I recently saw a quote about “destination addiction”. The term was used to describe the idea that happiness is a place that we can find and get to somewhere else than where we are now. I was curious so I dug a little deeper and another article I saw referred to it as people who believe success is a destination. The most relatable, was what I saw in a Psychology Today article when I read a little further and it said that destination addiction was “a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner.” The article went on to say that until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.
Man, that’s familiar.
I don’t consider myself as ever having been an unhappy person. I was always pretty contented in most areas of life, and the company I kept. A little bitchy, over opinionated, easily irritated maybe, but not unhappy. I would have been more comfortable in a smaller body and with a better job or a career path, sure, but mostly I was good. I was good right up until I wasn’t.
I remember sitting with the counselor at the hospital for the weight loss program I was entering, during the psychological evaluation she asked if I was married “not rolling down the aisle in an expensive dress in this body” I responded, or when she said are you planning to get pregnant (this is a no-no for roughly 18 months post op) and I laughed, I don’t think think I can add the weight of a baby to this body. These are just two examples of things that I wasn’t doing because I thought they would be better and make me happier if I wasn’t fat. (Turns out that’s not why I wasn’t doing them but that’s another post)
I know, and know of many people who think that their happiness is still out there, that there’s just one more thing they need to do to complete the riddle and BAM- HAPPY! Well, prepare to have your dreams dashed, kids, ain’t gonna happen. I can tell you for certain that losing weight, whether it’s 10 pounds, 80 pounds or 180 pounds is not going to instantly change your life and give you all the things you think you want / need / deserve. I can also tell you that getting married or having a baby isn’t going to fix your relationship, a new job may help your bank account and even your self esteem, but it won’t make you happy if the other puzzle pieces are still strewn across the table of your life.
I just thought of something someone said to me awhile ago that was laughable, honestly … they said “You don’t understand, you always get everything you want.” I am pretty sure I gasped aloud. Me? Everything I want? I feel like it took me until I was midway through thirty to even consider what I really wanted, and by the time it was in action I was practically forty.
That wasn’t the part though, it was that I GET everything I want that slayed me. I asked for a clarification, I said ” What’s this everything I get?” They did not miss a beat. “You didn’t want to be fat anymore, you’re not. You wanted to go back to school, you are. You wanted a newer car that wasn’t rusty and dented, you got one. I mean ….”
Ain’t having it.
“You mean what? I didn’t just get those things” “Okay fine, but you got them easier than I get shit.” This turned into a conversation about the hoops I jumped through to “not be fat anymore”, the doctors appointments, the embarrassment, the waiting room practically public weigh-ins, the re-learning how to eat, the surgery, while minimally invasive, was still surgical. I went on a tirade about sure I am back in school but not without applying to several programs, tracking down transcripts from a college I went to twenty years ago for less than a year that tried to say I still owed them money, letters of recommendation and applying for even more student loans. The car? Gimme a break, I traded in my car for pennies, and put the rest of the down payment on a credit card. (former poor credit use also for another post!)
I think that this person and maybe a lot of people don’t want, or can’t put the effort into certain things because what if they fail? What if the desired outcome isn’t achieved (BUT WHAT IF IT IS?!)? I didn’t tell most of my family I was having weight loss surgery, because what if it didn’t work? Even the people I did tell had opinions (both positive & negative), how about when I decided to go back to school, the opinions or the pressure to “get it right” this time. That shit sucks, but really, not as much as being in your own way, relying on some other person or event to give you this euphoria.
People preach self-love and self-care and these are important, but you gotta like yourself first, and decide what’s important, what life you are going to create for yourself, and do it. There’s your success, your happiness.
Anyway, what I gathered from the destination addiction bit is that we always think there’s something missing, and that something will miraculously “fix” or improve life. I half buy into it, because my life has drastically improved since weight loss (my personal destination) but not as a direct result of weight loss. My doctor wasn’t like, “Okay, that’s eighty pounds, here’s a graduate program, a career path and healthy boundaries, go forth with the happiness.” I had to do that.
I think there’s an expectation for these things to present themselves and when they don’t, we become discouraged and/or depressed, so we assume there is another next thing that will do it. It’s a cycle that just leads to disappointment, comparison and feelings of low self-esteem and even failure. Why wait on something or someone to make you feel that way, when it’s the opposite of what you want?
If I had to define myself as happy or unhappy, I would say happy; but it’s more than that. I am comfortable, in my skin, my life, my career path, my relationship. I feel validated and accepted by the people and places I assign value. I don’t subscribe to a societal checklist that measures my success or happiness by the things I do (or don’t do). I have also known people who have the big house, the marriage, the kids, the fancy job, all the material possessions and invites to everything social and they aren’t happy either.
Happiness isn’t a destination or posession, it’s comfort in knowing that you are living your best life in the moment it’s happening. Sure there are improvements you can plan to make, but they should enhance those feelings, not be responsible for creating them. So I say make yourself comfortable; not complacent and lazy, running through your Netflix queue hoping happiness will knock on your door. Truly comfortable with yourself; in your body, in your relationships, in your career, your family, your hobbies … get comfortable with who you are and what you want and see where that takes you.