The new normal. It’s all over the news. The world beyond COVID. It’s referred to as the new normal. The same phrase could be used for the world beyond alcohol. Normality is subjective to the observer. For years my version of normal was self-loathing and fear doused in alcohol. I was looking for an answer to a question which I didn’t know had been asking. It was frightening the prospect of the “New Normal.” Venturing into the unknown was a scary thought, after years of clinging to any semblance of stability no matter how unstable it was.
There was nothing in the beginning. I had nothing. I had no feelings beyond fear. Just darkness. The future didn’t exist and the past was a blur of self-hatred, the weight of which was pulling me back. Impossible was the only thought. I looked at sobriety like a high wall that I wouldn’t climb. I said wouldn’t instead of couldn’t because if a Lion was heading towards me and that giant wall was the only way out I would have a good go at climbing it. Alcohol is the lion. The thought of returning to drinking made me have a go at climbing out. Surprisingly I had more strength then I expected. Even more surprisingly the wall wasn’t as high as I first thought. I had been a heap on the ground when I first looked up. Standing up and taking stock gave me a fresh perspective.
But what’s the point? Life will be shit without drinking?! Maybe. Or maybe I can have a good go at making a life that isn’t boring. I can stop pointing fingers and waiting for a saviour. Stop standing at the bar and looking at the door every time it opens believing it to be the solution to my problems. Instead, I can pull my fucking socks up and have a go at something beyond what I have been doing for the first time in my life. Or I can die, alone, slumped on a barstool calling the world a bastard for not gifting me a life I WANTED. Do you know why most people don’t quit? Because it takes strength. So if you are two days in give yourself a pat in the back. Look in the mirror and give yourself a few positive words. The same if your one day in or ten years.
Breaking a habit is hard. Especially in the face of expectation and social pressure. So ignore the naysayers and plan for a post lockdown life of freedom and love. Of compassion and empathy. Or whatever you want to be or do. Being alcohol-free is not only freedom from alcohol but also, the lifestyle and thinking that goes with it. It is a break from routine. My housemate stopped drinking not due to a problem but because he didn’t want to drink in the house. He has gone 52 days and walked 8 miles today. The last time he went this long without a drink is 50 years ago and as a result, has become healthier.
The unthinkable becomes thinkable. The unachievable becomes unachievable. The self-loathing becomes self-love. Realisation happens and the weakness departs to strength.
Strength doesn’t mean being a bastard. Strength is admitting defeat when you are beaten and seeking a solution not limping onward trying to fool yourself and the world. It is a vulnerability that allows connection with the understanding that rejection isn’t personal. It is the ability to seek and find the inward peace that comes with self-realisation. Is life to be spent at the behest of others conforming to the will of the many while poisoning yourself under the guise of fun? I say fuck that. Give me serenity. Give me peace. Give me clean air and compassion. Give me a connection to people, places and things beyond my understanding. Give me open eyes, an open mind and the opportunities that come with them. Give me pain because it reminds me I am still alive. But not too much pain eh?
I have to write these things. The words build up inside me demanding to be read. I get frustrated that I can’t show everyone the road I’ve/we’ve endured to get a day of serenity after years of misery. Maybe we need rock bottoms. Janis Joplin once sang “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose” maybe that’s it. Maybe when it gets so bad that the need for recovery outweighs the social expectations that we are truly free. Without repercussions, the life we call normal is acceptable no matter how much unnecessary pain we endure. When did we, as a society, accept that misery is the accepted norm as long as we are pursuing happiness amongst it? Sobriety has flipped that for me. The good days outweigh the bad 9 to 1. In the old days, it was 99% bad especially towards the end. It wasn’t all bad in the early days as there were few repercussions and without repercussions from our drinking, there is no need to face reality. With only minor blips on the road of life, it continues to paint an image of sustainable normality. Unfortunately, for many, myself included the repercussions all came together. Drinking had been holding back the tide. I wish I would have had the courage to face reality a little sooner than I did. But you can’t change the past… only the future!
The change starts with that one decision, that today, I will try something new. I will try to not repeat the cycle that has plagued me. I will shake off the shackles and liberate myself from the baggage that no longer has any meaning. I will desist from being unhappy for the sake of expectation. One day at a time I will make peace with my failings and realise that they are part of who I am. There is no perfection only progress and that progress is measured in many ways.
Yesterday, I woke up feeling peace. I lit an incense stick, cleaned my window and watched the world go by. It was a beautiful start to the day and then I got on with work. That single moment is why I don’t drink. I used to wake up in strange places with strange thoughts. I stank of shame, drink and sweat. I’m happy that isn’t my normal anymore.
Let the new normal be one of growth, clarity and connection. It is in your power to make it happen. You just don’t realise it… yet.