Pursuing happiness through consumption. Finding contentment in sobriety.

When I drank I was often physically sick. I have been so sick from drinking that I have rolled up the mat from around the bottom of the toilet and used it as a pillow because I didn’t want to be too far away from the bathroom. I would wake up feeling a sinking feeling of shame and stagger off to bed to try to sleep off the hangover. I would lay in bed sweating and moaning like a fevered child for most of the day until I could muster the energy to wander back to the pub or the shop. That was a lot of Sundays.

By the end of my drinking I was mentally and physically sick. Almost like I had been taken over by something else. It’s maybe no coincidence that the word alcohol comes from the Arabic word for ghoul which also means to seize:

“The word “Alcohol” is Arabic; from the root word (Al-Ghawl/Ghul) “Ghawl” or “Ghul” which translates to Ghoul, Hobgoblin, Bogey(man), Ogre (man eating giant), and Alcohol. The Qur’an–verse 37:47 uses the Arabic form “Al-Ghawl” referring to the intoxication associated with alcohol when in wine. The root word “Ghawla” translates as ‘foolish’ or ‘ignorant’. Referencing a Ghoul, this is known as an evil spirit and further translates ‘to seize’. The term Bogey(man) is sometimes used as a personification of the Devil. Along with the root word that refers to a spirit or demon, Europeans later adapted the word (likely in the 17th century) and eventually it also came to be used in science circles as a technical term for the Ethanol it also is.

Given the root of the word and its description/nature as being that of a “Demon who seizes and destroys”, many Christians abstain from Alcohol, noting that Jesus drove out demons.”

In fact most religious texts talk about the dangers of alcohol and/or overindulgence. My personal favourite is the Buddhist belief that “Alcohol consumption is inconsistent with a Buddhist’s quest to understand and develop the mind. Buddhists believe that by practicing meditation, wisdom and morality, every individual has the innate ability to experience true happiness.”

Ironically, I drank to be happy yet more often than not found myself in the bathroom and then in complete misery. I was sick yet I believed alcohol to be the medicine for my sickness; a perverted mistruth. A situation similar to having an illness that makes you thirsty only to find the cause of the thirst is in the tainted water you are drinking. For years I tried drinking different forms of the poison. I would walk in my local pub and the barman would say “What do you want today?” I had no “Usual,” because I was searching for the magic elixir. The one that was different from all the rest. THEY ARE ALL THE FUCKING SAME. People who drink a bottle of wine a night yet look down at people with a can of extra strong lager are hypocrites. Simple as that.

It took me years of punishing research to figure that out. Years of blacking out and misery just to realise there was no elixir. This came as a huge disappointed.

How was I to get well now I no longer had my medicine? Well, it was a shocking revelation to realise that my medicine was the source of my illness. Like one of those stories were a parent has been putting crushed tablets in their kids’ food to keep them ill. That’s how I felt about alcohol; it was supposed to help but it was killing me. I had been sober two years when I read This Naked Mind. It confirmed what I believed; that alcohol kept me sick.

Why is a chemical that does so much damage advertised so much? Maybe because we are the sickly children in the example I gave. I mean Johnson and Johnson just got fined $572 million for fuelling the opium crisis. Our health isn’t the main concern for corporations. The alcohol crisis has been accepted as part of our culture:

“One in 10 people in a hospital bed in the UK are alcohol-dependent and one in five are doing themselves harm by their drinking, according to research that quantifies for the first time the massive burden to the NHS of Britain’s drinking culture.

Hospitals are struggling to cope with the numbers of people whose heavy drinking habits land them in A&E or mental health units, but while the NHS estimates that the cost of treatment runs to £3.5bn a year, the figures for the numbers of patients affected have been largely anecdotal.” – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/04/staggering-cost-nhs-alcohol-abuse-report

What I have found in sobriety is that happy people a free people. Most care not about what they once thought they needed. Their outer world aligns more with the light that burns so brightly inside but had been extinguished with alcohol. This is because many have to turn inward and face their demons. That’s the path I found myself walking when I gave up alcohol. I had no other choice. Once the ghoul had been beaten back, my true self returned and finding contentment came easier. It was as if my soul was trapped in a glass case and sobriety was the hammer that set it free.

Sobriety isn’t the destination for me it is the part of the process that pushes me forward and forces me to grow as an individual. It is a process of finding and maintaining what works to keep me well. I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule that covers everyone but a connection to the self first that becomes a deeper connection elsewhere is definitely a benefit.

As alcohol leaves a trail of destruction, being AF leaves a trail of serenity. If you want it to that is.

The recovery process for me was one of getting well from being mentally and physically sick.  Like recovering from an illness or sickness, it took time. There was no rush.

If I had just left Hospital due to knee surgery running a marathon wouldn’t be best advised. Slowly, I would take small steps until my strength improved. I’d start with small challenges until there was confidence that it would carry me through. I see the recovery from alcohol abuse as completely the same. Both body and mind had to be repaired. As they did my eyes began to open to a world of beauty and opportunity. I realised that happiness is just a concept, an illusion, a carrot on a stick to keep me chasing. What I found in sobriety were acceptance and contentment. No longer did I have the crushing lows that are the price of happiness.

The contentment I was seeking was within me all along. It just got hijacked and my direction forcibly changed. I was steered away from my contentment and set on the treadmill known as the pursuit of happiness. A ceaseless pursuit equivalent to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

When I see statistics about drug misuse and alcohol misuse it makes me feel bad. Not only does it remind me of the misery that I dwelled within for years. It makes me feel bad for those people struggling to climb out of the quicksand. The one that seems to pull you back in the more you seem to struggle. Well know this, you are beautiful both inside and out. There is no void that you need to fill. You are enough. That voice telling you that you won’t make it is the manifestation of a long past moment. I know because it told me the same thing and it wasn’t true. I persevered and found contentment, which is far more valuable then happiness.

To know your strength you must test your strength.

Surprise yourself.

Charlie

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