Alcohol was my life. My love. My everything. Sad, on reflection. At the time it was my one-stop-shop for life.
I couldn’t imagine quitting. “What would be the point of life?” I would ask sincerely. It’s pathetic to look at now. Being an alcoholic for me was like running around a maze in a panic. All the while ignoring the giant sign that said “Exit”. Just because I was too scared to imagine leaving the maze.
“How am I going to do XYZ?” The thought of doing anything without a drink was frightening enough to make me want to drink. It seemed impossible. I mean life was pretty boring anyway. It was going to be ten times worse without a drink. What would be the point in working? I only worked to earn money to buy booze. If I didn’t need booze then I didn’t need a job? What would I do?
The answer? Anything and fucking EVERYTHING. I can do (within reason) anything.
I thought quitting drinking would be restrictive. It was liberating. I thought it would be boring. It has been exhilarating. I thought I would wither and die. I have only got stronger. I thought my life would have no meaning. But I have learned that I GIVE it meaning. Where I focus my attention is where I find meaning. I used to float through life hoping for divine intervention. I have learned that I can take action. I can pick and choose.
It isn’t always strawberries and cream. There are moments of darkness. Feelings of discontent and unhappiness. I’ve learned these will pass. They seem like they won’t but they do. And if not then I know I can reach out. More often than not the feeling of discontent is a message. Or my intuition spurring me on. My inner drive reminding me that life is fleeting and sitting idol, watching life pass is not good. This connection internally can be raw. Unpleasant even. As harsh realisations are felt. But the strength developed from quitting drinking allows them to wash over me. Thankfully they are few.
Trusting myself took time. Being in a foreign country alone was the first step. I realised that anything negative that could happen would not be a result of my behaviour. It was a good feeling. Over time this grew. I began to pick goals and aim for them. It was incredible. I thought that I would be trapped by quitting drinking. When I had been restricted by drinking. My life revolved around drinking. If I went anywhere there had to be drinking involved. If there wasn’t a bar then I would have to be allowed to take cans. If not I didn’t go. A can of lager was my emotional support item. It got me through life.
If alcohol was my meaning for life then I had no meaning. I lived a purposeless life. I worked. I drank. I slept. That was it. It was hell. I denied my potential. Stunted my growth. Why? FEAR. Of becoming who I wanted to be. Of being where I wanted to be. Of failing. It was bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. If I fail, I go again. But wiser. To progress, I have to try. To find direction I have to take action. Sitting around with my thumb up my arse, moaning about life, is no help to anyone. I have to pick a path and walk it. When I realise it’s not for me anymore I don’t just desert it. I try to make it work. If it doesn’t? That I pick a new path. A new hobby. A new route to growth. It isn’t for any other reason than to find out what I can do. To see what I am made of I have to be tested. To know what I like and what I am good at I have to try new things.
There is no shortcut to getting to contentment. Like getting healthy after a life of hedonism; it takes effort and perseverance. NO ONE can do it for you. It takes inner and outer work. Peeling back the layers of shit that have built over the years like on an old oven. Daring to question. Daring to winkle out those desires and dust off the dreams. To realise that the cage I inhabited was merely a perception. And one of my creation. It was a great awakening.
To be able to erect boundaries after being a doormat was welcome. No more being trampled by life. Taking shit and feeling resentment for not speaking my piece. That was the old me. Standing in the pub drinking while slagging off the person who I “should have” said something to. Now I walk tall. Proud. Of daring to make a change. Of daring to fail. It is this that gives life meaning. Not material possessions. Not to me. It is the realisation of the potential I have and the ability to tap into it. It is the potential to make decisions and be prepared to deal with the outcome; positive or negative. It is the knowledge that emotions will come and go. Hard times will pass. That no matter what there is no need to run back to the bottle. In the hope that life magically changes for the better. Only to wake up and realise that it is the same if not worse. To break the funk I had to break from the cycle. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Nothing changes if I am not prepared to change!
Life might seem worse without alcohol. Life might be boring. You might be lonely and isolated from your friends. You might find yourself sitting in on a Friday night reading a book with a cup of herbal tea, alone. Thinking what the fuck am I doing? Getting well is what I was doing. I did it because drinking alcohol was pure misery for me. Every time. I was constantly perplexed how it wasn’t fun anymore but I carried on because I refused to leave the maze.
The world exists outside. Life exists. Family. Friends. Connection. It is all there to give life some sort of meaning. To feel part of something. To feel something. Instead of that deadened state. In a dead-end life.
I used to think living for alcohol was meaning. Since I dared to try another way I have learned alcohol is a meaningless waste of life. That’s why I can never go back. There is so much more to life. And me. And you. Than alcohol allowed me to realise. The moments I drank to escape, I now look forward to. Brief moments of alone time and peace. Just enough time to ask if I am doing okay if I am happy where I am heading and if not find out why. It is in these moments I remember to get up and search out the meaning. If I never find it I can look back and realise the journey and the exploration, was the meaning. That each new day is another lesson. And like all lessons; to learn, I have to be present.