This is a season of joy but you may have had times over these past few weeks when you wondered if that could really ever be true. Establishing a joyful life during recovery takes some patience, a lot of humility and the humanity to keep showing up to the table.
As the New Year approaches you may find yourself hooking into thoughts of grandeur and new beginnings as if simply turning the page over to another year is all that is needed of you to stay sober. Light the fireworks, kiss the people, make the resolutions and remember that all of these happenings are just part of expressing joy, but they are not joy itself.
Joy is an inner game and here are a few insights to help you along the way as you are bombarded by the message of celebration these next few weeks:
- Tune in to the truth about your expectations and watch for the measuring stick approach that can lead to chronic disappointment and even disillusionment. It’s okay to WANT a joyful New Years celebration or to YEARN for a happy family environment over the holidays, but to expect it, might not be truthful to what the details of your life actually are. Take a snapshot of what you have and then surrender into what you experience. You can measure later (if you want to), but setting a ‘bar’ for the season is a recipe for disaster plus it’s just not real.
- Content is not the same as happy is not the same as joy. Imagine a thermometer of feelings with the bottom being empty and the top being joy. Where would you be on that thermometer? Where are you expecting to be over specific days during the holidays? You might need to read #1 again. The point here is to remind you that there are steps of happiness that lead to joy. Consider starting at peaceful and then moving up to content, then moving again to happy and then again to joy. Jumping from empty to joy can create a toppling crash if it isn’t realized. Step by step by step is all that is asked of you.
- Physical sobriety is different from emotional sobriety. You’re on the path of recovery. Your body may be sober now and your emotions may be stable too, but true sobriety and a joyful life requires integration. As you move through the holidays be mindful of the physical and tangible traps that can cause a relapse (like alcohol, drugs, smoking and more), and the harder emotional traps that can trip you up as well like situations that trigger shame, anger, and grief. Notice the familiar warning signs of emotional traps that can cost you your sobriety and joy. Are there conversations that you need to move slowly through instead of jumping right in? Are there situations that trigger old feelings that you may choose to avoid right now? Your joy will come as your sobriety muscle gets stronger. Joy is a process, not a destination.
- Lastly, consider that a joyful mind is a beginner’s mind. This means practicing seeing each day through fresh eyes without preconceived beliefs or opinions, and with nothing but your peaceful possibility in focus.
Joy is created through mindful healthy steps. You can have a happy holiday this year without having to set off fireworks to make it so.