"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
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I told myself I wasn’t going to drink today.
Just for today.
Just to prove to myself that I could do it.
So why am I standing in line at the liquor store?
Why am I handing over money in exchange for a bottle?
And why am I now consuming the contents against my will?
No one forced me into that store. No one forced me to hand over the money. No one forced me to drink. And yet there I was.
Even though it was against my will, these actions were entirely self-propelled—as if something had literally hijacked my volition. To paraphrase Christina Aguilera, my mind was saying ‘no,’ yet my body was saying ‘let’s go.’
Addiction doesn’t care who you are, it doesn’t care where you came from, and it doesn’t care how it grabs hold of you—once it hijacks the reward centers of the brain, you become trapped in an endless loop of unsatiated satisfaction.
Anyone who falls victim to this brain and life altering disease has their own story, and mine began in 2007 when my best friend died—precisely a week to the day after we became engaged to be married.
Until that day, I never had a desire to drink, but when Stephanie died the life in me burned out and I became an empty vessel with neither captain nor crew, floating aimlessly and destined to flounder.
Despite this, life carried on and somehow I stayed afloat, and with the gift of time I was able to recognize a desire to heal the grief. But by then addiction had taken over, anchoring me in an endless storm.
And that’s where I found myself all those years ago, wanting to move forward with life yet held back, lost in the sea of addiction.
I did eventually find my way to “dry” land and today I’m the happiest I have ever been, and one of the most pressing and imporant questions people ask me is how did I finally find my way out of the storm?
One word: Enthusiasm.
The word enthusiasm has Greek origins meaning divinely inspired and today it generally refers to an energetic and eager interest and is strongly associated with passion and the experience of flow state—a state of full immersion and enjoyment in the process of an activity.
Enthusiasm doesn’t delight in fleeting pleasures, but instead finds lasting joy by engaging in activities that are rewarding in and of themselves.
How did enthusiasm help me overcome addiction?
I realized that despite the heavy chains of addiction, I was able to put it down for one week a year while volunteering as a youth leadership counselor, an initiative I’ve been involved with now for over two decades. Despite the challenges I was facing, I discovered I had so much enthusiasm for this work that it could override the neural pathways that had otherwise held me back, so I could fully show up for the people I serve, even if it was just for one week.
Realizing this, I knew I had found my way out: If I could put the addiction down while doing this work, then what I needed to do was find a way to do this work full-time, a realization that would eventually evolve into the education company Hashtag Positivity.
Certainly, there was a lot more work that needed to be done to enact significant life changes—including leveling up my knowledge, skills, resources, opportunities, behaviors, and relationships—but it all started with recognizing the source of my enthusiasm, and I know that embracing what makes you truly come alive can have a similar impact on your life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the motivation to enact the changes you most desire for your life, then I encourage you to start by steering your awareness towards the activities that you engage in with genuine enthusiasm—the activities that you perform for the mere pleasure of the process, the activities that require no external motivation because the activity itself is self-motivating.
Enthusiasm alone won’t turn your life around and get you out of the storm, but it is a starting point that can help steer you in the right direction and, with the right support, can help to see you through.
When do you experience enthusiasm? What changes might you be able to make so you can engage in these things more often?
Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination on a mission to help you experience abiding joy.