Sadness, loneliness, and even depression are not necessarily a bad thing (just as guilt and shame aren’t) — Buddhists believe this. Sadness can teach us so much once we relax into it and allow it to flow through us. It truly is a gift. Just like it’s a gift that I write this when I’m sad.  

Last night. I got on stage to perform — I’m a stand up comic — in a new city with a last-minute guest spot at a hot club. The crowd was small and they gave nothing to the host. I got up and said, “Well, you’re small. But at least you aren’t laughing.” They didn’t like that or give me the response I wanted on my first few jokes, so I began picking them off one by one. You can’t do that in a room with ten people. I know this. 

I had an old friend there to whom I had just made amends recently. Perhaps I thought part of my amends was for him to watch me fail. But, in the end, I caught myself and let it go. And what a gift it is, it always is, when I realize this — the thought of using or drinking hadn’t even occurred to me. I was sad about it, sure, but I didn’t have to drink. That’s when I realized what a gift sadness can be. Here’s why. 

1. Radical Acceptance

Perhaps the greatest gift to be gained from sadness is to stop resisting. Allowing ourselves to be human, and flawed, and not happy every second is an art. Emotions feel so much less manageable when I fight them; when I allow one to flow through me whether I judge it wanted or not I feel so much relief. 

In the space beyond judgment, emotions clear through us. Acceptance does not mean approval. It means saying, I don’t like this experience but I am not going to argue that it is my current reality. It just is.

2. Slowing Down

Once I have accepted my feelings, which we all know aren’t always linked to external stimuli and can arise out of nowhere, once the pain of fighting the emotion has subsided, (I believe stuck emotions turn into physical ailments)  I move slowly in sadness. I’m low energy. Well, okay. It’s a welcome break from the frenetic pace society dictates. 

By being sad, I’m already breaking all the rules, so I don’t mind going further. It’s really calm, living there in that slow sad acceptance. It is its own brand of peace. I notice different things, I pay attention differently. I don’t hate this stage.

3.  What We Let Go Of

This morning, in my slow, calm, sad acceptance state, the one that feels like a warm blanket, I reflected upon the opportunities at hand. I can utilize my knowledge at the moment more effectively to prevent last night’s going just like that — I can practice loving myself for who I am, and not what I do, how well I perform, or how I feel. 

I may not be able to shake off the feeling — it needs to run its course — but I can shake off the self-judgment. Liberation.

4. Trusting the Process

On the other side of every dark night in my history, there’s been a blazing dawn, one that could not have taken place without the night, without the lessons that I found there. In these moments I remember that I am not God, I am not the Universe. It isn’t all on me. Only my part is. 

When I can put my trust back into something bigger than myself, I can relax even further into whatever is happening in my body right now, these feelings that part of me thinks I don’t want. 

5. Contrast

Feeling happy after sadness is like eating a piece of freshly baked bread after six months of Keto. Holy WOW! If you eat bread all day every day, it’s just what you do. You become numb to it. 

We live in a third-dimensional reality and it’s all about the contrast, the duality. Rain and rainbows. Perhaps our consciousness will evolve to a place beyond this but probably not today. Today, the joy of the song in your heart rising again can’t be as great without contrast. 

6. Impermanence

At this point in this sad, self-reflective, yet not devoid of the meaning journey, it hits me. Nothing lasts. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that, there have been so many times where I’ve tanked my life over an emotion I was pretty sure was never going to go away… but they eventually do. 

It’s only what we do to escape them (drinking) that can hurt us. Nothing lasts, unless, of course, you relapse, overdose, and die. That’s gonna stick.

7. Awareness and Gratitude

It’s pretty corny but it’s a first-world problem to even get to feel sad. So many people don’t even have the time! To have the privilege to go deeper into our pain, knowing whatever triggered it is deeper than what set it off, to bring more back into the light. To be able to do the things we love, to see, as it says in the big book, how our experience can benefit others.

It’s been a process for me to understand my own sadness and, more than that, to use it for my own betterment. Accepting that sadness can come with its own gift can be its own special joy, though. It’s helped me to let go and helped me to not drink again. I hope that, by reading about my sadness, it will benefit yours.