If you are still using your drug of choice in active addiction then it is time to start breaking through your denial.
You can do this most easily by asking yourself a simple question:
“Am I happy?”
This should become your mantra.
If you are already clean and sober then you might apply this idea to personal growth instead. (In other words, asking yourself “am I happy?” and if the answer is “no” then you need to make more changes in your life, take more positive action, seek holistic health, etc.)
But because of the nature of denial during active addiction, this question of happiness is VERY important for breaking through denial and finally realizing that your drug of choice is NOT, in fact, making you happy.
Now obviously if someone has just discovered their drug of choice two weeks ago and they have not really experienced any negative consequences from their drug or alcohol use yet in their life, then this technique is not going to work well at all. The fact is that the brand new addict or the extremely young alcoholic is still having fun with their addiction and they have not yet got to the point of total chaos and misery just yet. It takes time for our addiction to progress and if you have not yet reached the point of misery then this technique is not going to work for you.
We discover our drug of choice.
At first it is fun.
Then it becomes a habit.
Then it becomes necessary.
Eventually we depend on it just to function.
This technique being discussed here about measuring your happiness is not going to work if you are still in the early stages of addiction. It is only in the latter stages of addiction that asking this question of yourself can help you to break free from your denial.
Do not assume that using your drug of choice makes you happy
So one of the first things you want to realize is that you are probably making an assumption in your life.
You are very likely assuming that using your drug of choice makes you happy, or that it can make you happy in an instant.
This is why you have come to trust and depend on your drug of choice so much, because it has always altered your mood so reliably in the past. You count on it to change your mood and basically to make you happy, in an instant, whenever you need it.
In the beginning this was undoubtedly true. I can remember my complete amazement when I had first discovered drugs and alcohol, because this ability to change my mood was so incredible and so profound. I could be having a bad day, in a bad mood, or upset about something in my life, and then I would suddenly get high for the first time that day by using a large amount of marijuana. The effect was incredible because it fully removed the old mood and put me in this new place where I totally forgot how upset I had been.
This was absolutely like a new magic trick that I just could not believe or get over. I was thoroughly impressed with the ability to medicate a bad mood by using drugs at this time.
But notice that this was happening when I first started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Later on in my addiction, the ability to medicate my mood was seriously compromised. It became more and more difficult to completely medicate a bad mood out of my mind like I did when I had first discovered drugs. Tolerance built up and I became used to being high all the time. It was much more difficult to forget my problems when I was drunk or high. I was used to being drunk and high and I had built a lot of tolerance and therefore the whole idea of medicating a bad mood away became much less effective. It could still be attempted but it was rarely achieved. Drugs and alcohol had stopped doing what I wanted them to do. Or rather, they no longer worked as well as they once did. They used to completely alter my mood, on a dime, instantaneously, with just a little three dollar joint of marijuana, and in my later years of addiction I had to spend twenty dollars and use three different drugs in combination to get the same effect. My addiction had progressed to the point where it was no longer easy for it to be amazing and wonderful and mood enhancing.
So in the early days it was a slam dunk that drugs made me happy. I could be in a rotten and foul mood and having a terrible day, and just by smoking a tiny big of marijuana I could be completely transformed into blissful happiness. But this was a lie, because my disease quickly progressed to the point where this was no longer possible, not even by using multiple drugs, stronger drugs, more expensive drugs, all at the same time, etc. Basically the drugs stopped working for me and I was no longer able to transport myself to this state of blissful happiness whenever I wanted.
But I had to realize that.
And this is where the denial comes in.
Your denial will make it so that you do NOT realize how lousy the drugs and the alcohol have started working for you.
Your denial will cause you to assume that you can still achieve this “instant happiness” with your drug of choice, whenever you want.
But can you really?
Well, simply start asking yourself. Every day.
“Am I happy?”
Don’t make excuses and say “well I would be happy if I just had a different situation, more drugs, better drugs, better people in my life, a better job, a nicer flat panel television,” and so on. Don’t make the mistake of making those excuses for yourself and arguing that “you would be happy, if this, or if that.”
