout this doubt, in the back of my mind, I always thought that IF I ever did learn how to experience happiness, I would never let it go! I would do just as much work to keep my smile as it took to find it.
Enter Save my Life School, Homewood and Save My life Grad School. During the first days I spent at these ‘schools’, I was overflowing with hopelessness and fear. I had zero belief that anyone could change my negative habits. I was so convinced that I knew myself best and that there was no way to teach me how to be happy! Luckily I would eventually see how much of a stranger I was to myself, learn to surrender, and choose to accept the lessons teaching me how to be aware of my actions and change my mind. When I did that, hopelessness turned into joy, and fear turned into love. I saw how important it was to view my thoughts in an opposite way to that which I had been habitually viewing them before. My addiction finally released its grip on me when I chose to practice a new life.
Every step of my recovery takes practice… and it always will. If I turn my back and let my mind wander from my conscious contact with God and from my efforts to stay sober and healthy every day, alcoholism could snatch me back in a second. Old habits are hard to break, but here’s the exciting news, through my recovery studies I have learned that if I could change my negative habits (thoughts and actions) and recover from a bad addiction, I could quite possibly now practice positive habits and have a positive addiction; an addiction to love and happiness. Yes, you may be saying, Whoa Natalie…how about you stay away from ALL addictions…but hear me out.
What would it take to have a positive addiction? Well, it would take most of the steps I mentioned in the second paragraph…but with a different spin on them. I could make happiness a habit, definitely perceive value in it, rather than criticize myself for it I could be proud of myself. And like all learned things, I would need to be persistent regardless of the outcomes. American psychiatrist William Glasser wrote that, “positive addiction is something anyone can try for. There is no risk. Since all positive addictions are simple activities that can be easily accomplished, there is no possibility of failure in what you attempt to do. What is hard is to do them long enough to become addicted, but if you quit you are no worse off”. Ok, ok…how about we replace the word addiction…for ease of reading. I’m going to rename positive addiction, ‘positivity habits’…better? Ok? Good.
My alcoholism produced negative habits which inadvertently tested me, and taught me many lessons… but there is no need to learn from pain! We end up hiding painful lessons anyhow, making them a blur at best. So why not implement positivity habits into our lives and see what lessons we could learn then? And when we learn from joyous experiences, those lessons often remain crystal clear in our mind, making recollection not such a tedious task.
When circumstances become unbearable, we are motivated to change…but why wait until that moment? I think, from experience, that people sleep-walk through life. We are rarely mindful of the occasions in which we could choose positivity over anger or fear. If we ‘wake up’, we could make positivity the best habit we ever had! Practicing this doesn’t have to be difficult, but recognizing the opportunities can be easily lost in our dream-filled day. In order to find opportunities to practice, we must be mindful of our day, i.e.: notice when we feel frustrated or annoyed and try to see the lesson in which that emotion is teaching us, then let it float away. Don’t hold onto it, even if you think it’s just a minor negative emotion. I once read that annoyance is a veil drawn over fury…and I agree. We tend to lessen or ignore negative emotions as they come our way (because they suck) rather than mindfully recognizing them and moving through them with positive thoughts and actions. If you’re like me, you will have MANY opportunities to practice being aware of negative emotions every day. And I’m happy to say that even through my rookie experience, using positivity habits has become, well…quite a habit already…making my negative emotions now few and far between. (Even in a Costco parking lot!)
Practicing positivity habits increases our positive energy in general. And the more we feel good, the more we crave that feeling and inadvertently share it with the world. Living a Course in Miracles teaches to “repeatedly choose peace and peace will come”. Easier said than done?…possibly. But no matter how high your pain tolerance is, it’s not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize that there must be a better way to live. It sure took me a lot of punches to recognize that I needed to live a more positive life, and luckily as I discovered this, it became a turning point for me.
We were all born to add value to the world…every single one of us. And positivity habits can be one of the best values we can share. Cultivating happiness doesn’t happen over night, just like a seed in the garden it takes time to grow. But that seed knows to grow…by habit. So for today, try nurturing that seed, and I promise it will positively grow into something beautiful!