WordPress tells me this is my 100th blog, which seems downright impossible. But since that’s indeed the case, I wanted to make it count and write about something that’s been on my heart during the last couple of weeks. Oh, and my apologies for not blogging last week…I was sick as a dog with the seasonal cold making its rounds, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Speaking of enemies, one of the themes running through my AA readings, meetings, and therapy sessions has been how to let go of grudges, bitterness, and resentment. (“The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear.”–pg 145 in the AA Big Book) After all, those feelings hurt the one fostering them much more than they hurt those whom said feelings are directed towards. It is by letting go of the negativity that we free ourselves to–you’ve guessed it–truly live a joyful life. I’m so focused on striving to live a joyful life that I had the following quote inscribed on my Christmas card this year (I’ll post a pic of the card next week once they’ve been received in the mail):
Every day is a precious gift from God, and He wants nothing more from us than to live a happy, joyful life in His service.
It’s no secret that those who are sobering up tend to “find God” and “seek out a Higher Power.” It’s my opinion that if one is doing sobriety right this inevitably happens, mainly because one realizes that only God can keep him/her sober and off the bottle. Self-reliance can be a great asset, but not in this case. By surrendering all your anxieties, worries, stress, etc. to God, you allow Him to free you from the shackles of alcohol, which in most alcoholics’ case had become their primary idol. Here’s a quote from the AA Big Book that touches on this point perfectly:
“As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day, ‘Thy will be done.’ We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.” (pg 88)
But back to being joyful; the joy comes from being set free from all our past mistakes, current challenges, and the worst-case-scenarios beyond our control in the future. No wonder people are eaten up with stress, guilt, shame, and regret–we’ve all made missteps in our lives, and will continue to do so until the day we die! Another great quote from the AA Big Book:
“We are sure 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. Avoid then, the deliberate manufacture of misery, but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence.” (pg 133)
So how to be joyful, whether one is newly sober or re-sober, and/or trying to undo years of cynical disillusionment? It’s easier said than done, as I’m finding out. Once I began pondering the answer to the question, I had another Salem the Robot Cat moment…
The answer to, “How to Live a Joyful Life” is–for me, at least–as complex as the answer to, “How do I grow up?” It involves changing thought patterns and approaching life in a whole new way; instead of dreading certain things, one must plunge into them head first with a positive attitude. Thankfully, a life coach named Nea compiled a list entitled “45 Ways to Live a More Joyful Life” which can be found *here*. Some of her suggestions on the list seemed hokey to me at first; a few of them still do. But the point of the list is to do things we conveniently forget to do, especially as adults who are too busy with our own challenges and issues to take time to smell the roses. Please glance over the list when you have a minute and see what you think of her suggestions. Then add your own, as I’ve already made a mental note of several like-minded things I can do which aren’t on her list (such as volunteering at church and other places which can always use a helping hand).
The last recommendation I’ll give on striving to live a joyful life is something that might come across harsh at first glance, but something my therapist has been teaching me how to do and which has been worth the price of admission to see her (no joke). It’s called setting boundaries with those whom you interact with in your life–co-workers, strangers, roommates, friends, and–yes–even, and especially, family members. No one can cause you to feel inferior unless you allow them to (insert any word in the place of “inferior”: dumb, crazy, guilty, wrong, etc.). By setting those boundaries, you’re not building walls around yourself as much as you’re protecting yourself from those who don’t have your best interests at heart. There are people we come in contact with every single day who aren’t going to approve of us or like us; that’s life. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be striving to be joyful in spite of what they may say or do to us. It’s entirely up to us how we react to their words and/or behaviour, if we react at all. Many times the best reaction is no reaction; ignoring someone’s negativity is sometimes the best thing you can do for everyone involved. Just go about your business of daily living, and cast all your cares on God, who truly will sustain you. That’s what being joyful is all about…letting God sustain you.
Thanks for reading, and thanks especially to the twos of y’all who’ve been here reading since the very first blog. Until next week…be joyful!