Show Up to Joy

Show Up to Joy

My wife and I were talking in the kitchen the other night about another couple we know who are both in long-term recovery. We invite them to everything we do. We love them both and desperately want them to be part of our lives. So when we go to concerts, or get together with friends to play music, or really anything, we shoot them an invite.
Occasionally they show up, but it’s rare. Usually they’re too exhausted from being at work all day or have to rest up enough for work the next day.
I said to Kara, my wife, “It’s really a bummer, ya know? Like, they NEVER would miss out on another day at the office. They make it to all of the 12-step meetings! They’ll definitely show up for WORK.”
My sage wife, at the counter pouring us both hot cups of tea, responded with…”We see this sooo much in the recovery community. And not JUST the recovery community either. It seems like it’s everywhere. We’ve all gotten the wrong message somehow…we’ll all show up for work. But we can’t make time for JOY!”
Make time for joy. It’s what the work is supposed to provide.


There Is A Sweet Spot

I think that there is a kind of sweet spot that it takes to maintain sobriety. This is much harder in early recovery than it seems to be further down the road. One of the hardest parts about recovery is that it takes focusing on it.

Diets are like this too, I think. One time my wife and I had decided to try a completely vegan diet. I’ve been vegetarian at this point for more of my life than not- no easy task to maintain a vegetarian diet in prison; you better get used to beans, because you’re sure gonna be eating a lot of them!

I’m kind of a junk food vegetarian. I mean, not completely. Truth be told I eat pretty healthily, but that can mostly be blamed on my wife. Left to my own devices there’d be a lot more pizza and veggie burgers and a lot less whole foods and grains. It’s not that I mind those foods. I don’t. I can honestly say that I have never regretted a salad. But other truth be told, I’ve rarely ever actually CRAVED a salad either! The problem is the preparation involved. There’s not much to think through in pizza, just a few simple choices, but soups? Salads? Anything involving quinoa (I think I should get a little extra credit here for knowing how to spell quinoa!). They all take work, and thought, and planning.

Self-induced suffering.

The only time pizza has caused me to suffer is when I’ve eaten too much of it.

So, we were on this vegan diet, not too much of a stretch from being vegetarian. I was running something like forty miles a week give or take. It was just Kara and I at the time, Story had not been born yet and so we were still going to quite a few restaurants, which imposed it’s own challenges- lots of Ethiopian food!

Eventually, I caved. I just couldn’t do it any longer. It wasn’t the food. Honestly, there are lots of great vegan foods out there.

I just couldn’t handle the constantly having to think about what I would be eating, packing lunches filled with things that would sustain me, finding restaurants that offered fulfillment, and the endless cooking (though Kara did most of this) and meal planning…all of it.

Early recovery is a lot like this.

After years of barstools and pool tables and live music, what the hell was I supposed to DO with myself. It seemed like everything I did was surrounded by alcohol and drugs. All of the people I knew? Well, that’s a lot of what we had in common.

(Incidentally, a lot of folks will tell you that to get sober you’ll have to get rid of your old friends. I usually argue against this. “Just stay sober, “ I tell them, “They’ll go away all on their own.”)

So, it’s not the getting sober that’s so much the hard part. It’s the whole discovery of “The New YOU!”

I once heard someone say that the problem with getting sober is that once you do you end up having to spend twenty-four hours a day stuck with the asshole who started you drinking to begin with.

It’s an adventure. It really is. There’s a lot of self-discovery, a lot of finding out who you really are in the world. There’s a lot of learning how to be in the world without having to hide anymore. It’s confusing, and sometimes embarrassing and even painful. No bullshit. This is hard.

But not all the time.

There was a point, maybe it kind of happens for all of us, where you’re walking through your life and you look around at all you’ve been through and all you’ve done; where you see who you are and you actually like it.

I remember this happening to me when I was walking down a long dark hallway in prison one time. It had been a few years that I had been locked up. I was walking down this hallway to somewhere, the chow hall, or medical, maybe visitation, I don’t remember exactly where. My friend Bahama came up from behind me.

“Well, you are sure smiling a lot this morning, Blink!” (The moniker people used to call me.) “What has you so happy today?” he said in his heavy island patois.

I shrugged.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess I’m smiling because I’m not sad anymore.”

And that was, and is still, sometimes…enough.

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this please feel free to check out my website at

Thanks- L. Robert Veeder


I think one of the biggest initial mistakes that I see people make in very early recovery is assuming that being in recovery from addictions means simply not using.

A lot of times in those first few days when I ask someone how it’s going they’ll tell me, “Great! It’s been almost three days and I really haven’t had any cravings.” Which just confirms what their addiction has been wondering to them all along…”See that?” it whispers. “You don’t REALLY have a problem…”

It’s not an unreasonable mistake. They’ve confused use with dependence. The truth though is that it’s pretty easy not to use. Everyone has run out at some point. Bars close. Dealers aren’t always available, and you just have to live with it. Which sucks for a little while, but if you’ve been doing this long enough then you know the deal. You’ve survived before and you can again. You just have to wait it out and eventually things will return to normal(ish).

Recovery itself, however, is different than not using. I think the main difference that I see is that it isn’t passive. Recovery isn’t about what you’re not doing. Recovery is about what you ARE doing. It’s a total life change. And truthfully, that takes some work. It takes some effort. It takes doing some things differently than you’ve ever done them before.

So, I often tell clients, and friends struggling with substance use disorders, that it’s less about WHAT you do, and a whole hell of a lot more about your willingness to do it. Do I think going to ninety 12-step meetings in ninety days is going to keep you sober.


But if you have the drive and determination to take someone else’s SUGGESTION to go to ninety meetings in ninety days? Well, that may just get you somewhere. If you have the willingness to take advice from others, if you have the desperation it takes to do whatever it takes to overhaul your whole life?!?

Well, my friend, THAT is Recovery with a capital R!