“Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” – George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic (1903-1950)
It sounds paradoxical that we need to accept happiness in order to have it. But is it really so unthinkable? Consider the fact that many of us have a difficult time giving ourselves permission. Such a mental block applies to almost anything that we want, would like to experience, and even the possibility of achieving success in a task or project. We simply are reluctant to allow ourselves to feel joy, pleasure, satisfaction or fulfillment.
Looking at it this way, it’s easy to see where we often get in trouble. We know and profess that we want to be happy, yet we regularly sabotage and undermine our efforts to feel that life-affirming emotion. We can also become so used to not being happy that we discount the possibility that such a state even exists, for us, at least, since underneath it all we feel like we don’t deserve to be happy.
Given all the struggles we’ve gone through to get to our current sober state, is it any wonder that we’d put achieving happiness on the back burner? There are literally so many other things we tell ourselves we must do. Where are the things that we’d like to do, the activities and endeavors that bring a smile to our face and make us feel normal again? Are we still listening to that negative voice inside that throws mud on our plans and harps incessantly that we can’t, we shouldn’t, and we don’t deserve to be happy?
It’s time to quell such negativity, for it will never do us any good. In order to proceed with any activity, recovery-oriented or not, we need to give it our full focus and attention. Putting intention into action requires effort, concentration, diligence and perseverance when we encounter difficulties. Just because something is out of our comfort zone or requires a longer time to complete, achieve or master doesn’t mean it isn’t for us or that it isn’t worthwhile. Reaffirming our right to go after success, to allow happiness and self-confidence and self-esteem to grow will help us get to the point where we’re ready to accept happiness into our lives.
Once we give ourselves permission to be happy, the next step is to see the beauty in small things. Learn to appreciate life’s little moments, the ones that we experience every day that don’t call attention to themselves: the smile of our child, the touch of our beloved, the warmth of the sun on our skin, the sweet smell of fresh air, the sound of birds singing. It’s impossible to put a price on how these small moments contribute to our overall well-being, because they are priceless and yet immensely valuable.
Still having qualms about accepting happiness? Is it, perhaps, an underlying uncertainty or guilt that we should address? Maybe self-forgiveness is one of the first things we should consider. We want to live a productive and satisfying life in sobriety. In order to do that, we need to come to terms with certain erroneous self-beliefs that may be holding us back. Start by forgiving ourselves and then give ourselves permission to be happy. We may not immediately feel happy, but we’ll be well on our way to experiencing the emotion as we continue to live according to our earnest desire to live life well sober and to enjoy the small moments each and every day.