My expectations in early sobriety were that my life was over. That I would don my retirement slippers, buy a pipe and rock myself to a slow death reminiscing about the “Glory days” of old. It wasn’t much of a proposition if I’m honest but it seemed a damn sight more promising than the road I was heading own; my anxiety was rampant, my debt was out of control, my life was chaos and I was exhausted by all the plate spinning. The worse my life got the more I drank and the worse my life got. In hindsight, it was blatant cause and affect. At the time I was oblivious.
Sobriety was boring in the beginning. Mostly due to the fact that I had nothing to do other than drink. Without a drink, I had nothing to do. I sat twiddling my thumbs until one day I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to do something.
Nothing changes if nothing changes!
One minute at a time. One foot in front of the other. I slowly made progress until I was so far from drinking and the rocking chair that moments began to happen that I couldn’t comprehend. Wonderful experiences that reached deep into my soul and reminded me of what it was to be alive. Meeting people who are blown away by the story of how it all turned around and that I crawled from the pit of despair and now was sharing a mind-shattering moment with them. Their respect and genuine awe for the effort it must have taken is a lifetime away from the response that I expected in those early days. I expected people to not really be interested. I expected to be shunned by women for not drinking. I saw sobriety as the mark of the beast. The one who will be banished from society. Impossible to be cool and accepted. Always to be viewed as different.
My experience has been completely different from this. Most recently I met a young woman, who, many years ago, I would have considered impossible to attract. The alcohol I consumed, consumed my self-confidence and I resorted to skulking the corners of the pubs I frequented. Living in the shadows like an operatic antihero viewing the normal people with intrigue and suspicion.
Yet now I fear not for I own my sobriety. I wear it as a badge of honour. It is a hero’s journey that I struggled through to become the person I am today. Somewhere between confident and arrogant. Sure of my ability and aware of my weaknesses. Proud to be human again after years of zombification including the emotions that come with it. I share my tale like a Greek epic. Casting myself in the lead role. Relishing the spotlight after all those years in the darkness.
I was on a tour around America with a group, Marni was one of them. Some years younger than myself, beautiful and cool. I’d dismissed my attraction due to the age difference but when some competition arrived I realised that to not act would be foolish. The potentialities came to life in my head, both positives and the negatives. In the drinking days, the negatives always, and I mean always, won. But not this time. The potential to hook up with such a beautiful woman would demonstrate a level of personal growth that I never expected to happen. “What the fuck am I going to do?” was a prominent thought. “A few wines” had been the dutch courage but now I was left wanting. No alcohol to fall on I had to attempt to step up to the plate, sober. I mean I had done it previously but not with someone I considered this beautiful. After we had talked for a while the topic of my not drinking came up. In times before, I would shirk the question and make up some excuse but I decided to be honest. “That shows incredible strength,” was not a response I was expecting but it was the one I got. Over the course of the night, we grew closer and Marni said “You baffle me. How do you deal with things?” It turns out that keeping my side of the street clean translates to being decisive and assertive. Things I could never have considered myself many years ago when life pushed me around and I got what life was giving not what I wanted. It was an eye-opening experience. The time we spent together was fleeting and life dictates that our paths will diverge but Marni will be added to the list of “thank you’s” I say in the quieter moments when I am purveying some scenery or life experience that is only possible due to my sobriety. I say thank you to the people who helped me along the way, who reached down when I had fallen, who stepped forward when I asked for help and who knew the heat from the flames of hell also. Marni will start a new list; the list of people who helped me grow on a personal level. For she made me realise that not everyone is as judgemental about people in recovery as I thought. Also, she made me see there is life in this old alky yet and that I am still on the path to becoming the best version of myself. Many more journeys await. Many more life lessons will be learned.
Every day now I venture forward into a life that I could never have expected to have. I cannot believe that this is where I am. I was smashed to pieces years ago. So much so that drawing parallels between that life and this one still brings tears of disbelief. I cannot express any more gratitude because my vocabulary doesn’t allow it but I implore anyone who is teetering on the decision to take a shot at a dream, who believes alcohol, drugs or any addiction is the barrier, to give up the addiction and pursue that dream. I stand as a testament, that with perseverance and a tad of tenacity, life can become a surreal adventure into the realms of fantasy. The universe now opens doors and ushers me through. I am prepared for most things and no longer avoid emotional pain. It is a recurring theme in life but it is a lesson that I had/have to learn. Some about other people. Some about myself. All valuable.
Sobriety has been the cheapest investment I ever made and the returns are out of this world. I encourage you to get in early.