Remember how amazing your drug of choice worked in the beginning. It could make you happy instantly, with just a small amount, and it filled you with wonder and awe and joy with just a modest amount. Don’t make excuses and say that you would be happy if only you had all the drugs in the world at your disposal. Because in the beginning it took very little to make you happy.
Stop clinging to the memory of good times with your drug of choice
You may be doing something else in your mind that is keeping you inside of this “happiness trap.”
You may be clinging to the memory of a good time or a fun experience that you had with your drug of choice.
This is usually in the distant past, back when your drug use was still light and fun and new and exciting.
You probably had some great times back when you first discovered your drug of choice where nobody got hurt, nobody went to jail, nobody wrecked a car or hurt someone’s feelings. And the drug was fairly new in your life and believed that it was the answer to your happiness that you had been seeking all along and so everything was all good.
What happens as you progress through your addiction is that at some point you will reflect on the past. This is inevitable and every addict and alcoholic will eventually do this and think back to a point in time, earlier in their addiction, when they were still having lots of fun all the time with their drug of choice.
And they will say to themselves “I want to go back to when it was fun, I want to achieve that level of happiness again like I did when I first discovered my drug of choice.”
Now realize that no addict or alcoholic actually thinks this out consciously and puts it in those exact words. Instead, they merely have this vague notion that at one time, they had a really good experience with their drug of choice, and they want to recreate that happy time again in their life.
And they know that it is possible because they can remember it, they achieved this happiness in the past based on their drug of choice, and so they want to recreate it. They want to do it all over again, use their drug of choice in a certain way, in a certain amount, with certain people, in a combination with other drugs or alcohol, or whatever the case may be. The addict vaguely imagines that if all of the elements would just line up correctly again that they could have this great time and be truly happy again like they were in this memory that they have.
This memory that they have of a good time in the past with their drug of choice is a lie.
Why is it a lie?
Not because it never happened. It surely did happen, I am not debating that. There were some good times in the early days after discovering your drug of choice, there is no doubt about that.
But the memory of it is a lie because the addict or alcoholic is telling themselves that they can recreate that feeling today, if only certain elements would fall perfectly into place.
That is the lie.
That they can achieve that happiness again if only they would get the right drugs, or the right amount of drugs, or the right quality of drugs, or whatever.
This is a function of denial. The addict is stuck in denial whether they realize it or not, because they believe that they can achieve that happiness again if things would just line up right in their life again. They are clinging to the belief that suddenly they will figure it all out and then suddenly making themselves ridiculously happy with their drug of choice will become really easy. They hope it will become really easy again just like it was in the beginning of their addiction, when they could smoke a three dollar joint and be deliriously happy for four hours straight with no negative consequences. That is the lie that they are facing because they do not see the truth of their situation.
The truth of their situation is that they are now full blown drug addicts or alcoholics, and they can never go back to the days where they become really happy from a small amount of their drug of choice and experience almost no negative effects from it. Those days are long gone. They have built tolerance and they have to take large amounts of drugs and they have to use more drugs or they have to drink a lot more alcohol and therefore they are going to experience very serious consequences and side effects. Consequences that make them miserable.
And the worst part of all is that this “happiness window” has just continuously shrank over the years. When they first discovered their drug of choice they could be happy for hours when taking just a small amount of their drug of choice. But now in their full blown addiction they have to use large amounts of the drug just to get a tiny bit of happiness, and even that tiny bit remains elusive at times. They might chase after that happiness for a week or even a full month without ever really achieving it, and yet they still cling to the belief that their drug of choice can make them instantly happy whenever they desire. This is denial and it is absolute madness because the person is miserable nearly 99 percent of the time, but they believe that they can access instant happiness using their drug of choice whenever they want. They fail to realize that it has stopped working for them.
Ask yourself every day: “Am I happy?”
Really? How often? How much happiness? Just for twenty minutes after being properly medicated? Does it last for hours? How often are you happy? How much?
If you are stuck in addiction, then start asking yourself, repeatedly:
“Am I happy?”
If you are and the answer is always “yes” then you have little incentive to change.
