Happiness Was Not a Choice!

Stuff People Said — Stuff I Thought

“You can choose to be happy!” — Leave me alone.

“You always choose your attitude!” — Go away.

“Make a gratitude list!” — Shut up.

“Your bad mood is your choice!” — NO, IT IS NOT!

“Make lemonade!”  — I CAN’T!!!

The only way I was going to make lemonade out of lemons was like Gallagher, with a very large and angry hammer; peel, pulp, and juice spraying out in all directions. People needed plastic tarps to stay clean and dry when they were around me since drama, whining, and complaining went everywhere and got all over everyone. “Messy” was one of the nicer words used to describe interacting with me during that time of life when alcohol played a part. I probably contributed to a lot of others’ drinking as well!

Not My Choice

I didn’t make a conscious choice to be like that. I was in a ditch emotionally and could not see it. I kept digging, and by the time I became aware of it, I was in so deep that I couldn’t do anything about it anymore. I was caught in this black hole that consumed everything. The world seemed dirty, like I was peering out at it through a grimy window. Life was colorless.

Don’t bother saying, “Just clean the windows, silly! Attitude of gratitude!” Cliches and bumper-sticker sayings meant to encourage were instead condescending.

Sick and tired, sick and tired… Sick… Tired.

I was drained of all hope that anything could help. I was just so tired, and the pull of the negative was too much to overcome. Job sucks. Wife doesn’t love me anymore. She hates me. Everyone is looking down on me. Society is holding me back. Everyone’s against me and I’ll never be happy. This is as good as it gets. It’s all messed up.

I believed all of this completely.


Positivity, negativity, or my attitude were not choices like jeans or khakis in the morning. Boxers or briefs? Joy or sorrow? It wasn’t like that for me. I didn’t seem to have choices.

I couldn’t even choose not to take the first drink that day.

My Daily Mantra:  “Just have a few drinks. It won’t matter then. Drink it away. Can’t stand it anymore. Can’t do anything about it. Drink it away. Nothing matters. Just drink it away…”

When you are in that real spiritual hole, peace and joy are not things you just hold up and say, “I think I’ll try on joy today!” Maybe if you’re mentally fit and spiritually healthy you can, but if you’re drinking like I was, using drugs to kill the pain, are homeless, or have recently been in jail, it is entirely possible you’re not feeling empowered to choose joy today.

But this is the trap of victimhood.

Victims don’t get better. That’s the truth from our bitter experience.

I Didn’t Choose — It Just “Happened” (But Not Really)

Against all odds, I found myself a changed man — happy —  one day. Walking down the street, life took this unbelievable updraft. Suddenly, it was all different. It just happened! Or so it seemed.

In reality, with a lot of help, I got off my face to my knees and crawled out of the gutter. I got cleaned up. Then, I begged for and accepted the necessary help, regardless of my opinion about the methods, to stay that way. I worked the 12 Steps according to my sponsor’s directions with everything I had left in me. Next, I got a job — any job. I found I could show up for work consistently and do my tiny part. I cleaned my room. I found I could eat again. I started exercising just a little. I was treating others better.

Something had shifted. The day seemed brighter, I didn’t notice the 105-degree heat, and didn’t care that people saw me walking to work instead of driving. Food tasted better. People didn’t annoy me so much. I kind of liked my cashier job, and didn’t think anybody was against me or climbing over me. I didn’t need to struggle or hide. Life was qualitatively different one day.

I had not chosen that outlook on that day specifically. I had not woken up and said, “I own today!” and gone out to conquer the world. But I felt it deep down, and others could see it and sense the difference in me. I hadn’t decided that, but rather found myself living it one day.

I did choose to get help, and I had chosen, one by one, to follow through with the actions suggested to me. I did them wholeheartedly, because I was hurting and I knew I couldn’t drink to kill it anymore. Drinking would kill me instead.

This Might Be the Bad News

I couldn’t do it on my own. I could not summon the willpower to do ANY of the things I’m talking about. I was sick, way down deep. I was broken.

If you are feeling like I was, having trouble making basic decisions and taking the needed daily actions to care for yourself and value yourself, you need to reach out.

If you find yourself crippled like I did, you cannot just decide to change your feelings about  life, circumstances, or your self worth. You don’t simply put on a clean shirt of happiness and necktie of contentment one day. Saying, “I’m going to be a totally different person today,” is useless.

If it were that easy, you wouldn’t be where you are. But victims don’t get sober. Victims stay miserable. Victims die. Alcoholics and addicts stay miserable and die. I’m talking about us.

You must do something, but what?

Here Is Your Choice:  

Get help so you can rip the thing that is killing you out of your present life. Get the weight off your chest so you can breathe. Reaching out is the beginning, and that may be the one and only decision that is truly yours to make.

Then, you take action by following the Steps others have proven reach a better place. You crawl, you walk, then you run free, no longer a prisoner or a victim.

The results lead to choices about what makes you happy — The choices “normal” people are making every day. You act on those and build momentum.

Climb the mountain…

Run the race…

Start the career…

Find the girl…

Little by little, choice after choice, today after today after today…

You build a life… Or choose to do nothing and stay a victim.

If you want to talk about it, call us or click here. We can help. It’s what we do.

That is your choice to make.

David S.

Originally published for Solutions of North Texas blog, September 1, 2016