I don't know when or how it happens, but at some point during our lives, some of us develop a belief about ourselves and our lives that nobody deserves. As a child, we are not even capable of seeing the bad in people or things. Everything about life is put there for our happiness and pleasure. When an adult pointed out that something was bad or wrong, we nodded our heads in agreement but had no idea what the adult was actually trying to tell us. Everything was simpler as a child and things just made more sense. As we trudge our way through the myriad of obstacles, detours, and constant changes that life places before us, we all do our very best to find the elusive path to happiness. Some people find it, others do not. I was in the latter pool.
Nobody plans for the obstacles and detours. There is no map or book of instructions that help us understand the proper way to negotiate all the decisions we are forced to make. The educational system does not have a life course that ensures, if we pass it, everything will work out well for us. As a teacher, I will concede that education does teach us how to think, but it does not teach us how to deal. The dealing part really is the secret to life, isn't it? The way we deal with tragedy, loss, disappointment, and failure pretty much defines our future, if you think about it. Nevertheless, I believe it is safe to say that the addict is among the group of individuals who missed the day coping skills were handed out in school or they did not have a family or group of people around them who knew how to teach these imperative skills. As a result, when all of the inevitable life events occur that we are unequipped to handle, we begin to form a belief from the patterns that unfold before us until one day we have developed core belief #3.
I will never be happy
First of all, let's start by getting rid of the superlative. I don't know about you but when I was actively engaged in my addictions nothing was every partial. The verbiage I used ALWAYS incorporated some form of superlative. I ALWAYS fuck it up. I NEVER do it right. NOBODY likes me. I will NEVER be happy. I don't know if addiction and extreme negative thinking are directly correlated, but it certainly seems like it. Regardless, by focusing on eradicating superlatives in our negative thinking we automatically turn an overwhelming belief into something that is more manageable. If we change the above core belief, I will NEVER be happy to I am not happy right now, the task immediately becomes more attainable.
It would be unrealistic to change the core belief to, I will always be happy, that is just irresponsible because it is not possible. However, how attainable is changing the belief that I am not happy right now to I will be happy soon, or It is okay to be unhappy, sometimes? Can simple semantics really help in our struggle to change our belief system and the way in which we view the world? Can semantics be the difference between easy and hard sobriety? I think they can. Semantics really is what we are talking about here. Words carry meaning and the way in which we organize words into sentences affects the overall meaning of the sentence. Change one punctuation mark, one word, or the order of words and the entire meaning of the sentence can change.
Don't forget, the problem with core beliefs is our natural inclination to find evidence to support those beliefs. If I believe I will never be happy, I will find evidence to support my belief. A recent breakup, the mistake I made at work, the car accident I could have avoided, COVID-19, a death in the family, the loss of a pet, and the list can be endless, but they all support the core belief that I will never be happy. You forget to pay attention to all the things in your life that do not support the core belief. A new friendship, a promotion, snowboarding in fresh powder, the amazing book you read, the concert you saw, the healthy checkup, your family checking in on you, and the list can be endless too, but they don't support the core belief so you don't pay attention to them.
New Core Belief: I deserve to be happy
This alteration to the original core belief is not even a definitive one. It just suggests the possibility of happiness, it does not guarantee it. But, does the evidence that supports this core belief resemble the evidence I just spoke of that did not support the core belief that I will never be happy? It does, and if I believe I deserve to be happy then my world will begin to open up and swirl with positive evidence that supports all the reasons why it is true. It has been amazing for me to witness how I now see the simplest of things supporting this new core belief. A sunny day feels intended for me, my favorite football team wins, I caught the glass before it hit the floor, I made an unexpected friend, the book I ordered arrived early, and the list goes on and on and the depth of meaning gets deeper and deeper, and they all support the belief that I deserve to be happy.
Let's be honest, what really happened to the optimistic child that changed the positive way we saw the world to the negative way we saw it as an adult? Events occurred and we chose to see those events as part of our reality and identity rather than as what they really were; merely events. Unfortunately, we have the ability to find the positive or negative in every event that occurs in our lives. It is up to us to decide which we want to focus on. Right now you may be facing the decision to look at your addiction, past or present, and decide how you want to view its role in your life. You can see it as something that supports why you will never be happy, or you can see it as something that will make you stronger and forever change the way in which you view the world and your life. It really is up to you.
I'll tell you how I view my addictions. I truly feel blessed to have experienced everything that brought me to the emotional and physical place I am today. I have never felt more grateful, more loved, more empathetic, more loving, and more optimistic about my life than I do right now. I believe I now feel all of these things because I spent the majority of my life believing I did not deserve them and that I would never feel them. Now that I finally believe I deserve to be happy, my respect for the happiness I feel is greater and more intentional than ever before. I do not take my sobriety for granted, but I do give myself credit for doing the work necessary to change the way I view my worth and my place in the world.
Let's be honest about one more thing. We all deserve to be happy. Our pasts do not define who we are, just what we have done. What we do today and moving forward is what really matters and subsequently, defines how we view ourselves and our self-worth.
I deserve to be happy and therefore, I am.