Find a meeting

Chemical Happiness v’s Spiritual Joy

“When I was drunk, I was able to do things that I would never consider when sober: unfaithfulness, double-dealing and escapism.”

I now see that I suffered from a hole in my soul from a very early age. I don’t know how this condition came about and it doesn’t really matter; what is important is that I recognise it was there, so I can see the symptoms if they ever reappear. For me, the principal symptom is being discontented and in my case this led to restlessness, irritability, then selfishness and self-centredness. Fundamentally, this is not a happy state.

In an attempt to combat this state, I bought things or did things that made me feel happy; things that gave me a buzz. I’m told that these actions induced a chemical reaction in my brain releasing dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These made me feel good but the effect was short lived, so then I had to do something else or take something to make me feel happy. For example, about the age of seven I stole money from my father’s drawer and this gave me a buzz. I used the money to buy things because buying things gave me a buzz. I got a buzz from getting a bike for my Christmas – and so it went on. In my teenage years I got airguns – getting them and shooting them gave me a buzz, but the buzz didn’t last very long – then I discovered alcohol.

Initially, alcohol made me feel strange but good – then it made me sick, but with practice I learnt I could enjoy the good feeling for longer, before being sick. Hangovers were sickening but I kept going until I didn’t get sick and didn’t have hangovers. While this was going on, I progressed in my job and was paid more which enabled me to buy more. Then I discovered credit and that allowed me to buy more than I could afford and I felt even more of a buzz.

When I was sober I began to worry about the debt, but soon realised that a few drinks enabled me to forget my worries and get on with spending and drinking – and I applied the same solution to my other worries. When I was drunk, I was able to do things that I would never consider when sober: unfaithfulness, double-dealing and escapism. Escapism was my favourite because I got a real buzz from living a fantasy life. One of my fantasies was travel, so I dragged my wife all over the world without asking what she wanted to do, or how moving to a new country would affect her. The magnitude of my selfishness and self-centredness astounds me today and inevitably the bubble had to burst – my wife left me and I had to sell my business. Most of my friends saw me for the sham that I was and left, so after 35 years of drinking, my life was a shambles – but I still had my old friend booze.

I stumbled on for another six years before something truly horrible happened – booze stopped working. I could no longer get a buzz from alcohol – all I could get was oblivion. The only way I could escape from the terror, bewilderment, frustration and despair was to drink huge amounts and pass out. I was at the point that many have reached before me – I could not continue drinking like this and I could not imagine life without alcohol. No way was I going to try stopping in this lonely, hopeless place.

I tried suicide and it almost worked but something in my head said, “Call Alcoholics Anonymous.” A kind man 12-Stepped me and my journey began. After my pink cloud phase I faced reality. Was I to be a dull and boring sober person? The hole in the doughnut? Absolutely not, so I embarked on the recovery Programme with my sponsor and uncovered the true meaning of my life. There have been so many moments of joy in my life since coming to the Fellowship. At the tea break in my first meeting an old timer said, “You never have to get drunk again,” and my spirits soared. I remember the first day I realised that I hadn’t thought about alcohol all day. I remember the day I was told that my sponsor had suddenly died; I felt so sad but not depressed. I then realised that joy was a constant in my life.

The state of joy was now part of me – but how to keep this goodness? I have a settled assurance that God, my Higher Power, is always in my life; my continued sobriety and experience in the Fellowship proves this. I have confidence that God is working in our lives; every newcomer that stays sober proves this. I praise God through service, carrying the message and practising these principles in all my affairs. After a lifetime of chasing happiness through chemical means, I was guided to true happiness and joy in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I suppose I surrendered and stopped chasing – and joy and happiness found me.

Colin I
Troon Sunday Night Group