Healthy Habit #12 – A month of finding joy

joy2

My last Healthy Habit of the year is finding joy.  I’ve become relatively good at finding and expressing gratitude, but joy is a whole other story.  It isn’t to say that I don’t experience joy often, I do, but I also feel like recognizing joy in the ordinary, or even in the not-so-great times, is something that I completely overlook.  So this month, a month that is filled with to-do lists, shopping, holiday parties, and loads of stress, I am going to focus on finding joy.  Actually, I already have been, since this post is coming 9 days into the month.  Ugh, see?  I’m already exhibiting the stress and busyness!  ‘Tis the season!

The holidays are portrayed as times filled with family, friends, and joy all around.  The truth, though, is that for a lot of us (in and out of recovery), it’s a time filled with anxiety and worry.  For some, spending time with family is challenging.  For those like me, it’s not spending time with family that’s hard, and sad, and depressing.  For those of us that are in recovery, the holiday parties and get-togethers may be uncomfortable because the alcohol is flowing this time of year, but the thought of skipping these soirees leaves us feeling isolated and lonely and boring.  For some of us there may be bad memories of holidays past, or happy memories that we know will never be duplicated.  We may be missing or grieving someone, or celebrating our first holiday without a loved one.  All of these situations are hard, but they don’t have to be absent of joy.

This month I am making a commitment to finding little pieces of joy in the ordinary and difficult times.  Whether it’s taking the time to enjoy a sunrise (I’m a morning person), or reading something that makes me smile instead of making me learn, or listening – really listening – to the sound of my stepson’s laughter.  There is something joyous to be found in each day, we just may need to look a little harder.

JChoose Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gratitude – July 23

Strawberry Shortcake

Happy Wednesday!  It was a good day today, with much to be grateful for.  It was much like yesterday, and the day before, uneventful, no drama and, really kind of predictable.  I really appreciate looking for, and finding, things to be grateful for on uneventful days.  It takes more careful observation throughout the day and reflection in the evening.  I like that.  It’s like replaying my day, focusing on all of the great things that happened.  That’s a nice thing to do before bedtime. 🙂

So, here’s my list for today:

  • I am grateful I have so many wonderful friends at work; they brighten my day.  I love the breaks that we take to chat and catch up throughout the work day.  There is always laughter and smiles in my office.
  • I am grateful that this week has been a reprieve from the workload of the previous two weeks.  I have even had enough time to really clean and declutter my office, and now it looks fantastic!  I only wish that I had taken before and after pictures.
  • I am thankful that I haven’t been as tired the last couple of days even though my allergies and sinuses have been bothering me every morning.
  • I am thankful for the month old puppies that are crawling around my living room.  I can just sit and watch them play for hours…they are getting bigger and braver every day.
  • I am grateful for the strawberry shortcake that I made tonight (and had for dinner!).  Tomorrow it’s all salad, all day.
  • I am thankful that by doing my gratitude lists every day (well, almost every day), my mood, perspective, and level of happiness has improved so much.  When I remember how much I have to be thankful for, it always brings me joy.
Austin and puppies

I couldn’t resist posting this picture…see how much I have to be grateful for? 🙂

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what are you grateful for today

A year of joy and adversity

adversity

This was a big week for me.  It was Thanksgiving, and of course I have a lot to be thankful for.  However, the holidays have been really hard for me the last few years.  As many of you know, I have no contact with my family and that is really emotional for me when it comes to celebrating holidays, birthdays and the like.  I have worked really hard to accept that things are the way they are, and to no longer let my feelings about my family send me back out drinking.

The other big news for this week is that on Tuesday I celebrated one year of sobriety!  I was really excited to be able to go up and receive my one year chip at my home group meeting on Tuesday morning.  It felt great.  It felt exhilarating.  It felt miraculous.  And it was…all of those things.  Mostly though, I felt so grateful, so very grateful.  It is really apropos that my sobriety birthday is so near Thanksgiving, the timing is perfect.

one year

This post could easily turn into one about gratitude, but I am saving that for another time.  What I really want to write about is what the last year was like.  As I reflect on the past year, I can tell you that it was like a roller-coaster.  There were a lot of really high highs, but an equal amount of really low lows.  I was dealing with the wreckage of my past (I still am), learning how to live with the grief that comes from being estranged from my family, trying to forgive others and myself, and trying to do it all as honestly as I could.  It wasn’t easy, not by any stretch of the imagination.  It was a lot of self-examination, which for us alcoholics is often pretty ugly.  It certainly was for me.  It was emotional and very stressful at times.

