Happiness vs. Freedom

"Are you happier?"

A friend of mine asked me this recently. He was referring to whether I was happier sober. Happier with this way of life I'm been struggling so hard to live into for 1.5 years.

My instinctive answer was fuck yes, but there’s a bigger, much more complex answer. "Happy" is a thin word for it. “Happy” is what I might feel today, along with 643 other emotions. I don't know that I was really seeking to be happy. I mean, sure, who doesn't want to be happy? But what I wanted was much more essential than that.

I wanted to stop being terrified of myself.

I wanted my life to stop exploding.

I wanted to stop the insanity.

I wanted to stop drowning.

It took a long time of not feeling "happier," of trudging through the muck of a daily life not knowing where I belonged, looking for a 3rd door - some other option besides getting sober or being the sloppy, dangerous mess of a girl I had become. I really, desperately wanted a 3rd door. But there wasn't one. Knowing that made me spitting fucking angry. Accepting it has eventually equaled peace. But it took time. Much longer than I wanted.

Mark Manson wrote an awesome piece titled "Stop Trying to Be Happy" that I re-read recently. He says,

"When most people seek happiness, they are actually seeking pleasure: good food, more sex, more time for TV and movies, a new car, parties with friends, full body massages, losing 10 pounds, becoming more popular, and so on. While pleasure is great, it’s not the same as happiness. Pleasure is correlated with happiness, but does not cause it. Ask any drug addict how their pursuit of pleasure turned out. Ask an adulterer who shattered her family and lost her children whether pleasure ultimately made her happy. Ask a man who almost ate himself to death how happy pursuing pleasure made him feel.”

What I know of happiness is this:

  1. It is thin milk. It doesn't sustain us for long.
  2. We as human beings are terrible judges of what will actually make us happy.

So, am I happier now? Sure. 

But really what I feel is free. Regardless of whether I feel happy, aggravated, disappointed, in lust, heartbroken, overwhelmed, exhausted, dull, or sparkly alive I am free. Whether or not I am employed, in a relationship, at home in bed sick or on the train to work,  awake or asleep, I am free.

Do you know how incredible it is to say this? To feel free? I didn’t.