My friend likes to say, “Find your joy and mind it.” When I first heard that, I understood it, but I thought, yeah, right, FIND it? Where is it? Was I born with it? I mean, yeah, I was a little bundle of joy for about a minute there. But somewhere along the way, I may have misplaced it; or, an alien absconded with my knapsack of joyousness. In fact, I believe it was stolen outright and was seen last in a pawnshop near Cape Cod. It could be on eBay by now. The original joy, I mean.
There were years of joylessness; moments of greatness, days and weeks of good times. But actual “JOY” meant nothing; it was a vaporous word, heard in songs, “Joy to the world…to the fishes in the deep blue sea…” Uh-huh. Good for the fishies. It was also thrown around during the holidays, “Peace and Joy,” blah, blah, blah. These people — songwriters, carolers, and joyful souls in general — they were nuts as far as I was concerned, certifiably whack-a-doo. So sorry, good people, all of your %#$% joy is lost on me. Secretly, though, I wanted it.
Then a miracle. I thought I finally found it. It was in sparkly liquid form and it kind of worked for a while, though it only worked when I had it in me. Let the good times roll, baby! Joy for a couple of hours, on tap. Magic! It was transient, though, and I never felt like those people. In fact, I hated them; they should not be allowed to be so happy all the time, let alone live. My motto became, “Life’s tough and people suck.”
I still have letters to my longest best friend with that quote, which was our way of saying we were chained to a life of hating happy, joyful souls, those people. Goodbye, world. I was 15. Now there’s a great start, and this went on for years.
Seeking, searching, wanting the joy. Where could I get it? It sometimes came when things were going well, maybe a promotion, raise, or a new relationship, children. Occasionally, a really cool birthday or holiday gift provided a shadow of joy. It never lasted, though, and even those moments seemed to disappear after a while. I resigned myself to being one of those people randomly chosen and consigned to a life of unhappiness, depression, sorrow, frustration, pain, and despair. I was quite obviously misunderstood and crappy things seemed to follow me like a lurking stalker, unless I had my liquid friend. Eventually, though, even my bottled joy stopped working and it became my nemesis, never quite cutting it, and actually making things worse. My family and few friends were at a loss. Doom.
Then I hit bottom. Again. There was nowhere to go but up, or to the great joy of ending it all, which seemed like a good option.
But suddenly, when things were at the worst, my tipping point of unmanageability, I found an outstretched hand in the rooms of recovery. Frightened and reluctant, I took it. Skepticism, fear, and abject horror dogged my foggy brain, but what was the alternative? All I really wanted was a little respite, a few weeks of relief from all the madness. I had no idea what lay ahead, or that joy would be a daily part of it. Against my nature, I listened, and learned. These people were onto something. I did what they said, none too happily at first, but slowly my days became a bit happier, less stressed out, one toe ahead of the other. I noticed that most of this clan was pretty upbeat, which grated on me, but I wanted some of that weird happiness and joy. I kept going, one day at a time. Huh, I began to feel better and, scarily, I started to feel <gasp> pretty good. Time went by, climbing Twelve Steps in search of the cash and prizes. People didn’t suck so much and life wasn’t nearly as rough.
Then one day, I don’t know when, I realized I felt sort of joyful, for no reason other than having woken up alive, and did not care about my liquid enemy anymore. There was no chaos or drama in my life. I had friends that cared about me and a Higher Power who did, too. It was a weird feeling, but I liked it. Had I been “reborn”?
Most of the time I felt happy, free, and JOYFUL. Wait! Was this just a pink-cloud delusion? No, they told me, it was called sobriety, and I was living it. Astounding.
There were no cash and prizes at the top of the Twelve Steps, in the traditional sense. The “prize” was a day-at-a-time journey, and the joy came from my Higher Power, my friends, and reaching out to others who needed to find their joy. There’s really nothing like it and no way to describe it. Every day has not been one big joyful experience, I can say with complete honesty; but if I MIND the joy, pay attention to it, feed and water it, it grows. When I stay in the day, keep up with my meetings, talk to my people, read positive things, and extend my hand to others, it expands. Lately, it has grown like a weed, because I’m focusing on it and doing the things that are good for my recovery and me. It’s wonderful to find the joy, but I must mind it or it will be stolen again, by my very own self. So if you find your joy, mind it, every day, no matter what. “Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, JOY to you and me…”! 1
1 Joy to the World, lyrics; Three Dog Night, Hoyt Axton, songwriter, American Recording Company, 1971.