In The Declaration of Independence, it is stated that all human beings have unalienable rights – these include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But the pursuit of happiness doesn’t entail that it’s every human being’s purpose to be happy. It’s our purpose to seek happiness, and live life honestly to experience real joy. It’s, as always, the journey and not simply the destination.
People often talk about how important it is to be happy. But all that does is create an unhealthy ideal of what it means to feel. It’s important for us to be comfortable with emotions – our entire range of them – and utilize how we feel as a logical metric for what we need. If we find ourselves stuck in a rut of negativity, then we need to acknowledge that something is wrong – and we need to turn things around. And when positivity strikes and we’re feeling great, we need to reflect and consider what it is that makes us happy.
Yet happiness can’t exist without sadness, and no human being can ever endure permanent joy. There is no such thing. From a purely philosophical point of view, we know that any one thing is defined by how it’s different from other things. Happiness as a singular emotion doesn’t work because we need to be unhappy to be happy. We need to lose something to understand how much it means to us.
Addiction & the Pursuit of Happiness
But don’t forget, sobriety isn’t happiness nor is clarity – it’s honesty. Addiction is artificial happiness – it’s getting high on a drug or a behavior to mask the real obstacles and pretend that everything is fine. It’s coping with problems by running away from them. And when we come out and face life without addiction, the difference is so drastic and harsh that it often becomes the hardest thing people attempt to do in their lives.
When you’re fighting against addiction, don’t do it for the sake of being happy. Do it for the sake of being yourself, for the sake of being honest with your perception of the world, and your problems. Do it for the sake of being uninfluenced and swayed by drugs and addictive behavior. And do it, because you want to remember what it’s like to live with a healthy emotional spectrum.
Being at Peace with Emotion
Forcing happiness onto yourself can be just as destructive as wallowing in depression. If you don’t allow yourself to be honest with the way you feel, you’re not employing “mind over matter” – you’re burying problems and hiding issues just to create the illusion that everything is fine.
The pursuit of happiness doesn’t lie in lying to yourself for the sake of an artificial sense of joy. It lies in trekking through metaphorical mud to get to that moment of satisfaction and happiness and then savoring it.
That means being honest with yourself. If things are going badly, and you feel the urge to cry it out, then do so. That’s your body’s natural way of quickly relieving some stress and blowing off some steam.
Wipe the tears off your face, and focus on what’s wrong. Find ways to fix it. Do what you can about the situation, and move on when you can’t do anything. Adapt, don’t wallow. Ask for help if you need it. Ignore pity and pride, and focus on the truth – life is full of obstacles, and you need to overcome those obstacles if you want to feel real joy again, even if that means getting hurt or struggling along the way.
So how does this relate to addiction? Simple: you’ll never get out of the cycle of addiction if you aren’t honest with yourself. Even if that honesty hurts, it’s the first and most crucial step to making things better. And again – making things better doesn’t mean pretending they’re better than they are. It means taking everything at face value, and then focusing on solutions instead of worrying about blame and regret.
Being Happy & Being Positive Isn’t the Same Thing
There’s nothing wrong with being positive. Being happy and being positive are two separate things – you can be happy for a few moments, but you can be positive for the rest of your life.
If you force happiness upon yourself instead of seeking out real joy, you’ll only let problems fester as you ignore them. But positivity can help shine a light on a problematic situation and help you find the right solution. You can be positive, and still, acknowledge that things are bad. That doesn’t matter though – your goal is to make them better. And if you get hurt along the way, that’s fine – it’s part of the journey.
People sometimes conflate pessimism with realism, but being realistic requires neither positivity nor negativity. Realism is being honest – what you choose to do about reality has nothing to do with reality, and everything to do with your own personality and will.
The average pessimist will see things for what they are and be discouraged by the odds. The average optimist will see things for what they are and be encouraged by the chances. And when you’re struggling with addiction, anxiety, and other mental health issues, not just your personality but your perception of reality tends to be skewed towards negativity – you’ll see problems where none exist, and you’ll avoid confrontation and stress by hiding behind ineffective coping mechanisms.
When you embrace positivity, you can embrace reality and be honest with yourself, but focus on your chances of improvement. You’re not choosing to ignore the odds – you’re simply doing your best to work despite them. And sometimes, that’s what it takes to beat them.
In addiction recovery, an example of being positive lies in trying out a new technique or group therapy despite having your reservations about it, because it might work, and then moving on to something else when you realize it doesn’t. Forcing an idyllic picture of reality upon yourself is pretending that you’re getting better, and then crashing horribly when you can’t keep the façade going.
Be reasonable, realistic, and honest – but be positive about it. That’s the only way to real happiness, by acknowledging and working through your obstacles and taking joy in the satisfaction of overcoming them.