I had to.
I mean I had a choice. I didn’t HAVE to. There wasn’t a disgruntled wife standing at the door, coat on, screaming startling accurate descriptions of a situation that I couldn’t understand as reality. There was no threat of not seeing my children. There were no prison cells. No real regrets. Only wasted potential. But no more than the average 30-year-old spending his days in a cubicle, earning money for an escape that will never come. There was a financial peril. But that was on the horizon. There were health issues. But that was if, buts and maybes.
I could have carried on if I wanted. And that’s just it; I didn’t want to anymore. It wasn’t as bad as some but it was bad enough. In all honesty, it was the life on the horizon that scared me. If I was scrooge from an alcoholic Christmas carol. And I was visited by three ghosts of alcoholic Christmas. My rock bottom was not a recap of my drunken past. It was the drunken days yet to come. It was bleak. Fuck man it looked bleak. More of the same. I couldn’t be doing with more of the same. I couldn’t handle another fucking pointless conversation dressed up as friendship just to not feel lonely for an evening. Alcohol gave the illusion of a life lived. It also made me forget about a life wasted. I had dreams. I had potential. I had so much to give but was held back by my own shit thinking. The negative, dismissive, failure, “aim for the middle” mindset. I was tired of trying to be less than I was because I was scared of being myself. I was tired of talking a good game and never playing. I was CONVINCED that deep down I could do something with myself. I was a rebel without a clue. I directionless ship in the waters of life waiting for a captain to take control. I got tired of waiting for that to happen. I was tired of waiting for a saviour.
I have asked myself the question “was my life shit because I drank or did I drink because my life was shit?” many times. I believe it was a combination. I was scared of trying. Scared of being different. I drowned the fear in alcohol and pretended to be a one-pound rockstar. Swagger n all. All bravado and bollocks. It was tiring keeping people at arm’s length through the fear of getting found out. It’s such a waste of energy trying to be someone else. Trying to put up an image. I can’t be arsed with that. Not no more.
Has my life improved much since I quit drinking? I don’t have the drunken days yet to come to worry about. There are no shadows on the horizon I have to avoid. I have seen things I once only dreamed of. The confidence I used to fake is now natural. At nearly 40 years old I am probably the fittest I have ever been. I have options; freedom and choice. My head can get a bit carried away with itself sometimes. But my general outlook is better than it was.
I do think that I am at a disadvantage to drinkers though. I have to be in reality 24/7 (except sleep of course). I can’t just get out of it. I can’t just escape to another place for a while. I can’t just switch it off for an evening. It’s not a hardship. It’s just fun to escape sometimes… I can’t do it sometimes though. It becomes all the time lol.
The other disadvantage is hanging around with other non-drinkers. Not wanting to spend my life in the pub means going to places to meet people. Usually AA. This is fraught with heaps of religious nonsense dressed up as some kind of spiritual journey. The problem is that the group adopt the thoughts of the group. Conversations about higher powers and the like drive me insane. Like I said earlier; I was like a captain-less ship waiting for someone to take control. I learned to take control of my life and responsibility for my actions. I grew up. I am not now giving it over to an imaginary figure. In AA I would be called an egotist for such thoughts. So be it.
The most startling realisation about life is that it is just okay. I don’t think that it is wonderful every minute of every day. It isn’t a Disney cartoon. Nor would I want it to be. Continuous happiness would also become normal eventually. Not to mention tiring to maintain. Life is more real than that. It is hours of monotony to earn money so I can pay bills and not starve to death. It is humdrum and cyclic. It is enough to drive people to drink but there are moments. Flashes of light in the darkness. Wonderful moments of simplicity. The stars in the night sky. Birds singing. Squirrels squirrelling. Dog’s happy to be outside. There are love and connection. There are friendship and kindship. Shared experiences. And internal contentment. There are peace and awe. Those are the magic moments. Those are the grandiose luxuries I sought in the guise of grandiose luxuries.
These moments make it worth it. I realised that blocking out life with alcohol blocks out the wonder of life. Alcohol is not selective blindness. It is complete blindness.
Life may not be perfect. Accepting its imperfections stopped me being disappointed. The same thing happening with the way I viewed myself.
Ultimately, quitting drinking is daring to be pricked by the thorns while getting the rose. It is taking the rough with the smooth. Because there has been both emotional and physical pain but they have passed. They have left their mark. I have grown from the experience. Alcohol would have turned those emotions into a stew and they would have simmered. Bubbling away. Day after day. Getting thicker and thicker. More would be added to the broth until the pan spilt over into an eruption of emotion. The process repeated. Physical pain would be drank away. Yet I would get hurt again while oblivious to the pain in a drunken state. And the process would be repeated.
There are numerous forms of escape in our culture but nothing offered the same level of checking out like alcohol. In my drinking days, I used to imagine my head was like an etch a sketch. In the morning I would give my head a shake and what had been drawn on the night before would vanish. Poof. Magic. Last night never happened I would think… until the repercussions.
Being engaged in life can be tiresome and tricky but by being clear-minded it is possible to observe. With this observation, it is easy to see the problems with alcohol in our towns and cities. Those people from street drinkers to office workers wanting an escape don’t see the simplistic wonder that is happening all around them. The escape they crave is the trap they yearn to escape. The simplistic wonder of life is worth far more than an evenings escapism. It may take time to see but it is there.
I quit drinking because I didn’t want the future I was going to end up with.
I stay a non-drinker because it was the right choice.