My attitude of excess continued into my alcohol-free life. Where, previously, I had wanted to be fucked up as much as possible I now wanted wellness as much as possible. I wanted spiritual enlightenment and a six-pack by the weekend… I’d quit drinking on a Thursday.
If it wasn’t happening yesterday then it wasn’t happening at all. I would get frustrated and bemoan my lack of progress. Until, one day, I thought if it took me ten years to get into this tragic mess of a life, it’s going to take me a while to get out of it. If addiction is progressive then so is wellness. I had to loosen my expectations of my quitting drinking. I’ll be honest I expected magic to begin with the cessation of alcohol consumption. I thought people would be so overcome with emotion when I told them that I had quit they would lose their minds like when people saw the Beatles. Or I would undergo some kind of Hollywood movie change replete with cheesy montage music. None of that was to be. People said “Well done,” some said “It won’t last,” and others said, “’bout time.” Is that it? I would think. Do they not realise what I am going to? I am going to not drink!!! Then I realised that isn’t such a big deal for everyone. Just like the conversation I had with a woman I was trying to chat up and completely fucked it up because I couldn’t believe that she had gone her whole life without trying drugs and suggesting that we get some. I couldn’t believe people like her existed. I couldn’t believe people could have one drink. “What’s the point?” I would ask. “To be social,” was the usual reply. I didn’t understand. I only ever wanted to get fucked up. I never saw the point in one. I didn’t like the taste enough to have one. I needed another ten to take the taste of the first one away;
Allegedly people don’t want to just get out of their brain every night. Some are content with their lot in life. I never understood. I would often say “Yeah, it’s good now but imagine how much better it would be if you were drunk.” Some even went as far as saying “I don’t like getting drunk,” the philistines. How could they achieve the majesty that I had achieved if they didn’t stand at a bar spouting absolute bollocks while destroyed on cheap lager? Everyone knows that’s where all the worlds problems are solved.*
*Just in case you missed it I was being sarcastic.
When I was drunk, I would imagine myself to be some intellectual, yet mysterious figure who was tragic in a romantic sense. I was just tragic. I was no Bukowski character. I was just a drunk who was too scared to have a go at life. Too scared to fail. It’s easier to point fingers than it is to step up to bat. I won’t do that in sobriety. I won’t blame the advertisers or a disease. What’s done is done. The path is forward I won’t waste time looking for excuses when I could be looking for solutions. I have dug through the shit of the past so much that it is time to let turn to the fertilizer for a brighter future. I want to live as many years being content as I did discontent. I owe myself and the world that much.
Walking to the shop the other day I noticed the daffodils sprouting up. It made me smile at the audacity of the flower to shine so brightly when all around is still recovering from the winter. The daffodil stands as a symbol of optimism for the time to come. Of the warmth of summer and the rebirth of spring. If there is a symbol for sobriety then maybe the daffodil should be it. To me, quitting drinking was like leaving a harsh never-ending winter. The ceaseless cold had frozen me in time, trapped by my inevitable future. Yet through the frozen wasteland sprung life. Bright and colourful. Vibrant. Like the daffodil able to share hope with others. A beacon. A sign that it will be alright.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.Robert Lewis Stevenson
If you’re reading this thinking “What the fuck is this idiot talking about flowers for? Doesn’t he know I am in a world of pain?” The thing is, I do. I was there. My world was dark and I was trapped by my thoughts. A daily dose of regrets and disappointments eased by “just a few” alcohol drinks. Until it was completely out of control. Then I was forced into action. From laddish alcoholic to philosophiser about flowers and I couldn’t happier about that. The world no longer resides on my shoulders. Under all the pressure of life, there was beauty being created like a diamond. I feel better for the experiences of the past. I wouldn’t change a thing. I mean it. It made me appreciate life in a way that wouldn’t be available to me otherwise. Almost like a sensitivity upgrade from standard to high definition. Clarity. Serenity. Beauty in the simplicity of the everyday mundane. Where I saught solutions to my boredom through escapism, I found them within each moment. Each patchwork of time stitched to the next. Each one offered the answers I had been searching for. The moments held the answers all I had to do was stop looking and start being present. When I stopped living on the shoulder of tomorrow or the coattails of the next drink, my focus was brought back to the present. Bringing with it peace. At first, a fleeting yet overwhelming sense of connectivity to life splashed with imposter syndrome became available. Then, slowly, the connectivity became less intense and I began to believe that I had earned some happiness. I had paid my dues in the misery stakes. And god damn I was having some happiness. I didn’t quit drinking to be miserable. FUCK THAT. I am one of the lucky ones. I escaped that life…
Between 40 to 60 percent of people who’ve been treated for addiction or alcoholism relapse within a year, according to a 2014 study in JAMA. While relapse is most common during the first year of recovery, people with years of sobriety can resume self-destructive drug use or drinking.https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2017-04-24/why-do-alcoholics-and-addicts-relapse-so-often
It is hard for some. It is a battle. But it is a battle that can be won by the ones seeking a brighter future. I was one of the tired and ragged who knew that another round with alcohol would finish me off. So I chose to tackle sobriety. Stuck between a rock and a hard place. The medicine that cured me so often was now a poison. Isolated and deserted. Locked outside the party, looking in. Lost. Yet when I slowly turned around I began to see the world outside the party and now I had the keys to the unimaginable. I can’t make you believe me. I can’t make you want to stop drinking. People told me for years I had a problem and I was convinced it was them that had the problem, with me. It wasn’t until the walls of the artificial reality began to collapse that I was exposed to the truth. And the shame. All I wanted to do was drink to escape the shame years of drinking had been hiding. With no crutch to lean on, I felt vulnerable. Thankfully, I have been stopped from falling over by the wonderful people who offer support.
To those people, many I will never meet. I am indebted beyond words.
“This is the beginning of forever, and ever,”