The Vader Key
“Of this be sure: You do not find the happy life… You make it.”
Thomas S. Monson
I think one of the things that people worry about in early recovery is that they will never have fun again. I know I did. I was scared that I would not know how to have a good time without drinking, that I would never be happy. I didn’t think it was possible because alcohol and the culture of it had seeped into my bones and I could no longer think beyond it.
We are surrounded by the message today that once you are an adult and Friday comes along, the weekend is all about drinking. TGIF, you made it and its now “happy hour”. There are pub crawls, there are races where you get a beer every mile, there are “paint and sip” art studios, “twerk and wine” work-outs, “scent and sip” candle-making parties and “clues and booze” escape rooms. Let’s not even get into the mommy wine culture that tells us we need alcohol to survive parenting and that once the kids are in bed at night we must reward ourselves because we “need a drink”. Trust me, I bought into all of that and more at one point in my life.
What alcohol did for me was numb me from my own feelings. It drove me further from myself and therefore further from those around me. At some points along the way it was entertaining for sure and I could be the life of the party at times, but let me assure you, no one was laughing at the end of my drinking career; no one.
So you go from thinking that alcohol or drugs (or both) are that things that make life fun or make life bearable or make you happy, to removing them altogether. There is a period of time there in the beginning when you are full of shame and remorse and you are just learning the ropes of life without the numbing and you are floundering and you realize you don’t really know anything. You don’t know how to function without the substances, let alone how to have fun because you don’t really know who you are anymore.
I have a friend in recovery who opens his home to people in my home group all the time for get-togethers. He has parties to watch the Superbowl, to watch movies during Oscar season, a big Christmas party and more. You would never guess from the amount of people who come and the amount of laughter inside that there is no alcohol. It just isn’t an issue. In fact someone not in recovery came once and brought a bottle of wine as a hostess gift because she had no idea that not only were the host and his wife sober but that the majority of the people she had been hanging out with at other times were also sober. It just had not come up.
I think over time, as I reconnected with myself, or more accurately connected with myself genuinely for the first time, I started to find joy in little things. I found things funny and I began to carry myself in a way that showed I was happy. I see that in other people in the rooms as well who have joyful recovery. It’s as if the people who are most at ease with themselves exude this sort of simple peace. It’s a quiet calm that radiates.
I don’t mean that I am happy-clappy all the time. But small things make big differences and I cultivate those things. I don’t have to have major life events or seismic shifts create happiness in me anymore. It’s literally the little things.
Wren needed to get something from my house the other day when I wasn’t home and Frank took her over. She got the spare key out from its hiding place and went to open my front door but promptly dropped the key down the side of my deck and despite her attempts to find it, it is lost down a crack beneath my house. She was really upset about it and wanted to do the responsible thing and have a replacement key made. She and I went together to do this and I decided to try one of those key kiosks you see at drugstores.
It was fascinating to watch. You put the key you want copied in the machine and they make a 3D print of it and you can save the impression for future copies if you like. Then when it was time to buy the copies once the key was made we were given options. We could get a regular key or we could choose from a few designs. Well, once of the designs was a black key that looks like Darth Vader. Really a Darth Vader front door key for a dollar more. Well, I mean, it was a no-brainer!
I can’t even tell you how much joy I get from opening my front door every single time I come home! I love my front door key… The kids love their spare keys and the silly key chains I got for each of them. It didn’t cost much and I smile every, single time I open my door.
I think we overcomplicate how to be happy. I know I did. We don’t have to have our lives perfectly fixed. We don’t have to have everything in order. We don’t have to have the perfect job. We don’t have to have the perfect everything. If we wait for everything to be perfect, thinking, “I’ll be happy when…” we’ll never be happy. It’s the little things that make the difference in the end. Little things like the Vader key.