The year was 1990, I was 9 years old, and my life had begun to take a slow and long downward path of addiction. My name is Andy and this is my recovery story.
In the beginning, it was only about alcohol and as my tolerance began to grow, I started to explore other, not so legal, substances. I eventually landed in jail for drug-related charges and the truth of my reality slowly started to sink in as I realized where I was and how far I had come (and not in the good sense).
It wasn’t the kind of life I had envisioned for myself as a kid, and it definitely wasn’t the kind of life my parents envisioned for me when they brought my sister and me to America. They took us away from the drugs and violence that had been plaguing my hometown of Medellin, Colombia back in the ‘80s. They always wanted better for us.
So I finally decided to pay heed to everyone that ever cared about me and got some much-needed by going to a rehab center in Northgate. I’m proud to say that I have been sober for just about a decade.
While I am thankfully free from the metaphorical grasps of drugs, up until recently I was still struggling with trying to be happy. It is unfortunately very common to get depressed while sober, and as a recovering addict, there were still a lot of stressors in my life, and the memories of a shady past were hard to shake.
Eventually, it came to a point where I thought to myself, ‘You’ve been doing good so far, you deserve to be happy’ and I decided to take control of my happiness. In order to accomplish that, I had to stop doing some things that were actively blocking me from my ability to be happy.
1. Stop focusing on the not so great stuff
Addicts can build up quite a list of things they wish had not happened or done. I know I definitely had one.
Obviously, there were a lot of less than optimum decisions made that, if it were possible, I would go back and change. However, the truth is that there is nothing I could do about it. What happened is done and now I have to focus on the present and what I’m going to do to make sure my future doesn’t look anything like my past.
I started to do was reminding myself of all the things I’m grateful for. Yes, I ruined a lot of my relationships in the past, but I can do better in the relationships that have stood the test of time and trials, as well as, the new ones that fortunately keep sprouting up. Before, I wasn’t very productive for a good chunk of my life, but now I’m doing everything I can to be a productive member of society.
All I have lost are lessons learned and all that I have now are blessings, which I am incredibly grateful for all of it.
2. Stop being negative
This one was a tough one.
Throughout my life, I have felt sorry for myself. I felt like the universe was just showering bad things upon me and, by none of my own doing, my life was unnecessarily hard. I felt like because of this, I deserved special treatment, as if everybody else had to move aside and bend over backward to accommodate me.
Acknowledging this ugly thing about me was tough enough, but when I finally did, I had no idea how to manage my negativity. I was so accustomed to brandishing it like a sword of self-pity any time I didn’t particularly like my situation or options.
Somewhere down the road, I got the answer from a yogi friend of mine and it was like a hard slap to my ego. Bad things happen, unpleasant things happen, and they happen to everyone. No one owes you anything. However, instead of getting knocked over every time you don’t like something, just acknowledge it as a part of life.
You are not the first person to experience life’s curveballs and you won’t be the last. Learn whatever you can from it and don’t make it bigger than it is.
3. Stop going through life like an absent-minded professor
I am an overthinker. I overthink so much that I over-think about overthinking. This made happiness very hard to achieve because, at any given moment, my mind would be going over some unpleasant memory. I couldn’t enjoy the moment.
The thing that helped me with this was mindfulness. I practiced consciously paying attention to solely what was happening in the present. I would sit down and focus on my breathing, or observing the way water flows in a river, and slowly I got better at doing that without thinking about it. Now that I can just experience my present without any distractions I find that my quality of life is tenfold better than what it used to be.
4. Stop holding grudges
Now you know that I was a negative overthinker who would focus on the bad stuff, so naturally, I held grudges.
I held a few grudges with other people, like my parents and certain friends who I thought weren’t there for me enough. Although, the biggest grudge I held was with myself. Holding in anger and resentment is just bad for your health, your emotional well-being, and will most definitely keep you from being happy.
Holding a grudge is not worth the stress and negativity it brings you long after the incident occurs. When I learned to forgive myself and everyone else, I felt like a free man.
5. Stop keeping toxic company
Toxic people are those individuals that just drain you anytime you’re with them.
They point out your flaws, never let you live down a mistake, are judgemental, and just make you feel the opposite of happy.
I realized some family members and close friends were toxic people I had known all my life. I felt like I was obligated to spend time with them because of the history we shared or because we’re related, and so I did.
The problem is that being around these kinds of people often has a lasting effect. Their words and actions are engraved in your subconscious. Forgiving and forgetting is easier said than done, especially if it happens repeatedly, so it’s best to simply avoid them.
6. Stop being selfish
Recovery makes you accustomed to just thinking about yourself. While that is a generally good thing, I genuinely feel that you cannot truly be happy if you are not kind. Making people happy can be achieved by doing the little things such as opening doors, helping someone cross the street, or even smiling.
Kindness is my favorite happy pill. It’s quite difficult to feel bummed when someone is smiling because of something you did.
Dump the ‘poor me’ attitude and the toxic people, don’t focus on the bad stuff, let go of any grudges, stop being in a million places at once, and just be kind. Just try it out and your life is bound to take a turn for the better. Happiness is knocking at your door, just waiting to be let in my friend.
If you know any other things people should stop doing in order to achieve happiness, don’t hesitate and tell us by leaving a comment below.