10 lessons from gratitude, spirituality and the quest for happiness

By nature, I’m a cynic. Suspicious to the point of paranoia and an ardent demander for proof. For years, I would pooh-pooh spirituality as new age commercialisation of archaic practices. I still believe some are but I cannot deny that gratitude and spirituality have transformed my outlook exponentially.

In my drinking days, I was angry. Not violent. Just angry at everyone and everything. I thought the odds were stacked against me and life hated me. I was closed off emotionally and just wanted to be left alone to drink.

In sobriety that has changed; life doesn’t seem as difficult now and the world doesn’t seem as dark as it did. All of which is down to a change of outlook. So I apologise if it comes across as preachy, that wasn’t my intention.

Here are ten things I’ve learned from sobriety and travel: 😊

1)    In the western world, water is readily available to the majority of people. This is an outstanding benefit that is often taken for granted. Every time I run the tap to get a drink I say thank you. To whom? I don’t know. What I do know, is that it keeps me grounded and which in turn reminds me what is important in life; friends, family, love, adventure, altruism. It also keeps my problems in perspective as it is a reminder that I am so lucky compared to the 2.5 billion people that go without proper sanitation and even more lucky the 780 million people that don’t have clean water at all.  

2)    Over the last forty years, there has been a rhetoric that we are individuals and that whatever happens to us is a result of our own actions. This is only partly true. Many things are out of our control and yet we cling to the belief that if we just try to control things a little bit harder then everything will be alright. The saying goes “If you are trying to control everything, then you are at war with everything”.

3) If 10 years ago, I was offered the life I lead now I would have flatly refused on the basis it sounded boring. Sitting in the sun and reading books? Or walking in the woods? Where is the hedonism? Where is the chaos? Where is the fun? Because I believed that those things brought entertainment to my empty life. Now I think they bring disruption to my peaceful life. Drama is for the television, not my life. But on reflection the drinking life was boring. The cyclic mundanity of bouncing from work, pub and home in a zombified state. In sobriety, I have spent a lot of uncomfortable time with myself but eventually, it happened. The world seemed brighter and my head wasn’t such a scary place to visit anymore. I hear people say “I can’t meditate,” and you know what neither could I when I started. Maybe, people think it’s a quick fix solution much like the delusion reading a 300-page self-help book will transform your life. If you don’t keep working at change then those new behaviours won’t be written over the old ones.


4)    We are constantly bombarded with messages about happiness… No, wait. We are constantly bombarded with messages explaining why we are; too fat, too thin, too old, not old enough. That our car, phone, shoes, suit, etc etc are out of date and by proxy so are we. This is the commodification of happiness. In my humble opinion, happiness is a marketing word used to sell shit that people don’t need. A by-product of which has resulted in people believing that they have to be constantly happy. This is further compounded by the illusionary lives of social media. I say fuck finding happiness. Find yourself and happiness will follow. You are happiness. You are complete and always have been. You have so much to give that even a fraction of that potential would make you realise how wonderful you are. So close the Amazon app, get a glass of water and revel in the simplistic beauty of sobriety. You are all you ever needed. 

5) Test yourself. You’ll be surprised by what you will achieve. That picture you wanted to paint? Paint it. To hell with the fact it isn’t the Sistine Chapel. That book you wanted to write? Write it. If you had time to drink alcohol then you have time to develop those skills. There is no failure. Only opportunities to learn and grow.


6)    The shit from the past will hold you back like being tied to a bolder. The only way to make it lighter is to start to chip away at it. Piece by piece it breaks down until it is no longer bothersome. It doesn’t matter where you start to chip away, just start somewhere. The feeling that being freed from this weight gives is amazing.  

7)    I have never been to prison but it often felt like I was. The pub was my cell and my workplace was the yard. Exacerbated by the debt that tied my wrist like a tether, I was trapped. Clearing as much debt as possible and stopping drinking made me feel like I had dug a tunnel and pulled off the great escape. The pleasure that was offered by the products I got into debt to purchase was far outweighed by the anxiety induced by the precarious financial situation it placed me in. Freedom from addiction emboldens. So does freedom from debt.

8)    In Eastern cultures, when people are feeling low they do something for someone else. In the west, when we feel low we do something for ourselves. We usually buy something for ourselves. When the effects of the act of the thing we do for ourselves has worn off we do it again and thus a cycle is born. By performing an act of altruism it helps maintain relationships, improve mental health and gives a sense of purpose. While also improving self-esteem. What’s not to like about that?

9) Walking in nature is another natural way to improve mental wellbeing with the bonus of the exercise. The calming effect of this simple thing is wonderful and I try to have it in my weekly routine.


10) Life is short. Put on your favourite song. Dance, sing, smile, laugh. Overcoming addiction is hard. Life is mental, balancing life and navigating its pitfalls is hard. I assure you it is easier sober. So keep going. No matter how difficult sobriety seems to be, keep going. Don’t let a splash of rain ruin the parade.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense or is of any use but I found I had to change my outlook to stay sober. So far it’s working 🙂

Thanks for stopping by,

Charlie.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

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