Death scares the shit out of many people. Nihilists, on the other hand, think that life doesn’t matter, as we are pointlessly spiralling to the inevitable ceasing of existence. The last person alive will utter the words “Well, that was all a waste of time,” as humanity disappears. It could be true, I haven’t witnessed the end of time. What is certain is that I will cease to be. Eventually.
“We each have two lives. The second begins When we realize we have only one.”Confucius
For many years, I thought that I wouldn’t make it to thirty years old. I was convinced that I would have drunk myself to death in some kind of heroic martyrdom. Which would really have been the death of sad, lonely drunk. I nearly achieved it. My body started to fail. I drank because I was scared of living. In the end, I was scared of dying. There were places in the world I would still like to visit before either heaven or hell. It was a wise choice. I had a great time and saw some wonderful things. My only regret? That I didn’t do it sooner. I had wanted to do it for years. I was waiting for the “right” moment to arise. Or for the “right” person to travel with me. I waited, life passed me by. I got older. I got sober and sick of waiting, so I went.
What I realised is that the “right” moment was the moment I went. Also, it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed. It could have gone horribly wrong. It could have been miserable. There was only one way to find out. If I had put off travelling until 2020 it wouldn’t have been possible and who knows about next year. I would be back to waiting for the right moment again.
It’s comforting playing it safe, but there is a strangeness fighting for certainty in a life that is so uncertain. Fighting to have control over the ever-changing nature of reality seems like a huge amount of energy to waste. Fluidity and adaptability are key. A goal with a flexible approach is pressure releasing. Anxiety and stress can be limited without the pressure of self-imposed expectation and rigidity.
“I can point the ship but I can’t control what’s in the water. All I can do is act accordingly.”
I know of many people who make wonderful plans for retirement only to never make it or not be able to do it. They delay happiness for an illusionary future where everything is wonderful. Unfortunately, it never arrives. The can is always kicked down the road. Happiness is a shadow on the horizon that will one day be reached. But never is. They are waiting for life to take them by the hand. Just like I was.
I’m not suggesting that everyone can drop everything and follow their dreams. In some cases, it’s not possible. All I’m suggesting is that whilst I was waiting for that day to arrive life was passing me by. I was trapped by my own misery. A prisoner to my own negativity. In the end, I made a plan but started enjoying my day to day life as well. Instead of banking on a “happy day” to arrive. I started nudging myself towards a better life.
It’s easy to get drawn into the pessimism that is emanating from every news channel. Fear and hate being constantly driven into our psyche. Thus forcing us to cling to the safety of the pretend security. As a result, we become more risk-averse. I sold my dreams for alcohol. I couldn’t travel because I drank every night. I couldn’t imagine changing. I was stuck. I was miserable as fuck to boot. My only escape from the inner turmoil came in the fleeting moments of joy in the products and chemicals I consumed. I borrowed money to block out the misery. I borrowed happiness from the future. Eventually, I reached that future. I can assure you, it took it’s happiness back… with a hefty interest added.
What made me get the motivation to follow a dream? Firstly, quitting drinking liberated me from the dependence on alcohol and then introspection allowed for the re-establishing of a connection to my intuition.
I would visualise laying on my death bed and looking back over my life. What, as an old man, would I regret not doing in life? Travel. The answer was always the same. So I made it happen. I sacrificed and saved. I admitted that there would be no hand-holding and would have to go for it. It was to prove a point. Well many points really. As well as ticking off that box. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. That as a man approaching his forties, I am no longer the coward who made excuses and pointed fingers, ten years ago. It would also prove that the work I had done in sobriety had changed me and had been worth it.
“Did travelling make me happier in the long run? It was an amazing experience. When I am older, my dreams will have been achieved. My greatest memory will still be the decision to quit drinking.”
I spent a large part of my life in the pub or at work. I didn’t want that to be my final memory. I don’t want my life to be one long drunken stupor. I don’t want my dying memory to be one of a wasted life. Wasted potential and empty dreams. One long sorrowful scene of a lonely man dreaming empty dreams in an empty pub. That’s how it got in the end. I didn’t want it to be my future. I didn’t want that to be my life. I didn’t want to be the person that was always “going” to do something. Or nearly did something. I used to hear those tales in pubs over the years. Fragments of lived lives told in stories of partial heroics. “I nearly played for Chelsea,” “Should have seen me the other night, I nearly smacked this geeza,” “Yeah, I was gonna do that. Something came up, though.” It always does. Don’t be a nearly ran. It is better to fail at trying than fail to try.
I would love to think reincarnation exists but I can’t take a chance that I’ll get it right in the next life.
I was lucky. I was jarred into action by life. It shook me from my automatic mode. Until this point, I had been a puppet blaming an imaginary puppeteer for his failings. I had to accept that I had control. Which was hard. I had spent my life making excuses. The phrase “I was drunk,” was my get out of jail card for any bad behaviour. Almost as if there were two versions of me and sober me wasn’t accountable for the actions of the drunk me. To get where I wanted to be emotionally, mentally and physically, I had to accept that I was responsible for my life. To become the drunk version of me, sober me had to drink. I had to own my actions. This meant failure was on my shoulders also. I hated the thought of failure. Not because of the internal implications but because of the external implications. “What would people think?” was a recurring stumbling block for my actions. Realising that failure was just a lesson to learn was the beginning. A “Who gives a fuck what people think?” mindset was the key to unlock my chains. The realisation that “One day, I will fucking die” got me up and running into destiny.
I used to use the mantra that “I could be dead tomorrow,” as the excuse for my drinking. I thought it made me some kind of cool nihilist with no real concerns. Really, it made me a coward because I was too scared to have a go. I would rather get drunk and talk shit with other cowards than take a chance. Eventually, I had to take a chance at sobriety because I couldn’t handle the lifestyle anymore. I couldn’t handle the nonsense and loneliness. I couldn’t manage the illusion anymore. It began to crush me.
Something had to change… ME.
It seems strange that I waited for change and it came in the way of near-complete destruction. This is the point I needed to be at before I realised that I could be happy. That in this short time between being born and not existing I can have moments of joy. I don’t have to treat myself like shit and feel bad. I carried around the past and tortured myself for no reason. Hitting rock bottom woke me from my slumber. I seized the opportunity to get right. Don’t wait for that bottom to come up and meet you. Don’t wait for life to make choices for you. One day you will fucking die. If you are lucky you will get to reflect on life. You will get to see the memories you made and the moments you cherished. Hopefully, that moment will be one of love and joy. Not anguish and regrets… life’s too short for that.