I saw unhappiness around me and inside of me, even the world seemed unhappy. Why?! Why was I unhappy? I thought it must be my loneliness. It must be the state of the world or war. But I was wrong. This question came up in my sobriety often. The real cause of my unhappiness was the false beliefs living in my head. They are as common as breathing and I never paused to doubt, suspect or question them. I saw everything around me and inside me in a distorted way. These beliefs were so intensely programmed in my mind and I had no way out of distorted thinking. Neither did I question them because I was never under the assumption that my perception was off.
Some of the false beliefs that blocked me from happiness were:
Happiness means having things. This caused me to hold onto external things, relationships, cars, money and clothes as if I was carrying a million-dollar vase. I was afraid. I was protecting these external things because they were precious and fragile, and I was afraid to let go of the million-dollar vase or the clothes, him, her, money, cars, drugs and alcohol. I also wanted to collect more things because I was unhappy without them, even though I already owned very similar things. The truth is I had more than everything I needed to be happy in any given moment. I was unhappy in the present moment because all I could focus on was what I did not have.
Happiness is in the future. Happiness will come if I can manage to change the situation the people around me. I would waste energy trying to rearrange the world. If my job would change, if he changed, if my car was a new car, THEN I would be happy. In reality I was happy and I didn’t know it. My programming had me trapped in fears, anxieties, attachments, conflicts and remorse. If a meeting or person or situation is not how I’d like it, and I decide to take some action to change those, I cannot harbor the illusion that changing them will make me happy. What made me happy or unhappy was not the world and the people around me, but simply the thinking in my head.
Happiness will come when all my desires are fulfilled. In reality all those things I was attached to and carried around like that million-dollar vase were promoting more insecurities, fears, and frustrations that I did not have enough or would lose what I had. Fulfillment of desire, money, property, prestige, drugs, and alcohol are merely short-term pulses of adrenaline and pleasure.
How then do I gain access to happiness? Firstly, I needed to understand my false beliefs, so they would begin to dissipate and I would be open to happiness. My attachments, distorted perceptions and false beliefs had become a reality. My fears were not facts and yet they dominated my life and the reality around me. I was cliff hanging. I believed I was hanging off the edge of a cliff by my fingernails, always one step from disaster. The imaginary cliff I had been hanging on to, was a fantasy mountain of fears I had created. As I began to face my fears, one at a time, the image began to fade until I finally saw myself standing on the floor, not hanging from a cliff that didn’t actually exist. It was not I gripping on to the cliff, it was my false beliefs, distorted perception, and attachments that actually had a hold of me. By realizing this, I destroyed their capacity to continue to hurt me.
In my case, I have always been carried by the present moment and a higher power that exists in each moment. With my fears gone, I could acknowledge that which had been there with me all along. And then I realized I was happy. For others, the removal or the acknowledgement of fears is necessary to become open to the existence of a higher power to lead them to a happier life.