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How Quitting Drinking Taught me to Experience Joy

One of the greatest gifts of sobriety, for me, has been the ability to feel joy.

This may sound silly, as alcohol is sold as a rip roaring good time.

I had some good times in my drinking days.

The good times, however, were often clouded by my own shame and fear. 

Now that I am sober,  I have re-learned how to feel childlike joy in everyday moments.  

While drinking, I grew to be afraid of joy. 

It was like if I acknowledged feeling joy, then it would be taken away.

If I looked at my kids sleeping and felt overwhelming gratitude and love for them, it was immediately replaced with “what could go wrong?”

I was afraid to be ok, happy, content. 

It was easier to complain, than to recognize that in this moment, all is well.

We aren’t supposed to feel happiness. 

Who do we think we are? 

It felt like bragging to say,

“things are good, I am happy, healthy, lucky...hashtag blessed!”

It was as if there is only so much of that to go around, and there wasn’t enough for me.

It would be greedy to overtake my share. 

Joy should be rationed and I shouldn’t have too much of it, or there will be less for someone else.

I haven’t earned joy.

I have only earned grief, suffering, and pain.

As Marianne Williamson says: 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” 

It seems I was always holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I was scared that if I gave into the joyful feeling, it would be taken away. 

If I kept ignoring it and pushing it away, somehow I could keep the possibility of having it nearby.

But here’s the thing I learned.

Joy isn’t taken away.

It can be felt.

You can hold the memory of it forever. 

Things change, but that is even more reason to throw yourself, into the joy of a moment.

It won’t last, but if you savor it, you get to fully experience it, and that experience cannot be taken away from you.

The only way we don’t keep it, is by letting the opportunity go by, without feeling it.

Brene Brown says:

“Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience, and if you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start dress rehearsing tragedy.”

It was frightening and vulnerable to open myself up to joy.

I am still learning that it’s ok to feel good. 

Alcohol kept me small and suffering.

Sobriety has given me permission to shine. 

Who am I not to be my best, brightest self? 

It allows others to shine their brightest as well. 

Who are you not to be your best self?

I don’t serve the world by trying to fit in or go by unnoticed. 

There is an abundance of joy to go around. 

It is contagious and it multiplies by sharing.

My ditched the drink journey has given me the freedom to be unapologetically me. 

It is not arrogant to feel good about myself. 

My growing confidence has given me permission to go out and do good things in the world. 

To live my purpose.

I am doing this by growing into the best possible version of me. 

I am learning to feel good about exactly who I am. 

I am learning to share myself too.

It's ok to feel good about yourself, feel happy, and experience joy.

It's ok to delight in the fact that despite our sorrows, we are hashtag blessed.

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