Where is the JOY? Does Addiction Sap Feelings Forever?

I was at a Families Against Narcotics (FAN) meeting several months ago. It was a cold, miserable night and the room was full of folks who had lost a loved one to addiction and overdose. The topic was processing grief. The room was bursting with the collective swell of tears and regret and rage…

Where is the Joy?

I’m not sure what prompted him, because it was kind of off topic. But, one of the men in the group said he had trouble “feeling joy” now that he was sober. He said it took a lot to make him laugh. In a resigned, Eeyore-ish sort of way he added, “That’s just the way we addicts are…”

I totally related to this. It was the kind of spontaneous moment to which I am drawn.  I wanted to talk to him after the meeting, but I was slow to make my move and by the time I had gathered my coat, scarf, gloves, he was gone. Per usual, a few key words made me think about the subject of “joy”, or lack thereof, on and off ever since. And now that the weather is more accommodating, I am less inclined to clap him on the back in chummy agreement. More inclined to argue that the concept of “joy” should not include throwing up, verbally attacking a loved one or crashing a golf cart into an unforgiving copse of mangroves…

Strom Pictures

Does a storm gathering over Tampa Bay bring me joy? Kinda’

I do say it all the time – there is a little something missing, now that I’m sober. I didn’t think I meant joy, but why else did this resonate with me when I first heard it?

Emotional Rescue…

I remember, in my drinking days, those crazy moments. Maybe sitting in my living room alone. Staring at a new painting, sloshing glasses of wine down my gullet, experiencing an out-of-body “joy”. For hours, until I passed out. Or dancing around, in my cups like Rumpelstiltskin and putting a foot through a canvas…. But, the point is – the excruciating, in-the-moment exhalation.

If I sat in front of a new painting now, with a glass of gassy water I might last ten minutes. Even twenty. But, no euphoria. No weird, fire lit rapture… Dancing like no one is watching? Not once in the five years since I have been sober.

The object of the first drunken highland jig… Jacob’s Girl by Oleg Korchagan

Other things I no longer feel/do?

  • I no longer feel like I command a room. I think I’m almost too humble. Positively pride-less. But I’m not as rich either and wealth makes people douchier, more entitled to attention.
  • I no longer enjoy “flirting”. At all. But certainly not with much younger men. Or those deemed “inappropriate” (my go-to in the years of living dangerously).
  • I don’t spend as much time in bathrooms at parties reapplying lip liner.
  • Speaking of parties, I do not “party” anymore. I can last about three hours before I begin to look at my watch. It’s boring to talk, talk, talk if you don’t drink, drink, drink, right?
  • I am not as funny. Kim, don;t say it – I can still find humor in almost everything. BUT I AM NOT AS FUNNY.
  • I am not a spendthrift. Even putting something back on the shelf after considering its worth… I do not have a slew of recurring, unwanted charges on my credit card (I am too hamstrung to deal with) for things like Crepe Erase, Trifexis Chewables and HBO.
  • There’s more, but you get my drift…

But do I experience joy? Defined as, “A feeling of great pleasure and happiness.”

This is where I must beg to differ with Eeyore and the man who spoke at the FAN meeting. My first impulse to agree was born of old fashioned negative thinking and long overgrown neuro pathways. Almost as if I thought I was still supposed to be miserable. The fact is, I find joy in the smallest things now. And recognize the important moments – they do not pass in a blur, because I operate in the present.

And when you operate in the present (as a card carrying adult) there is still exultation . Still hilarity.  But it comes from what is real – nature, family, community and a solid foundation. Do I still LOVE art? Sure. Do I wish the inhibitions that started me drinking in the first place would bend it like Beckham? Yup. And do I still laugh? Of course…

But that’s the deal we make when we get sober. We have to redefine what our brains have been telling us. That “happiness” is the warm buzz from that third bottle of plonk. There will always be something missing. It’s like the shadow you see out of the corner of your eye from the dead family cat. You may not have liked the thing, but it did live in the house for twenty years…

If I ever see that fellow again, I’m going to tell him he inspired me to start writing in my blog again. Albeit four months after the fact. I may even tell him, in this brave new world in which I live, he brought me joy…

Today I’m not drinking, because alcohol does not bring me JOY…

How come you’re not drinking?

E2E – Kim and I have not forgotten you… I just took a break from writing, not thinking of you and your dad. LOVE to you.