The Big Book tells us that God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free (p. 133). At first reading I thought this statement was a bit redundant for, after all, were not happiness and joy synonymous emotions? I was later to take a different view.
Some years ago, I attended an AA gathering in a large campground in Marie, Canada. While preparing to sleep in my tent, I was taken over by a tremendous sadness. It came in vivid memory the happy night where my lovely then-bride and I spent in the same tent above the Grand Canyon following our Las Vegas marriage. At once, a heavy depression crashed down with tremendous despondency. The happy times that we shared during our California years were gone—now we were divorced—she is gone from me forever. It was far past midnight, and the black doom pressed down without pity…and went on and on.
But then, all at once, my surroundings seemed to brighten! It was as though a beautiful light was shining in some mysterious manner. Although I was overcome with sadness, certainly not happiness, I was at once filled with JOY! I was experiencing both sadness and joy at the same time! This bright joy sparkled deep into the morning.
That experience convinced me that happiness and joy are not at all the same. Happiness is a biological phenomenon that comes and goes with life happenings. If my boss says, “you’re fired,” I will become sad, but if he gives me a raise, I am happy.
This is not so with spiritual joy because true Joy comes from God and is not under the domain of this world. God has told us: “I am not of this world!”
True joy has come to me spasmodically since that episode. It comes and goes before I seem to be able to capture it, yet it is proof to me that God is with me. The Big Book speaks of the “Great Reality” deep within (p. 55). So, I believe if I live the life that AA has offered, I will continue to be mostly happy, but also experience surges of great joy from time to time.
The Big Book promise of being happy and joyous is not redundant; this duo has helped me from taking that first drink for many years. Thank you, God!
By Bob S.