The Intersection of Sobriety & Happiness: A Sober Lifestyle Perspective
Since 2022, thousands of young adults in the United Kingdom have observed “Sober October,” a lifestyle trend that began as a social media hashtag that replaced “Dry January,” the post-holidays period when many British people stay away from the excesses of December. Sober October is also part of the “sober curious” trend among young people who feel they can find happiness in sobriety instead of searching for it at the bottom of a glass. To this effect, there are even clubs such as the Sober Girl Society. There’s no question this is a positive trend, but things are different for people in recovery.
Where Happiness Comes From
When sober lifestyle coaches, such as those who provide Encinitas recovery coaching, counsel their clients about happiness, they urge them to understand how it correlates with sobriety. As cliché as it may sound, happiness invariably comes from within, but not from the same place where sobriety emerges from. Neurochemically speaking, happiness and sobriety intersect at the dopamine and serotonin neuroreceptors, but they clash at the oxytocin and norepinephrine points. The former receptor is a “love hormone,” while the latter is a “stress hormone” related to impulse control. This doesn’t mean sobriety and happiness are mutually exclusive. However, they follow different neurochemical processes.
The Dynamic Nature of Happiness
In his book The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama writes about the Noble Truths of Tibetan Buddhism, which are rather easy to understand. Here are a couple of Noble Truths related to happiness and sobriety:
- Happiness comes from the positive and kind actions you take and their resulting feelings.
- Problems are meant to be faced. They run faster than you can, so trying to escape is futile.
The Noble Truths teach that suffering is caused by attachment, so the only way to end suffering is to detach from the things that cause us pain. It’s easy to understand this through the lens of addiction recovery: if you’re suffering from alcohol or substance abuse, you have to detach from it, but this alone may not bring happiness, thus challenging the notion that happiness in sobriety is guaranteed. As the Dalai Lama explains, certain actions will result in happiness, and this is a hallmark of sober lifestyle coaching in the sense that clients learn to do what makes them happy.
Finding Happiness in Recovery
There’s no question you’ll feel happiness in recovery. You’ll likely feel it many times, and the same will happen when you finally wrap yourself in the soft, warm blanket of sobriety. You’ll feel it when you attend AA meetings, when the group claps after you get a chip, when you complete a sober living program, and even when your sponsor gives you a bear hug after you survive a relapse episode. Happiness isn’t a constant or absolute state of being. It’s experiential, and you have to make it happen.
When Happiness Means Letting Go
Instead of trying to find happiness in sobriety, most people in recovery will benefit more from achieving sobriety through the fostering of happiness. You can fully abstain and become a teetotaler and still feel miserable if you’re emotionally crippled by guilt and depression. Letting go of negative feelings doesn’t always come easy. When sober lifestyle coaches work with their clients, they make this a priority. Negative attachments only get in the way of true happiness.
At Sober Lifestyle Coaching, our certified and professionally trained sober companions work with clients to help them maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Our goal is to offer our clients maximum recovery support in the first fragile days or weeks of early recovery. If you’re looking for extra Encinitas addiction recovery support so you don’t risk relapse when you head into the danger zones, we’ll work with you to put together a game plan to keep you safe and sober as you accomplish your goals. Give us a call today at (760) 300-8338.