The Clarity of Sobriety

The hazy hangover

When I drank alcohol, I stumbled through life trying to survive. All I saw was the route to where I needed to get to. Anything outside of this was extra brain energy that I couldn’t spare. I was running on empty, always. The hangovers hung heavy, this, coupled with the shame that I felt kept my gaze firmly on the ground. The thought of making eye contact with another human being caused fear to run through me. The thought that this could lead to a conversation caused full-blown panic. So I shuffled through life, avoiding eye contact and missing out on the things around me. Life buzzed by and time flew past, I was oblivious to any of this happening.

  1. Wake up
  2. Survive
  3. Go back to bed Drink
  4. Pass out

Every morning, was a rushed panic to get out of bed and get out of the house because I always needed a few more minutes sleep. As if “a few more minutes” would change the state of my hangover. I accepted this as part of life. It happened so often that I perceived it to be “Normal.” It was quite obvious it wasn’t normal when people would talk about how they went to the gym before work or got up and walked their dog or ate breakfast. That panicked start set my day up for more panic, all of it inside my head. I was functioning like I was constantly late for something. I was five minutes behind myself, like a shadow. The swirling uncertainty of the previous night’s actions would fight the plan for the day for supremacy. I could have walked passed a goat juggling sheep and I’m not sure I would have noticed. The swirling chatter in my mind consuming what little energy I had. I was so obsessed by the destination that the journey became time to fill not part of the experience. Everything was just on time or late.

I think back at those days of negative thinking and heavy drinking. And I have to admit I’m quite proud of myself. Not for the drinking but the capacity to soldier on through all that nonsense. How I managed to pay bills and hold a job down while my brain was spinning wildly out of control is beyond me. To anyone doing that I salute you but I also know something now. It doesn’t have to be that way. It is now the complete opposite.

The clarity of sobriety

Before I quit drinking I missed out on so many of the intricacies of everyday life. I didn’t even see the subtle nuances that make life alive. I was so wrapped up in surviving the day and battling the shit that constantly swung through my mind like a negativity wrecking ball, that I didn’t have time for life. I was constantly putting out fires. I would put one out and another would ignite elsewhere. It was a war that seemed like it was destined to rage for eternity. This anxiety made me feel disconnected from life and also myself. I wasn’t in control of my own thoughts and as a result, would be bombarded with a variety of things I didn’t want to recall.

If you imagine that your senses are the antenna and the mind is the tv that displays the image. Being drunk was like handing over the remote control to someone else. Someone who couldn’t decide what to watch, so they are constantly flicking through the channels. Quitting drinking was regaining control of what I saw, how I pictured the world and ultimately how I lived my life. The remote control is firmly in my hand. The colours on the picture have been turned up and the contrast adjusted.

No longer do I approach the day with the heavy head and shameful gaze. It is shoulders back head up and ready to take on the day. Confident and proud. I know what I did last night and if I act like a dick then I can correct it as and when required. The world is bright and beautiful, almost as if the old black and white tv has been upgraded to 4k. I can now see the vibrancy and wonder just walking across the park in the morning. My inner child no longer draws with charcoal they have a palette to interpret the world.

This was only possible because I changed the way I looked out. The world hasn’t changed, I have. I had to because I was missing out on so much. I was searching for beauty, peace and contentment through consumption; alcohol, food, clothes, sex, drugs, tv. I was constantly left wanting by these things. Any pleasure I found was fleeting and I had to consume more to try and cling to that feeling. I realised that contentment resided within me all the time. Those things stopped me finding the peace and beauty that I was searching for.

I am certainly not monastic but liberation from the illusion of happiness through consumption has been a great gift. No longer am I at the bek and call of the next advert. I now see life playing out daily. Many miss it as their heads are hung heavy, staring into mobile phones whilst gathering resentments for someone else’s illusionary lifestyle. Liberate yourself from the servitude of alcohol and then see the world in all its splendour.

I sometimes think that heavy drinking wast like being kept in a basement as a prisoner with minimal exposure to the outside world. Quitting drinking is the escape and the opportunity to see the world in all its glorious mind-blowing simplistic wonder. Being able to witness the colours of the world change as nature packs itself away for the winter is a joy. The vibrant greens turn to yellow and brown warnings of things to come. It is a glorious life and I am grateful to be able to see it.

I am five minutes ahead of myself now. This slowing of pace gives me time to absorb the experience of life as I go about my day. I am no longer fighting the chaos that dwelled within or rushing through to try to catch myself. I do miss the chaos now and then. It was a huge part of my psyche for such a long time that sometimes I get bored with serenity but then I remember the pain that came with trying to calm my chaotic mind. The only thing that managed to keep it quiet was alcohol and when I remember that, I realise that serenity is a gift.


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