Towards the end of my drinking days, I would drink to blackout six days a week. I didn’t do seven because if I could go without alcohol one day a week then I didn’t have a problem. That was the reasoning. In the light of sobriety, the excuses I made were madness but my entire life was madness then. The chaos that consumed my every waking thought was tiring. This, coupled with terrible sleep, meant that I floated through life like a spirit. I believed that’s how people functioned. Everyone had their vices. Some gambled. Some did illegal drugs. Some used food. Some prescription medication. All just trying to escape life even for a second. Just to get a breather. To switch off reality and just find a bit of peace. But it never lasts. It’s like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan when an explosion goes off and the guy is in a state of confusion. Numbed to his surroundings. Unsure of where he is yet the war still rages around him.
I accepted that as life. Convinced that it was meant to be that way; living in a state of unhappy numbness and seeking pleasure to alleviate my mood. I didn’t dare to attempt to change it. I just tried to escape through drink that’s how I ended up drinking six days a week. The war doesn’t stop, the fighting gets more intense and to block it out takes more alcohol. I just wanted to escape, myself and my life.
What I’ve learned in sobriety is that most of the wars that rage around me aren’t my wars. Most of the battles being fought aren’t for me. The chaos that follows people around like a needy child can be avoided but people don’t know. They, like I once did, believe that is how life is meant to be. It isn’t. The calmness I sought through mood-altering substances was available when I quit mood-altering substances. The problems I sought to escape from have been the GREATEST lessons of my sobriety. Perversely, the hardships have been necessary for me to learn. Imagine that! The things I tried to avoid were the things I needed to go through to develop.
My mother underwent brain surgery whilst I was in recovery. I wanted a drink soooo bad. It would have made the pain go away. It wouldn’t have got her out of the hospital. I made it through and thankfully so did she. I’ve experienced rejection, hardships, sacrifice and emotional turmoil in sobriety. All painful. All valuable. I wouldn’t be who I am without them. Life is hard. Very hard for some. Yet, the darkest days of sobriety are still brighter than most of the days when I was drinking.
Emotional pain isn’t preferable but it is a valuable lesson and shouldn’t be avoided. Once it has passed I have learned and grown from the experience. Avoiding emotional pain is only prolonging the agony. When I couldn’t afford to drink and suppress my problems anymore the demons came out in force to torment me. Escaping from problems is like escaping from prison; you’re always watching your back because you know someday they’ll catch up with you. So dealing with problems becomes the quickest way to peace.
Where I once saw chaos and drama as another means of dopamine. I now see it as a breach of my serenity. I began to identify the people who are “chaos creators,” and “Emotional vampires.” I would give them a wide berth. I learned to erect boundaries, were before I was trampled on. Life became simpler and more enjoyable. My mind went from toxic to tranquil. I began to feel alive, in tune and vibrant. I used to believe that living a peaceful life was tantamount to dying. That calm was boring and that chaos was life. Living a straight line doesn’t mean to flatline, it means the mind is at rest.
Having spent most of my life fighting to stay afloat in a torrent of negative and toxic thinking, I struggled to come to terms with contentment. The clarity and peace that came with sobriety felt undeserved. I didn’t believe I deserved to be happy. Even when I had learned that I was the bastion of my mind, I still couldn’t come to terms with the light that now shone internally. I felt like a fraud and an imposter. Like I would get found out at any moment and it would all come crashing down. Unbelievably, the opposite happened. I got stronger, calmer and more content. It still arises from time to time but now I see them as a reminder of how far I have progressed. Even now, five years later as I walk into a new chapter of my life that I have consciously written, I cannot help but ask the question “Why me?” “Why did I manage to escape?” “How did I manage to break free?” The answers are clear, yet the questions still persist. I managed to escape because I didn’t pick up a drink. I didn’t pick up a drink because that is the fast lane back to the torrent of shit! I know because I tried. I tried because I didn’t think I could be happy without alcohol. NOTHING could be further from the truth. Even if happiness does take some getting used to.
So now when I question my happiness in sobriety and think “Do I really deserve this?” The answer is “Yes, we all do.”
The video that inspired this blog is worth a watch: