I was lucky. Quitting drinking was easy for me. It was easy because I was convinced I would die if I carried on. Alcohol took me to the hospital, the pit of despair and to isolation.
When people used to ask me why I drank so much I would answer “I might be dead tomorrow. Carpe Diem. Drink today for tomorrow we die,” or some other misquoted bollocks to justify my position. It’s ironic because when I actually thought that alcohol would kill me I started to think: Do I want my last memory to be one of me drinking? Or no memory at all because I blacked out! Do I want to look back over my life and see a mass of time wasted on drink? The answer was a resounding NO. Of course, I didn’t want that. Who does? I hear it all the time “I don’t drink as you did!” “I can handle it.” “I haven’t lost a job, relationship, my driving license, kids or health to alcohol!” There is only one answer to that: YET!
When I started drinking at sixteen, I didn’t set out to lose relationships because of alcohol. But I did. I didn’t want to lose jobs because of alcohol! But I did. I didn’t plan to end up with liver problems in my early thirties! But I did. I’ve heard about people losing everything. None of them started drinking because that’s what they wanted to happen. Just because it hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
So you see why it was easy. I had a choice; Sacrifice my life for alcohol or sacrifice my alcohol for life. It’s a no brainer, isn’t it?
I chose to sacrifice alcohol for life and at first, it felt like a mistake. I felt like I was GIVING UP on something. But by giving up something I was gaining something. That’s how it works, life. You can have anything but you can’t have everything. If I had two livers I may have carried on drinking but I didn’t so there you go.
I didn’t see the benefits of quitting at first. I slept like shit. Sweated constantly. My mind was a chaotic barrage of nonsense. I felt like I was getting nothing in return for my valiant efforts. I thought that if I carried on drinking, I would be on the waiting list for a new liver in no time at all. It might not have happened. I didn’t want to find out. So, I had no choice but to carry on without alcohol.
I had to find out what worked instead of alcohol. What could I do to live life like a drinker without drinking? I had to find out what helped me relax. I had to learn how to deal with emotions. I had to learn how to let shit slide. I had to learn how to live life.
“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”C.S.Lewis
It was daunting. Yet, on reflection, it has been a wonderful journey so far. With ups and downs and many lessons. Some fun. Some not so. The knowledge that I can deal with shit without running for a bottle like a child running to a parent is a great feeling. It is the closest I will feel to being an adult… whatever that means. But it is a testament to the growth that can happen when alcohol is removed from the equation. I was emotionally stunted when I stopped drinking. Every problem was an excuse to drink and most problems were illusions. I would stand in a pub stewing in anger over some innocuous situation that I had turned into a problem. Blaming the focal point of my misguided anger for my drinking.
It took time but eventually, I became myself. Or the person I was meant to be. Because now when I look back on my life it won’t be a procession of empty memories. It will be a collection of memories. Memories of the opportunities I seized and places I visited. People I loved; some lost. It will be the knowledge that I sacrificed a life awash with alcohol and regret and achieved my dreams.
So imagine you are sitting on a porch and you are much older. You are reflecting on your life and how it played out. Imagine your life five days before you quit drinking. Would you want that day to carry on everyday until you are sitting on that porch reflecting? Is that how you would want to spend your days? I know I wouldn’t because my last days of drinking were out of control and I was desperate to quit, I just didn’t know how to.
But like I said at the start I was lucky because my body started to fail and I was left with a choice; Alcohol or Life. The thing is we all have that choice but some don’t know it… yet.