The Joy Of Living

 “…we shall be of little use if our attitude is one of bitterness or hostility.”  Alcoholics Anonymous pg 103 

This is a very important point to all of us in recovery.  Your attitude determines your usefulness to the world.  If you are a person in recovery with a negative attitude, you at the least display to others a negative idea of what the recovery experience is like.

The truth is this is a failure to see and seek one of the key goals of recovery.  Bill Wilson described this clearly on page 15 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book: 

“The joy of living we really have even under pressure and difficulty” 

I personally have seen many who claim great knowledge and understanding of recovery and claiming long periods of sobriety that propagate a negative attitude of life as if it is the way a person with long term recovery should act.  This is a lie and a terrible misrepresentation of what recovery is all about.  What this says to a person seeking recovery is; “I may want recovery because my life is miserable, but being in recovery or being recovered looks more miserable.” 

“But, we aren’t a glum lot.  If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn’t want it.  We absolutely insist on enjoying life.”  Alcoholics Anonymous pg 132 

Notice the words “We absolutely insist…”   There is some suggestion that this joy is something we fight for and is not something that just appears. 

My reason for bringing up this topic is to clarify what another one of the goals of recovery looks like. 

This joy is not just a matter of everything in your life being perfect or everything going your way because you are not using.  This joy is rooted in the simple appreciation of two things: 

“But why shouldn’t we laugh?  We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.”  Alcoholics Anonymous pg 132 

  1. that we have recovery even if it just for the past couple of hours, the past few days or many years.  (we who have recovered from serious drinking are miracles of mental health – Alcoholics Anonymous pg 133)
  2. that we have been given the gift of “the power to help others.” 

Conscious effort is required to maintain the “joy of living” and a focus what may appear to be the simplest of things that may be a miracle such as the fact I am still alive after how I have lived my life and the chemicals I have put into my body, or the other people in recovery I have that are willing to support me, etc.  But, it is a conscious effort to keep that focus. 

“Avoid then, the deliberate manufacture of misery, but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity…”  Alcoholics Anonymous pg 133 

Many of us in recovery are subject to fits of self pit, depression and the like and the truth is that this sort of thing “…does not often recovery overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 133).  It is a process but “the joy of living” must be one of the goals of your recovery.  After all what person who is miserable and tired of using wants to seek a life that is miserable and tired while sober.

The bottom line as stated by the authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book on page 133:

“We are sure that God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free.  We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us.  But it is clear that we made our own misery.  God didn’t do it.” 

And when you begin to focus on the problems and troubles that appear to be attacking your life (as they do all people on earth): 

“…cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence.”  Alcoholics Anonymous pg 133.

Seek and maintain Joy;

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