A Story of Recovery:

A New Happiness

I walked in the doors of fa at 295 lbs., my physical recovery was only the beginning. At the request of my sponsor, I wrote out five gratitudes a night for several years. Writing out the gratitudes helped me develop an attitude of gratitude. Then it hit me, I became more grateful for what I had than what I didn’t have. Later, I realized I was not only grateful for life but that life was really awesome. Later still, I saw God in everything. All this was a big change, coming from a guy who was chronically suicidal.

I learned I had an all or nothing attitude. I was like a light switch. When I was on, I was totally on and when I was off, I was completely off. I needed to have balance in my life. I had to work at living in the gray zone. I had to learn to put in a dimmer switch on my mental and emotional life. I started turning down the dramatic wording I used to describe my world. I used to say I was a gaping flesh wound. If anyone asked how I was doing, I would spit out the butt ends of my life. My sponsor told me that if someone asked me how I was doing I should answer “fantastic”. That really helped me from spiraling down when people gave me the simple greeting of how are you doing.

I was the ultimate critic. I would judge then rank everything. One of my favorite books used to be The Book of Lists. I think this was involved with my need to control and manipulate. I started working on letting go of judgmentalism. I would catch myself looking for the speck in my brother’s or sister’s eye when I had a log in my own. I still have to catch myself judging others and stop it. Someone said to me the words, “I hope you don’t judge yourself as harshly as you judge others”. Now, that makes sense to me.

I work on accepting life on life’s terms. My youngest brother often said to me that if the grain of life is going in one direction I would be crossing the grain at ninety degrees. Complaining and whining is like worrying, it doesn’t help. Now I realize that nothing happens in God’s world by accident. And all is well. We had a nun in our fellowship who used to say that all is one, all is gift and all is God. What a beautiful prayer that was. Now, I pray more often. I pray the long form of the serenity prayer, the third step prayer and I pray for guidance and help.

In my life, I tried to have everyone think of me as perfect; what a show that must have been. Now I let go of perfectionism as a goal and realize it is an ideal. Humans are imperfect. I am imperfect. No matter how hard I try, I will not be perfect. I am simply one among many. I am on the bus as they say. I wanted to be the hood ornament on the bus, out front looking good. Now I appreciate just being a passenger.

My journey included forgiving everyone and every institution for hurting me, since we humans are not perfect. Forgiveness for me is a verb in the present tense. It is an ongoing habit. Holding on to resentments, past hurts and old “stuff” binds me to the hurtful people, institutions and situations and magnifies them. Since I forgave everyone else, I could finally forgive myself.

Once I forgave myself and realized I would never reach perfection, I could stop beating myself up to be perfect. Beating myself up did not work for if it did, I would be a saint. I was a master at self cruelty. Now I want to treat myself gently, kindly and tenderly just as I want to be treated by others. I have to let go of the odd thought that hurting myself before others hurt me would stop them from hurting me.

I am a big time worrier and believe I have an anxiety disorder. I was taught to enjoy each moment at a time. I try to be mindful of what I am doing. I try to savor the moment.

I am working on letting go of expectations. I understand my expectations are inversely proportional to my happiness.

I have suffered from major, minor, situational and other forms of depression. In fa I have found a new happiness. I let myself be happy. I learned happiness is an internal job. I started to realize what the phrase that Abraham Lincoln said was true that people are as happy as they make up their minds to be. So I took off the brakes and now I am even happier.

This has been a gift of God and fa.


This story was originally published in the Connection Magazine. Subscribe to the Connection Magazine for more stories of recovery. Or submit your own story of recovery.