The fact that real love is possible at all demands acknowledgement that existence is not merely a subjective, solitary journey; but rather that we are all connected by an underlying commonality which exists beyond our physical bodies or material realities.
Drug addiction has run rampant through generation after generation leaving nothing but pain and heartbreak in its wake. The cold fingers of addiction not only grasp the addict but also those closest to the individual. To many addicts there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel – their idea of happiness only comes in the form of their next high. To add to this hopeless suffering, society often abandons individuals who suffer from addiction, tossing them to the side and labeling them as nothing short of inferior when all they need is support and guidance – not neglect and ridicule.
To take steps towards sobriety often feels like looking straight up a mountain with the weight of the world on your shoulders and being expected to climb. I recently talked about happiness with an individual who faced that mountain and continues the climb day by day: David Kong of Nerdy Sober Hipsters .
David offers some great insight into what happiness was before the struggle of recovery and after when he found sobriety, as well as all the things that helped him along the way. He currently runs a blog that explores the world of being sober and offers different insight into art to music to spirituality .
10 Questions About Happiness
1. How do you define happiness?
D.K: Happiness is a huge concept and I like to think of it in terms of what I consider to be its synonyms: purpose, faith, love, and fulfillment.
I define happiness as the culmination of these different ingredients, within the specific context of each individual human life.
2. What was happiness to you before you became sober?
D.K: Before sobriety I was very cynical, and I suffered emotionally and spiritually for several years. Happiness was the momentary freedom from worry, shame and anxiety that I could only find in a bottle, a joint, or a pill. I thought that the only way to feel good was to escape from this world and its problems. Even though the relief I got was temporary, I truly believed it was the only practical solution. I considered lasting or long term happiness to be a myth reserved for the simple minded, and so I set out to numb myself into delusional euphoria as often as I could manage. This only resulted in intense suffering and incomprehensible demoralization.
3. What is happiness to you now?
D.K: I believe that life has purpose and that there is profound meaning in our day to day human experiences. I am happy when I am aligned with this realization, and am able to face the various ups and downs in life with the broader perspective that all of these experiences fit into a bigger picture, even if I’m not able to fully comprehend what it is in each particular moment. This is essentially faith to me- the idea that even if I can’t make sense of my life right now, there is something bigger than me that is writing a story that isn’t finished yet. The only thing that justifies this faith in my life is the existence of love.
The fact that, at certain points in my life, I have experienced true, selfless, altruistic love is unequivocal proof that I am not alone in this world. The fact that real love is possible at all demands acknowledgement that existence is not merely a subjective, solitary journey; but rather that we are all connected by an underlying commonality which exists beyond our physical bodies or material realities. When I take this perspective with me throughout my day, I can see meaning in the mundane, tedious aspects of my own life. I am connected to the people and the world around me. As I overcome my difficulties and celebrate my victories I know that they are not just for me. This brings me a deep sense of fulfillment- feeling like I’m exactly in the right place at exactly the right time, doing the right thing, even if it’s difficult. This is what happiness is to me.
4. Between the physical symptoms of withdrawal and the emotional hardships, the first stages of overcoming an addiction are often described as the hardest trials an individual can face. What helped you push through and what continues to help you?
D.K: The only reason I’m clean and sober today is because of the love and guidance given to me by other people. The list is long: My parents, the team of therapists in rehab, my 12 step sponsor, my Buddhist mentor, and the countless number of recovering alcoholics and addicts I have crossed paths with since beginning this journey.
I believe that a power greater than myself plays an active role in my life, and that this power primarily takes action through the people I’m surrounded by. To be clear, there were MANY instances in my early sobriety when I almost relapsed and ran away from all of this, precisely because of the reasons you stated. Somehow, someway, whenever I was about to fall the right person was there to catch me and put me back on the right path. I consider my sobriety a gift that has been given to me, not something that I forged or built on my own. The only part I really had to commit to was being willing to continuously seek and accept help from others.
