Addicts are addicts. It really can’t be helped, and when an addict finally kicks their drug of choice, they find other addictive outlets. Hollywood has it right when they show an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and everyone is drinking huge amounts of coffee and chain smoking. My caffeine intake easily doubled after quitting, and my three years without smoking went straight down the toilet. Today I vape, because while smoking is fucking disgusting, I can’t picture facing my day without nicotine.
Addicts are addicts. It’s not something we cure, it’s something we learn to dance around, or at the minimum squeeze by it like the elephant in the room that it is. You don’t want to fuck with an elephant, even a domesticated one, because they’ll destroy you.
This post isn’t about addiction. I’m not sure what it’s about really, it’s just sort of word vomit as I think. I have a lot to think about these days, and very few effective outlets. I try to paint and draw, but somehow the time seems to slip by before I can even start. I try to have hobbies, but I always turn them into work. I try to find solitude, but it always eludes me.
How many midlife crises are we permitted? If my first was at 31, then I should be dead by 62, but if my second is at 41, then I should make it to 82? Or hey, maybe life is just a series of crises until you die.
It’s hard to use the words midlife crisis because nothing I’m experiencing is objectively a crisis. I’m not a child in Syria. I’m not a Somalian villager or an Uyghur, persecuted by China’s government for being Muslim. I’m a middle class white man in America. That’s about the cushiest it gets. What could possibly be so terrible for me?
Nothing. Nothing is terrible. Objectively speaking, my life is perfect. But I think how we define happiness is broken, and that the physical trappings of consumerism and cultural expectations of career and family can’t be the source of that happiness.
When I tell people about getting sober, a lot of people say things like “yeah you got to think about your kids.” I’m very quick to tell them that my kids weren’t a thought in my head with regards to sobriety. They weren’t a reason, neither was my wife, my career, any of it. I was reduced to the most basic idea of living or dying, and I realized I didn’t want to die.
If I can’t attribute my sobriety to the things I have in my life, how could I possibly attribute my happiness to them? The simple answer is I can’t. I don’t. The kids, the wife, the house, the pool, this is all pomp and circumstance. I may love it and hold it very close, but strip it all away and there’s still me, and I have to have happiness without it.
Now I’d like to make a very important distinction between happiness and joy. Joy is the pleasant events you experience. Baby laughs, a big achievement, spending time with a loved one, laughing and making jokes. That’s joy, that’s not happiness. When a joyful event is over, the joy fades.
Happiness is more akin to contentment. It’s not a fleeting feeling that’s gone when your circumstances change or the event is over. Happiness is a sense of peace in knowing that you’re where you should be, doing what you should be doing at that particular moment. It’s acceptance of your circumstance and the knowledge that what’s happening outside of you doesn’t dictate your responses to emotions. True happiness is calm in the face of both ease and adversity.
It’s funny how you can grasp, and even have working knowledge of, complex concepts and still fail to implement them. I mean, I get it. I know that things can’t make me happy, and pursuit of things and feelings only ends in disappointment. Yet I still feel myself reaching for things and feelings as a way to sustain my happiness, for fear of the dark.
My coping mechanisms are shit, just like every other addict. Even people who aren’t addicts and seem to have their shit together don’t like to raw dog reality and cushion it with drinking, gambling, sex, binge watching Netflix, living on Facebook, etc. etc. When faced with the reality of our experience, and the fact that our distractions don’t bring us happiness, most of us fall apart. Or at the minimum, we break down a bit.
The more you examine it, the emptier it all seems. I know this makes me sound like the harbinger of misery, but I swear I’m not. If anything, it means that as we strip away the physical trappings, and the psychological hang ups, we find that we’re more and more like everyone else.
I don’t think being just like everyone else is anything to aspire to, but you also have to take into account that my thoughts on it are spoiled by my own ego and desire to be special. To be different. It’s natural to want to stand out from over 7 billion other people. But when you break it down, it’s not the individual that’s special. We’re basically blank faced doppelgängers waiting to be filled in by experience. Those experiences and our reactions to them are what we identify as the individual and the self.
So you’re not special, your experiences won’t make you happy, but they’ll make you what you define as “you.” Stripped of everything, you’re no different than anyone else and have the same basic drives and instincts. The only thing that is special about any of us is the truly unique set of circumstances, experiences, and reactions to them that we each have.
And that’s where we can find happiness, even during the darkest times. We can find happiness in the knowledge that this experience is unique, and we’re witness to it. Every single second of every single day is unique when observed through your eyes, because every experience and thought and emotion you’ve had has shaped you to be a unique observer.
We don’t have a lot in life that can’t be taken away, but we have the ability to find happiness if we can just stop thinking with a small mind.