The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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1-What happiness is and is not. 2-Why am I not happy unless I drink?







































(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)



Alcoholism is Not a Shortcut to Happiness

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner: I am Dr. Ellen Kenner. Welcome to my show. It's the Rational Basis of Happiness. Your happiness matters. You may be sitting there thinking, "Well, what is this thing happiness anyway? I want to be happy, but nobody really has it. People just go around faking that they're happy and maybe a few times in their life they'll get a high, a feeling of just being on top of the world, but that isn't the norm. Get real." Well, if that's the situation you're in, you definitely want to rethink that, because this is your life. You don't want to waste the next 10 years of your life or 20 years of your life going around with those ideas that place the ceiling really low. Don't let you explore the possibilities in your life and pursue the dreams that you want. 


And what would cut off your dreams? Typically, most fundamentally, the wrong moral code. If you have a moral code that tells you not to be happy but that self sacrifice is good, the model is the good person, the good person who really, really wants a particular career or a particular romantic relationship, a healthy one, and gives it up - gives it up for something that they value less or maybe safety or security or they give it up because their parents don't want them to marry a particular person. If you are giving up your hobbies, your values, your romantic life, the career that you would like and is possible, it may not be possible at this point, but if you're giving up on yourself, then you won't get happiness even though that's presented as a moral code. Selflessness, altruism. You want to value yourself, which doesn't mean that you're going to be a mean person. It doesn't mean you're going to be a narcissist or a "me only" person, my way or the highway, get out of my way, and you'll manipulate and cheat and steal. You don't make yourself into a good person that way either. The way to make yourself into a good person and to achieve that happiness that everyone longs for and many people just throw up their hands is to set long range goals for yourself and shorter ones too that are doable, that are truly in line with your values, so you're being true to yourself and learning how to speak your mind


Here is a quick question that kind of relates to what I was just talking about. Dear Dr. Kenner. Why am I not happy unless I drink? Then she adds question marks and dot-dot-dot. Why? Why am I not happy unless I drink? I am 55 years old. Susan.


Well, first ask yourself, are you happy when you drink? Happiness, if we define happiness, many people will have different definitions. Reasonably, happiness is the achievement of decent values, rational values. The achievement, not winning the lottery. How many people win the lottery and then go on to destroy their lives because they know that the money they got from the lottery is not earned money so they can buy the yachts and houses and they feel like a big fraud because the house they buy is not one that they earned and they live in a neighborhood where the neighbors all earned their houses, so they feel like they're at odds. So it isn't just someone giving you a gift. It's you putting in whatever effort and rising to whatever level your ambition and your ability allows you and you can grow your ability. 


So what happens when you drink? I assume you're not talking about social drinking. If you're talking about just having a drink of wine at a lovely restaurant occasionally or maybe a drink before you go to bed because your doctor said wine is good for you, then that's not what we're talking about. If you have a drinking habit, meaning you're messing up with drinking, using it to self-medicate - which many people do - well, what then? Why can't you be happy? Well, you're medicating yourself. You're medicating your anxiety, your uncertainty, your self doubt, your feelings of depression. You medicate them and alcohol does achieve that goal. It deadens it and kind of makes you a little euphoric. But there's a downside to it, which everybody knows. You can't be 55 years old and not know that. The downside is that you get this short-range little boost and you can fake happiness, it feels happy - definitely feels happy. You can laugh, you can be jovial, but you know that when you come to again, when you're sober, that you don't know how to run your own life. The problems still exist. They didn't go away with the drinking. In fact, the problems are worse because now you're drinking and people in your family are complaining and you're not happy, so then you go and drink again and that repeats the cycle. 


I was once in a play in a camp for a summer where they spoke only French, and so I learned how to speak in French and I was in a little play from [inaudible 00:05:56] and my part translated in English was - this is from someone who doesn't drink, I was the drunk, they made me the drunk - so I had the lines, "I drink." Somebody asks me, "Why do you drink?" And I said, "To forget." And they said, "To forget what?" And I said, "To forget that I drink." And you can see how circular that is. Just a loop. You drink to forget that you drink and you drink more when you come to again. 


So, giving up the alcohol is not easy. You need a lot of skills. You need skills with yourself. You need to know how to manage urges. You need to know how to achieve good values in life. You need problem solving skills. You may need anger management skills. You may need how to monitor so you don't go back into drinking. You may need communication skills and how to deal with relationships better and drink refusal skills. So that's just a little overview of what's involved to get yourself sober again and there's a wonderful book, Sober for Good, it's on my website, by Ann Fletcher who talks about the many different ways people become sober. There's not only one.


I'm Dr. Ellen Kenner and my show is the Rational Basis of Happiness. My number is toll-free, 1-877-DR-KENNER. Call me with any question you'd ask a counselor or therapist.