As hard as it was though, I realized a while back that this past year was actually, amazingly, filled with joy.  Each difficult situation and negative emotion gave me the opportunity to work through it – not around it, not over it, but really, genuinely through it – without taking a drink.  This wasn’t just a change in perspective for me, it was a life change.  Before this past year I lived in extremes, even when I wasn’t drinking.  A bad situation was never going to end, good things would last forever.  I would always feel whatever emotion I was feeling.  My vocabulary was filled with “always” and “never”.  It was black and white thinking and it did not serve me well.

On Thanksgiving I wrote this in my journal:

“I’m so grateful to be alive and happy.  A year ago, two years ago, five, ten…whenever I was asked what I wanted most in life, my answer was to be happy.  I finally have that now.  I thought that I would never know what that really felt like, but now I do.  I also never thought that there could be joy in the midst of adversity.  But the two can peacefully coexist.  I’ve realized that it isn’t black and white.  I can have joy and happiness even at the worst of times.  I don’t have to get mired down in the shit.  I can do the next right thing, no matter how hard, and I can still have joy in my heart.”

Getting through the bad times, without hurting myself or anyone else, is really a cause for celebration.  The simple act of making it through to the other side is joy-producing.  Realizing that bad times and feelings aren’t going to last forever is joy-producing.  Knowing that I can hand things over to God and have faith that His will is what’s best for me is joy-producing.  Not drinking over all of life’s crap is majorly joy-producing.  How awesome is that?

I DO!!!!!

I sure do!!

Food for the soul

soul

I’m feeling a little, maybe more than a little, overwhelmed at work. Today I had to go in early to complete a project. It had a deadline of noon. My coworker and I got there a little before seven and worked non-stop to finish on time. We didn’t make it. But, we did get it done an hour later and nothing was said about it being late. It’s a good thing, because I was already irritated and I probably would’ve said something sarcastic and defensive if I had been reprimanded. It’s weird, I used to thrive on that sort of hurry-up-and-get-it-done, but-make-sure-it’s-done-right, kind of thing. That’s where I excelled – working under pressure. That just isn’t the case anymore.

In the past, I think that I used school and/or work to validate my self-worth. As long as I did well at those tangible things, the things that everyone could see and approve of, then I was somehow valuable. Consequently, I always did well. I had to, otherwise what good was I? I defined myself by the job I had or the grade I received, not the person I was. I often had people compltely fooled, because it seemed like I had it all together. But really I was wasting away on the inside. I think that lack of self-worth and constant need for approval was one of the things that led me to self-medicate with alcohol.

In sobriety, I am finding that the things that used to make me feel worthy really aren’t so important to me. Don’t get me wrong, most days I like my job, I definitely like my coworkers, and I do need a paycheck. It just doesn’t fulfill me the way that it used to. I think that I used to try to feed my intellect to make myself feel good. Now, however, I have a need to feed my soul. It’s spending time with other people, going to meetings, journaling, being creative, having bible studies with my husband, praying, blogging about recovery, and things like that, that fulfill me now.

The struggle that I seem to be having is finding the balance between what I have to do and what I want to do. If I were to let myself, I’m sure that I would only do the things that truly bring me joy. Can there be too much of a good thing? I think so, probably. I mean there is laundry to be done, floors to be vacuumed, work projects to finish, right? Lately, what I am trying to do is allow myself time to do those things that fulfill me – at least a couple of them a day – while I am still taking care of my responsibilities. It’s a delicate balance that I am learning to master.

I’ll have to see what tomorrow brings, but I know that no matter what, while I am doing the things I have to, I’ll be looking for those little things that bring me joy and feed my soul.