But for any real addict or alcoholic, the answer is going to be “no, I am not happy” about 99 percent of the time. This is how to break through denial.
Start a happiness journal or calendar to prove to yourself how much happiness your drug of choice is bringing to you
This is such a powerful exercise that you need to document it. Doing so will bring you quick results and could mean the difference between continuing on in misery with your addiction versus making the decision to get clean and sober.
There are two options here. One is to start a written journal and the other is to make a “happiness calendar.” The idea is simple: start measuring your happiness.
Commit to writing in your journal every single day, even if it is only one sentence or one word. If you want you can reduce the journal entry to the date and either the word “happy” or “miserable.” One or the other is fine. But the whole point is that you have to get honest with yourself when you go to put this journal entry in. If you are genuinely happy that day then feel free to put that down. But also be honest in logging when you are miserable.
The alternative is to simply mark this down on a calendar so that you have a running record of how often you are happy.
This may be an oversimplification to split your life into either “good days” or “bad days” but it should be good enough to illustrate to you how happy or miserable you really are.
If you have progressed deeply into your addiction then doing this exercise will open your eyes to just how miserable you have become.
The fact is that our denial has us convinced that we must surely be happy most of the time in using our drug of choice. Our brain has this vague notion that surely we must be happy most of the time because we continue to chase after that next high. The reality is that if we start measuring our happiness and documenting it we will see the truth, and realize that we are actually miserable most of the time.
At some point the hope is that every addict and alcoholic will eventually realize that they are miserable.
If they are lucky enough not to end up in jail or prison or a mental hospital or get themselves killed first, every addict or alcoholic will hopefully get to the point where they realize:
“Hey wait a second. This drug (or alcohol) is supposed to be making me happy. And it’s not working. And the fact is that it stopped working a long time ago.”
This is a realization.
An awakening of sorts.
Wake up and realize that the drugs or the booze is no longer working like it used to.
And then it is time to take action. Then it is time to do something different, to try a new approach. To find happiness in another way.
This is the turning point.
Learning how to let go of this need to chase happiness through your drug of choice
The turning point is a moment of surrender.
It involves letting go.
Letting go of what?
Letting go of control, mostly.
You see, in our addiction, we have attempted to control our happiness with our drug of choice. We have attempted to control our emotions and our bad days and our bad moods by medicating them away with our drug of choice.
That need for control is what we have to let go of.
It is moment of surrender and it is a release. It will feel funny when it happens. It will feel unexpected. You will be lighter. You will feel relief, right away. Because you will actually let go of this need for control, surrender it fully, and realize that you no longer have to struggle with your addiction if you choose not too.
At this turning point you may not know if happiness is still available to you in the future. Don’t worry about it. I can assure you that you will find happiness again in sobriety, in time. But right now your only objective should be to ask for help, to seek advice, to seek sobriety.
You have no doubt tried to overcome your addiction on your own, and failed. Now is the time to ask for help.
We tend to have this believe, this defensiveness, that no one could possibly care about our happiness as much as we could, so we are leery of asking for help to overcome our addiction. It is like trusting another person with our happiness. And how can we really do that, how would we know if they really care that much about our happiness?
But the truth is that we are lousy predictors of what will actually make us happy in life, as proven very thoroughly by our own journey into addiction.
When we give up control of this and surrender, we open the door to take advice from others about how to live. And so we have to trust. We have to expose ourselves to this risk, that we are letting someone else dictate our life for a while, to teach us how to become clean and sober. And that feels like a huge risk because we know that deep down, we are the only ones who really care about our own happiness, and that no one else can be expected to care about our lives enough to make sure that we are happy.
But of course it all works out, for anyone who surrenders enough to find a path to sobriety. Happiness will happen anyway in recovery, whether you believe it will or not, because you will discover happiness again when you finally break free from addiction. The exact program that you follow and the people who help you and the place that you go for treatment are not going to determine your happiness in recovery. Just getting clean and sober and discovering a new life of sobriety is enough. Your happiness will take care of itself in recovery, if you can learn to trust in the process, and let go of the struggle to medicate your way to happiness.