When “Happy” is Outside Your Comfort Zone.

Maybe happiness ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…at least in the beginning.

“Misery loves company,” by comparison, isn’t so demanding, and doesn’t leave you with the risk of roaming the streets with a big, foolish smile…alone.

Suffering is easy. Not the suffering itself, but the practice and familiarity of suffering. It’s a guaranteed context for life, and most of us rehearse it — over and over and over — usually without realizing we are doing so.

And if we start out living in suffering’s grasp, we’re going to find our comfort there — not because it makes sense or we really like it, but because it’s what we know. And, for better or for worse, we take comfort in “what we know.

So what happens to the person who, like everyone else on the planet, seeks to be happy in life, but is used to suffering? Is it enough just to want a happy life? To find someone who “makes him/her happy”?

I’ve thought a lot about this recently, both as a recovering addict who has had to work my ass off to evolve my whole mindset about happiness (and a shitload of other stuff), and as a friend to someone whose life has been turned upside down by this very dilemma.

If you have ever had a serious romantic relationship, you have probably been on one side or the other of the “I love you, I’m just not in love with you” cop-out. Then there’s always the yawn-grabbing “it’s not you, it’s me” standby….

When my friend told me her boyfriend was breaking up with her because she made him feel “too happy,” I was sure the guy was hiding behind one of those cliche cop-outs. After all, isn’t happiness what we all want?

But as we dove deeper into the breakup, it became clear that this man was being sincere. His entire life had been immersed in addiction and abuse, and that was his comfort zone. He wasn’t prepared for a full-on happiness shake-up — not because he didn’t want to feel “happy,” but because he didn’t know how to stay there.

I believe stepping out of our comfort zones requires baby steps. Addiction makes that process tricky because, depending on the addiction, there is the immediate and absolute need to give up the source of the addiction — alcohol, drugs, gambling, whatever.

But the real work of recovery is done in the days, months, years after getting clean. And it’s done in steps. Not just 12 big steps, but thousands upon thousands of baby steps — steps that lead us down into the Hell of always being uncomfortable so that we can climb out into the daylight of a new and healthy comfort zone — one that frees us to experience happiness without the fear of it being ripped out from under us.

And that’s a process. A re-learning. An evolution. Just like most worthwhile things are.

It also requires patience and compassion — all worthwhile things do.

I have a friend who is hurting because someone she has loved doesn’t know how not to hurt. Not yet, anyway. And I hurt for both of them for different reasons.

As cliche as it is to say, happiness really is an inside job. And it really is all it’s cracked up to be — when you’re ready to take on the work.

Rock On!