Over the years, long before I stopped drinking, I got into the habit of, after closing my book and closing my eyes to sleep, asking myself, “What was the happiest thing of this day?” And then I track back to the beginning of the day, and move through, touching on the happiest parts. Sometimes there’s one particular event that stands out, and more often there are several moments that reoccur often, like running on the shoreline in the sunshine or teaching an art class, or going to a social event and being completely present and connected. It’s an excellent habit to be in because you reaffirm what makes you happy and satisfied as you dwell in your best moments on the way to dreamland.
It was around Halloween the year before last that I ceased using ethanol. I had already stopped for good when I signed up for a 12-month HSM early that November, so I guess Halloween is a good way to remember the milestone. For those of you not familiar with Hello Sunday Morning, it is a huge international community that originated in Australia with the goal of changing the way society sees and handles ethanol – which, as we know, is highly addictive and somehow socially acceptable at the same time. I don’t count days, so it’s been great to have Hello Sunday Morning keeping track of time for me.
Over this past year-plus I have learned so much about myself that I would never have realized if I’d continued drinking, and I have to say my happiest moments are greatly increased. There’s a general underlying happiness I didn’t know I had. Each night when I look back on my day, I’m finding I’m happier than ever, and I can touch on two key strategies that I have found to be the answer to overcoming any addiction. This may sound too good to be true to those of you who are still struggling, but it is true, and I’m living proof.
#1 – By consciously changing the language we use, we completely change the way we approach ethanol, society, addiction, and the drinkers in our lives. I refuse to use popular words and phrases that perpetuate myths about ethanol and addiction. I never use the word “alcohol” or “alcoholic”, I use “ethanol” and “ethanol addict.” Notice the difference it makes when you are talking to people. There’s no such thing as “sobriety” or “sober” in my lexicon, because I have found freedom from ethanol to be clear and joyful, not the least bit somber or sober. I’m having fun with it! I’m not missing out on anything, in fact, I’m more included than ever. I haven’t “given up” anything, I have gained clarity and freedom, and a level of joy I hadn’t known was available to me. Becoming conscious of the language and changing it to match your new reality changes the whole paradigm. (See Liquid Language)
#2 – Take Five. When your brain says, “I want a drink,” what it really means is, “I want a rest.” (See Thoughts on Thinking and Son of a Beast) And the easiest way to allow your mind to rest is to take regular brief periods of silent meditation.
The 24% Happier in this title gives a nod to Dan Harris and his book 10% Happier, which I have not read. Though I did see this interview.
I’m not just 10% happier, I am more like 24% happier, which is saying a lot in light of current events I find deeply disturbing, and the fact that I live with physical pain. I am experiencing a general state of okay-ness that has become my foundation.
I know that many of us have very busy minds, and we used the drug to “flip the switch” to put us in a stupor to silence that chattering monkey mind. Now I can quiet that mind without the detrimental effects of ethanol, simply by sitting down and taking a rest, aka meditate. If you are new to meditation, there are some good links in my Resources section to get you started. The Headspace and Calm apps provide guided meditation for beginners, which can be helpful when you are starting out. Once you have created a practice, it’s very easy to just make the space in your busy day to sit down and get quiet for 10 or 15 minutes, and listen to you body, clear your mind – and find the wonderful peace that’s beneath it all. Enjoy!