My friend Nora wrote in a comment on my last post:
I used to think being happy meant being happy all the time…
Now I focus on being content. I wrote on ODR the other day that one of my character flaws is habitual discontent… It’s a habit I learned in my alcoholic family: expecting life to be unenjoyable, not to go well, just expecting to be unhappy. Expecting melancholy. Sometimes I feel melancholy without even knowing why, without having any reason—I feel as though I ought to just sit down and cry because it’s the thing to do. …
Since it’s just me practicing this, I can’t expect higher power to remove this, so I’ve been trying to practice habitual contentment. Satisfaction as a habit. Why not smile because it’s the thing to do? Why not be content, just because?
Nora also wrote:
Isnt the hardest thing in life to just ‘be’?! To be in the hard times as well as in the good times.
I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like I have to play catch-up ball because of the time I’ve “wasted” on my addiction. It’s a terrible feeling, the compulsion to make up for lost time. Because it’s impossible, really. It’s an impossible bind. One can’t make up for lost time.
It’s my failure to accept myself that drives this compulsion—that drives any compulsion. One of the hardest things in life IS just to be. And the only way I’ve found to do that is to be completely honest—first with myself, then with others. …
I was speaking with a person who can’t stop using. They simply can’t stop. Boy, I knew what they felt like. They lied about their clean date, because they couldn’t accept the fact that they used—the fact that they’d used made them feel like a “failure,” and this led them to lie, which made them feel more like a failure, and the lies just snowballed. … For me, my lies snowballed into thievery and all sorts of other deviant behavior—and it was all because I could not accept who I be.
The only way I got out of the sticky web of lies was to be “rigorously honest” at meetings and with a mentor who I trusted. I wanted what they had, and I trusted that if I got honest and did what they told me, I’d be able not only to quit, but to live with contentment. And it happened.
But I had to be ready and willing. It took years for this… I had to be through. Finis.
Now I try to see life less in terms of “good” and “bad” times, and just in terms of times. All times. I might have difficulties, but I have tools to get through them. Even the so-called “good” times can present difficulties. I try not to label… I’ve gotten myself into so much trouble by labeling the Times of My Life because it creates massive expectations and I end up living in the cold and lonely Desert of Times That Are Never Good Enough.
I try to be content. The word is from the French, which comes from the Latin meaning “to be satisfied.” The old root means “to contain.” Which for me has connotations of self-possession. I contain myself. That is sobriety.
It’s so haaarrrd. My addiction carps at me me that I need to be rescued, that I’m helpless, needy, defective…
But it’s also pretty simple. A lot of times I just remember that if I don’t use today, and if I help one other person, I’ve made it to a finish line and can wipe the sweat off my brow with a bit of self-respect.
When I do my 14 minutes of meditation in the morning, I try to put a half-smile on my face, as Thich Nhat Hanh advises. Just for exercise. You know what? It works.