5. What piece of advice would you give someone who is thinking about taking the steps to embracing a sober life?
D.K: I would say, take it one day at a time and try not to worry too much about the future. For an alcoholic/addict, sobriety is fundamentally transformative. This means if you try to make a lot of plans and make big life changes right as you’re getting sober, things most likely won’t pan out the way you think they will. Instead, focus on sobriety as the basis of your life, and everything else will fall into place in ways that are better than you can imagine. You may just find a life beyond your wildest dreams!
6. How has utilizing a creative outlet such as blogging impacted your sense of happiness?
D.K: Nerdy Sober Hipsters is such a well of inspiration for me! I believe that a big part of my purpose in life is to show other people a new image of what sobriety can be, especially for young people.
In 2018, addiction and recovery are still taboo and shameful topics in American households. I want to change this. From my own experience, I’ve discovered that sobriety is a celebration of everything worthwhile in life. Recovery from addiction is something that deserves to be publicly embraced, not willfully swept under the rug. The blog is the vehicle for this vision. In that regard, yes, blogging has played a tremendous role in my happiness. The fact that I get to work on it with such inspiring and brilliant people is a huge plus, too.
7. Your team at your website all share the commonality of sobriety and through our talks you’ve mentioned the importance of the support from community: do you think that community serves as a vital part of happiness and well-being?
D.K: I think that it definitely does, for the vast majority of people. As a human, I come from other humans. If it weren’t for the nurturing of parents or other caregivers, children would not survive. We are inherently social creatures, and to some degree we need other people. Now, I don’t mean to disregard the value of solitude. There are times when withdrawing from the world and quietly contemplating life by myself is extremely vital as well. But, at the end of the day the value of the work I do and the significance of my own life experiences is magnified exponentially when it is utilized to serve and uplift others. In the case of Nerdy Sober Hipsters, being a part of a community of people aspiring to grow in the same direction has been an incredibly empowering experience. I’d recommend it to anyone.
8. What piece of advice do you wish you heard when you were younger?
D.K: You’re already good enough, just as you are, right now.
9. What has been your happiest moment in life so far?
D.K: Recently I got to celebrate my 29th birthday with a huge group of close friends. Everyone was just overflowing with love, and it was magic. It seems that life brings happier moments for me every single year!
10. Are you happy?
D.K: I have my ups and downs over time, but as I’m writing this I can honestly say that I am absolutely happy! I’m so grateful to be doing this interview with you, and hope that your readers can find tidbits that may be helpful to them in the midst of their own lives. Doing this definitely brings me that sense of fulfillment I mentioned earlier. Thanks so much for the opportunity!
My Take Away
Each and every one of us will face hardships in this life, that is just the nature of being. Through these hardships we often find ourselves leaning on others, requiring their support to guide us to better times – sometimes even needing them to not only guide us but to completely carry us. Those that face the battle of addiction need that unrelenting support, not only from those closest to the individual but from society as a whole. Addiction is not something that discriminates by race or wealth or upbringing, it’s a disease that spans across every race, gender, age, background, and location – we should treat it as such and give the individuals who suffer from it the utmost compassion and care.
My discussion with David was not only inspirational in terms of what he has overcome and what he plans to accomplish, but also powerful in the sense that is speaks to a bigger picture. The contrast between his idea of happiness before becoming sober and afterwards is night and day: before was only a fleeting idea while after was a renewed sense of purpose. This new found purpose stemmed from the unrelenting support, love, and guidance that allowed David to achieve, and continue to maintain, sobriety.
If you, or someone you know, are/is battling addiction and need help contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
“10 Questions About Happiness” are posts that explore what happiness means to different people. These people come from all walks of life – some are successful in their respective careers while others are struggling to stay afloat, some live exciting lives while others live day-to-day. Happiness to one person may be completely different to another – the goal is to find what happiness means to different people and how we can apply it to our own lives.
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