In the midst of addiction, it was hard to answer the question, “Why am I such a mess? My life is good. I have it SO good. Good family, people who love me, a good job, a nice house, two healthy kids, a good marriage, money in the bank. Why am I having such a hard time living an otherwise normal and blessed life?”
It’s said that people drink to numb the pain. But I didn’t see any obvious source of pain. Perhaps if my parents were divorced, or I had been abused, or was raised by an addict, it would make sense. But I wasn’t. I grew up in an upper middle class home by loving parents, who are still married. We went to church. I was an A student. I was an enthusiastic choir geek with plenty of friends. I completed a bachelor’s degree. For Pete’s sake, I received a master’s degree in counseling! (if that’s not ironic…)
On paper, it didn’t make sense why I was an alcoholic. If my life was so good, then why was I sad? I couldn’t reconcile it on my own and it amounted to a heap-load of guilt. I felt guilty for not being happy when, based on the world’s standards, I should have been. I treated the guilt with alcohol, which then caused even more guilty feelings, and even more sadness. Over time it became habit, one I didn’t know how to quit on my own.
A major part of sobriety was creating new habits and a huge part of recovery was busting up the guilt. Dealing with the guilt meant I had to look to the source of my unhappiness. What I found was so simple, something I have heard thousands of times before, but had never really understood on a heart level. I finally came to understand that happiness isn’t a good job or a good family or stable income or any sort of good or bad circumstances. Happiness stands outside of those things. Happiness is being with God and knowing His love. I had been distant from God and was hiding from Him in guilt, sadness, and self-sufficiency. I needed to kick these habits just as much as the booze.
There’s a line in Fight Club I have always appreciated, but now I see added dimension to it (pardon the language), taking it further than its obvious challenge to consumerism, but seeing it as a call to understanding identity and wholeness:
“You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
Yep, we’re crap, and we’re imperfect. But, God loves us, flaws and all. He loves the rich ones and the poor ones, the well-educated ones and the underprivileged ones. He loves the ones who have it easy, He loves the ones who have it hard. He loves show choir kids, the kids in detention, and every stinkin’ one of us, in all circumstances, whether we accept that love or not.
Happiness has nothing to do with circumstances, thus why despite a “good” life, I was still unhappy and drinking to deal with my unhappiness. I dropped the guilt and now spend time feeling God’s love, getting to know Him. I’m learning happiness.
*How do I feel God’s love? That’s next week’s post. Sorry, I can’t write a novel in one sitting. The little people are hungry and I have another recipe to test.