Fortunately, happiness is not a requirement for recovery. Unfortunately, the late 1990s saw the emergence of a “happiness movement” that began to suggest and even insist that people “should” be happier. In its extreme form this message says that we have a responsibility to be happy, and that if we are not, we are doing something wrong. Consistent with this trend, social expectations have transformed normal, natural sadness and sorrow (as distinguished from clinical depression) into a depressive disorder. What used to be considered appropriate emotional reactions to loss and/or other painful life events are now frequently viewed as problematic or even pathological-necessitating counseling and/or medication with the ever-expanding repertoire of antidepressants. In this context, sadness is something to “fight,” to “not give in to,” and to “get over.” But what’s wrong with feeling sad? The short answer is, absolutely nothing. Savoring the complete meal that is the human condition involves digging into a healthy portion of sadness when life serves it up, along with the rest of the full range of our emotions, to the best of our ability. Occasional heartburn and indigestion has a place in an overall healthy digestive process. Expectations that we should find ways to be happy no matter what our circumstances are not only unrealistic, but also unhelpful and unhealthy. There is validity in the “law of attraction” and considerable power in positive thinking, but believing that by simply changing our thinking we can change anything and everything in our lives, including for example, our socioeconomic status, is downright delusional. Sometimes life is brutally challenging, and there is no easy way to get over, under, or around it. This notwithstanding, we always have choices. We can focus our conscious attention more on our problems or on potential solutions. That all important space between what life presents to us and how we respond to it is ours alone. We can seek to avoid our emotional and physical pain or learn how to accept what we can’t change, while developing the skills to change what we can. Happiness exists on a continuum—from overt joy and celebration to much more subtle serenity, contentment, satisfaction, and peace of mind. There are moments when we are blessed with profound joy, those precious ever-so-brief glmpses of beauty, clarity, and just how perfect life can be. However, we cannot coerce such transcendent experiences. The harder we try to make them happen, the more they elude us. And they are always temporary. If we expect to keep them as if they were possessions, we invariably set ourselves up for disappointment. The most healthy and spiritual thing we can do is to recognize and appreciate these moments for what they are—as opposed to focusing on what they are not and will never be. This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by By Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).