Right now, you’re probably not thinking too much about “beyond recovery”–perhaps because you’re still focusing on the recovery part and getting sober.
Can I throw in a side note here and mention that recovery is not a static concept? Getting sober is the first step, but staying sober is the real deal of recovery–and staying sober is a constant battle. And finding happiness might mean learning how not to be a jerk.
Are You a Jerk?
While recovering alcoholics and drug addicts can teach the world a lot about happiness, they’re not happy all the time. In fact, Psychology Today released an article entitled “They are sober, but why are they jerks?,” attempting to answer why people who have been sober for decades were still “messed up and acting out their issues.”
Perhaps you may have seen–or experienced–some of the negativity found in support groups or A.A. meetings. Recovery does not equal everlasting happiness. As helpful as 12-step programs and support groups are, you can’t depend on them to bring fulfillment and joy.
5 Tips to Happiness Beyond Recovery
So what does make us happy? Not just really happy, but the kind of happiness that will last?
1. Don’t expect lasting happiness from the stuff you own.
The buzzing pleasure we get from what we own is short-lived. People who “are what they own” are not as satisfied as those people who have less but do more, which brings us to #2.
2. Involve yourself in meaningful activity.
Do things! Create unforgettable experiences. People get more pleasure in doing things than having things. The memory of an enjoyable experience and the pleasure we find in sharing them lasts much longer than the two-day euphoria we get from the latest iPhone.
What’s better, doing things are often cheaper than buying things. A bike-ride in the country or an informal dinner with friends costs little more than effort and planning and is certainly less expensive than the latest technology.
3. Strengthen social relationships.
Remember all those people who supported you, loved you and encouraged you through the rough patches of addiction? Now that you’re out of rehab, let them know you appreciate them. Love them, support them, encourage them back. Refer to #2 and do something with them–experiences are heightened and more enjoyable when friends are with you.
Social relations are key to well-being. Friendship is timeless, and good friends are priceless. Friends are also your support system. Remember that recovery is dynamic, and friends still play an important role in helping you stay sober.
4. Learn something new.
Start a new hobby. Whether it’s photography, a new sport, or learning how to play guitar, the excitement of learning and the joy of achievement will be well worth your hard work and investment.
Not only will it be a skill worth having, but a new hobby is often the best way of connecting with others who also share your interest. Plus, a sports like tennis, running, swimming, or yoga is good for your health. Interested in more ideas? Check out Duffy’s pinterest collection of fun recreational activities for recovery.
Did you know that the feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment is caused by the release of dopamine–the very same chemical that heroin, cocaine, meth, ecstasy and other drugs affect? In fact, the production of dopamine is why these drugs are so addictive. Since the feelings produced by drugs are similar to the feeling of satisfaction in a job well done, the mastering of a new skill can help prevent relapse.
5. Invest time in others.
Make other people happy. Volunteer to help around the community. Take your guitar and play for your neighbor who is in the hospital.
All humans find satisfaction in helping other humans–this is a well known fact of life. Perhaps it stems from our desire to make a difference, to leave our marks in the world by doing something that positively impacts the lives of those around us. Perhaps it is because we are giving of ourselves and of our time to something bigger than ourselves. Regardless, an unselfish act goes a long way, for the one you are helping and for you.
Don’t Be a Jerk
Recovery and staying sober will not guarantee happiness; they play a key part in making happiness possible. You make your own happiness. Don’t give others an excuse to ask “Why are they a jerk?”