“We are not a glum lot. We absolutely insist on enjoying life.”
I was early in my sobriety, perhaps only a month in, when I came across those words in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
At the time I read those words, I certainly felt glum. “Enjoying life” was synonymous with drugs or alcohol for me. I joked that I had two states: sober and depressed, cheerful and loaded. Interestingly, this was at best a half-truth. I was often miserable and loaded, but conveniently lied to myself about that.
My sponsor told me I needed to pick up a hobby. It’s not enough to go to meetings and out for coffee afterwards, he said; you need to find something healthy to do that makes you happy. I asked if watching television counted, and he told me I could do better.
I was in grad school when I got sober, and I had free access to the gym on campus. On a whim, I went one day, hoping to see a woman whom I had a crush on. I didn’t find her, but I did find the endorphin rush of working out. Soon I was running around the track early in the morning, chasing a new high.
I told my sponsor about my new passion. He shook his head. You need a community to run with, he said; part of enjoying life in recovery is making friends. I responded that I was an introvert, but he insisted. “You’ll get more out of it if you share yourself,” he said.
I joined a running club. They trained for races, so I trained with them. I ran a 5K, then a 10K, and then—you know how we addicts are when we get excited about something—I ran 18 marathons in six years. I got lean, strong and reasonably fast.
It wasn’t that I needed to run, or even to exercise. As far as my sponsor was concerned, I could have developed an equally beneficial passion for bridge or anime or birdwatching. What mattered was that I had something in my life that was healthy, what mattered was that I had community, what mattered was that I had somewhere other than the rooms of AA where I was wanted and welcomed.
You may never find one single passion as I did. But whatever you find, the key is remembering that we absolutely insist on enjoying life. That means you too.