Life really is all about the things we take for granted. We’re halfway through 2020, and I’m only just realizing that this is the greatest lesson of the year (and there have been many). How did I reach this conclusion? A salad. That’s right – a salad. I walked into my coworkers’ office and discovered they had not only ordered me lunch, but the cafe had messed up the order, and they were willing to swap out the chicken on my salad with something I liked from their own lunches. I’m not sure why but a switch flipped inside me. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent an absurd amount of time alone due to the pandemic, but I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I am loved. How amazing is that? But also, how often do I forget? How often do I forget to be grateful for my job, or for the health and safety of my loved ones? 2020 has juxtaposed the things that matter and the things that don’t. Ironically, most of the things that matter tend to exist in the peripheral of our consciousness unless we make a deliberate effort to remember them – or we get a swift smack in the head.
Leaving the Process Recovery Center, my heart was full. As weird as it was to peel off my mask and sanitize everything in sight, I still had plenty of reasons to celebrate. The fact is, however, that we are only halfway through 2020. Some hospitals are seeing a surge in new COVID-19 cases, and we have difficult work to do from an economic and social systems perspective. So how do we stay connected to joy in sobriety? How do we express joy when our faces are sometimes hidden behind masks?
I asked our readers to weigh in… and they didn’t disappoint.
How Our Readers Are Staying Connected to Joy
Lindsay said, “I would say the biggest contributing factor to connecting with joy during chaotic circumstances has been routine, self care, and gratitude! Creating some sort of routine, especially with two babies, has been vital to my sanity during the pandemic. Being a person in recovery and living each day flying by the seat of my pants has never worked! One of the most important things I’ve been able to integrate into my routine has been self care which, for me, looks like working out for an hour each day and eating healthy. Although I really miss going to the gym, I’ve been able to keep a similar workout regimen with a few sets of dumbbells and either YouTube or Zoom workout classes. Lastly, I find that when chaos ensues and it seems like everything is falling apart around me, gratitude keeps me grounded and brings me back to the joy I have in life. On hard days, making a quick list of what I am grateful for can make the biggest difference. I have tried my best to get through this chaos with a ‘glass half full’ mindset. To me, it’s ALL about perspective”.
Shelley said, “For me, it’s back to basics. The last several years have taught me to find my own joy..things that do not require anyone outside of myself. I recently took a job on a farm in Hancock just to get out of town and be in quieter surroundings. Physically it’s demanding, maybe too much, but the peace of mind I get out here is priceless. Simple living..simple things..gratitude everywhere!! I find joy in taking care of myself. This is love!”
Cara said, “I connect with the joy of living in sobriety by spending as much time in nature as I can. This includes riding my bike, adventuring with my dog, gardening, gazing in awe at the brightness of the stars at night, and sitting in silence with a heart overflowing with gratitude. I get to enjoy so many things that I once took for granted. Today I get to LIVE rather than just merely exist. Life today has meaning and instead of saying that I ‘have’ to, I take pleasure in saying that I ‘get’ to. I maintain my joy with mindfulness and by being patient and kind with myself. Also, the fact that I can start my day over at any time has been huge for me. Gratitude is a huge part of my recovery”.
David said, “I have realized that numbing the pain with drugs was counterproductive. The pain I was numbing was caused by the repetitive use of drugs. That sadness, being alone, feeling like my family and friends had abandoned me…in reality I had isolated myself. Connecting with joy in sobriety was easy for me. Once it was out of my system and the body aches had gone away, I felt amazing. I would notice the feeling of the sun on my skin. I would walk past a flower and find it so beautiful that I’d take a picture. LIFE & JOY & LOVE just simply returned to me. Here and there I would feel depressed or low but that was scientific. My body had stopped producing dopamine naturally. I started going to the gym, taking walks. Life is by no means easy now, but it really isn’t for anyone”.
“I’m just happy I can feel and be present in it. I’ll never turn back. My joy came naturally once I was really serious about doing this. I struggle day to day but that’s life; sometimes it’s fun and easy, sometimes it’s slow and hard. But it’s always worth living!”
Phil said, “Hope. Believing in humanity, opportunity, perseverance [and expressing] how you feel. Hope”.
Austin said, “I always give myself something to look forward to: Beach trip, getting a workout completed, gun range, picking up a hard earned paycheck”.
Wilnelia said, “I listen to Jeremy Camp… he is amazing… and I garden, walk, and clean my house a lot”.
The Common Themes of Joyful Living
Gratitude is the golden thread weaving its way through our reader suggestions. But what are the other prevailing elements of joyful living in sobriety? If you look closely, our readers have outlined the ultimate roadmap.
- Connection with self
- Movement & physical activity
- Perspective (& perspective change!)
- Belief in humanity
- Expressing how you feel
- Dreaming, planning and doing
Are we missing anything? Tell us how you stay connected to joy. What are you grateful for? Leave a comment on our Facebook page!
Autumn Khavari is the Process Recovery Center’s in-house writer. She received an education in Substance Use Counseling from Beal College in Bangor, Maine.