Throughout this process of reclaiming my life, sobriety and happiness, I’ve grown to be very good at easily and freely forgiving myself.
Handling myself more gently. Giving myself time to rest and adjust – and room to make mistakes.
Old 3-or-4-Litres-of-Wine-a-Day-Shawn was, rather ironically, a perfectionist.
And that is exactly why nothing was even remotely close to perfect, why things never got completed, and why some things didn’t even get started.
The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.
– Edwin Bliss
It’s become crystal clear to me that I was pursuing all the wrong things. I believe I was pursuing them with the right intentions, but it was only in the early, waking days of sobriety that I was finally able to see I was only chasing my own tail.
I thought I wanted perfection.
I thought I wanted everything to be “just so”. I thought I wanted to be liked and admired, when all I wanted was just to be happy.
Happiness is pretty simple: Someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.
– Rita Mae Brown
The best thing about what I call the Recipe for Happiness quote above is that is works for everyone.
It works for the people at “the top” as well as all of us at the bottom. It’s the holy trinity of happiness: The Trifecta.
The trick is having a conscious, sober inventory of what those three things are made up of in your life.
You know, making sure your ingredients are made up of the good stuff.
If you’re using cheap, crappy ingredients, you’re just going to bake a cheap, crappy cake.
I believe we all unconsciously build our lives around the Happiness Trifecta, since it hits on all the things that make us tick. They’re the gears of the clock that are meant to keep us on track – and happy – over time.
To help us create, grow and nurture happiness in our lives.
We don’t actually consciously think about it, because it’s our human nature to satisfy our needs – and to survive – no matter what. How well we are satisfied, and how well we survive, hinges on our level of happiness.
You can see why and how the trifecta has the power to create the balance each and every one of us is seeking:
Someone to love: This satisfies our innate human need for connection and belonging.
Something to do: This hits on our need to feel like we are worthy, important, useful and unique.
Something to look forward to: This give us the motivation and persistence to keep moving forward, even during difficult times.
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
– Audrey Hepburn
When I was drinking, my trifecta sort of looked like this:
Someone to love: Obviously not myself. I loved the wine that I treated like a best friend. After all, it’s who I hung out with all day, literally every day.
Something to do: Drink, get drunk, get drunker, and black out. Avoid doing anything. Repeat.
Something to look forward to: Drinking. Getting drunk, and looking forward to forgetting about all my problems and imperfections. Blacking out. And…repeat.
It’s no surprise that my cake ended up tasting like shit, considering the ingredients I was putting into it.
And here I am, saying that Old 3-or-4-Litres-of-Wine-a-Day-Shawn was a perfectionist.
That list certainly doesn’t make me look like one.
I believe it was partly because of the unattainable, impossible drive for perfection that drove me (and drives so many others) to the point of absolute unravelling where I ended up. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hold myself (or anything) together perfectly, so I (and everything) started to become unstitched.
The more things I failed at starting, finishing, or fixing, the less perfect I (and everything) felt – because the ingredients I was using to seek happiness were designed to take it away and keep me chasing after it.
My trifecta was flawed.
I no longer want, or need, a perfect life, or a perfect anything.
I don’t want or need the perfect cake, but I do want something palatable that tastes pretty damn sweet.
I’m tired of using really shitty ingredients, and expecting really stellar results. I’m tired of eating the shit-cake I’ve always made, and choking it down pretending it’s good.
It took the clarity of being sober for more than a few minutes to be able to step back and look at the pantry of ingredients I had been using all along: they were all cheap, expired, and long passed needing to be tossed in the bin.
All my old habits and beliefs were rotting in waiting, and the longer I kept using them, the more sick they were making me.
It was time to try a new recipe, full of fresh, healthy ingredients:
Someone to love: Myself, for a change. Self-care has become the Magic Baking Powder® that is helping everything in my life to rise.
Something to do: Reading, writing, cooking…creating. Sometimes, my “something to do” is doing absolutely nothing, and being 100% wholeheartedly okay with it. What’s important is that whatever I’m doing nurtures my spirit.
Something to look forward to: This one surprised me, because it’s not an ingredient I could intentionally add to the mix. The moment I overhauled my personal recipe for happiness, this ingredient opened wide like floodgates.
Suddenly…I’m looking forward to everything.
In cajun cooking, there’s something called the Holy Trinity, and every good recipe begins with it because it’s tried, true – and it works. It’s the solid base all delicious southern recipes start with, and every other ingredient you add to the pot comes alive.
Onions, bell peppers, and celery.
I’m sure it took centuries of experimentation, trial and error, and a lot of really disgusting dishes to finally nail down the tastiest, most reliable combination. But once they nailed it, it stuck.
And if you don’t start your gumbo with it, it isn’t really gumbo.
I feel like an early Cajun, testing out a bit of this, and a bit of that, creating my own holy trinity of ingredients so my entire life tastes better.
I’m getting rid of expired ingredients, and throwing away old recipes that never tasted good and were only making me sick.
There will be no more shit cakes.
I’m ready to start baking a little Happiness Pie.
It may not be perfect, but it’s made up of ingredients that feed my soul – and that’s as close to perfect as you can get.
That – and it tastes absolutely, freaking delicious.