Sometimes we try too hard. It’s possible to try so hard to “work a good program” that we forget to relax and be us. We forget that the world has many things to offer in the way of both material and spiritual sustenance, but when we take the time to look around we see not only opportunities for improvement, but also ways to enjoy ourselves that support our recovery rather than our addictions.
As active alcoholics or other addicts, we were in pursuit of more. In the process of chasing the perfect high, we lost sight of the fact that sometimes more is really less. If we indulge in the things we enjoy until we have been sated, we then have to move on to something bigger in order to get the next thrill. This constant search for more — better, more filling, more intoxicating, more distracting, more stimulating — is one of the bases of addiction, but in recovery, when we settle for less we often enjoy things more because we can look forward to renewed enjoyment the next time.
It’s important to find things that nurture us without going to excess. To begin with, that’s hard to do. We’re uncomfortable in our own skins, and have given up the “medicine” that enabled us to cope with the world we created while using. It’s hard for a newcomer to imagine that there can be much pleasure in watching a sunset, walking in the woods, or spending a quiet hour in conversation with a friend, but these are the things that support our recovery the most – the things that help us slow down and appreciate life for what it is, instead of what we can get out of it.
To enjoy life, we must become intimate with life, not simply glance at it while passing through in pursuit of the next big thrill. In our 12-step groups we talk about “spirituality.” The sorts of activity mentioned here are the kinds that support our spirit – not spirit in the metaphysical or religious sense, but the human spirit that lives in us all. We addicts start out addicted to excitement and accustomed to stress. In order for us to slow down and begin to live at a normal pace, we need practice. Looking for the pleasure in small things instead of the big bang is one of the ways we learn those skills. We can find in these things the thrills and joy that many of us knew as children, before life got so darned hard. And those of us who were born into hardship can learn to experience the simple things at last.