2372 days, one day at a time. That’s how long it’s been since I last drank alcohol. The time has passed quickly. The initial panic of the early days of sobriety is a distant memory. Those lonely days of uncertainty. And second-guessing every decision. The fog slowly clearing to reveal a world that I lived in but was never present in. I had been floating through life on a wave of alcohol. I would like to suggest that I was surfing this wave but I doubt anybody quits drinking because things are going well. It was the wave ending that made me hit the land with a bump. A foggy head and unsteady legs. No longer driven forward by the power of alcohol. It was up to me to start taking steps.
Quitting drinking was so scary that I wanted to drink to escape the fear. But where had that got me? Nowhere! That’s what I’d been doing my whole life; Freewheeling. My life wasn’t unmanageable it was unmanaged. I had to start taking responsibility. That’s the scary part. Being accountable for my behaviour. No more “I was drunk!” get out of jail free card. My problems needed sorting. But looking at them as a whole was anxiety-inducing. I didn’t know where to start. So I did what was suggested to me at the time; “One day at a time.” So I just tried to not drink one day at a time. In fact, it was more like five minutes at a time at the start. Then it became an hour, a couple of hours and then a day at a time. It was HARD. I was a functioning alcoholic and was scared that without alcohol I wouldn’t function. I didn’t in the beginning. I just got through the best I could.
It got easier. Eventually, I could make plans for the future. But I still just got through a day at a time. Anxiety would rare it’s ugly head every now and then. The unwritten future would send me into a spin. That’s where mindfulness has been a blessing. Remembering to bring it back to the moment. To the day. Like the Buddha said “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” Today is the time to create the future. But the future would control me. Bringing it back to the day reminded me to put the steps in place for a better future.
This didn’t mean there were no hardships. It just meant that when they arose I dealt with them at the time. I had an emotionally abusive relationship that I should have left earlier but denied my intuition. But I learned from it and moved on. Most importantly it was a test and I didn’t drink to get through. There has been love, loss and confusion. It just occurred by keeping it in the day. I didn’t need to seek it out. It came as part of the journey of life. The peace that I have felt by being present is attractive to people. Like a flower to butterflies. It is nice to not have to worry about the future. To sit at peace in a park and watch the moment unfold is a gift. It is a joy to cut out a path of serenity when chaos is all around. It is all available within the moment if we just stop looking for it.
There have been other tests along the road. Anxiety and depression have been lessened but can still make an appearance. Their power is diminished by the decisiveness of doing what needs to be done at that moment. When they do get overwhelming I can fall back on the help available, the friends available and the tools I have learned from the journey thus far. The simpler I keep it the easier it becomes. Life is hard enough without the added pressure from the chaotic thinking that can plague my life. Or if I begin to engage in the chaos of others. It’s hard to keep it in the moment sometimes when the world around is highly strung. But I HAVE to remind myself; it is me who suffers when I start to get dragged along by the madness. First, my peace suffers. Then, I do; emotionally and physically.
Being sober is a tool. It is the key to the jail cell but it still needs to put into use. Each day is the opportunity to plant a seed to help you out in the future. Each day is a step towards a goal. Whether personal growth or accomplishment. It is up to you. It is yours to use as you see fit. Some travel, some learn, many develop a sense of love and connection severely lacking. It is an incredible journey to take. Not always easy but a lot easier than drunken escapism. Which is not “living” but avoiding. It is the opposite of being present.
I have been unbelievably lucky on my journey. I travelled far and wide. Met people who are the foundation of my recovery. I have a sense of peace that is addictive. Recently I have begun to feel an overwhelming sense of love and connection to myself and the world. It was been an incredible 2372 days but really there has only ever been one day. The one I was living at the time. It is that day where the work is done. That is where the action is put in place. That is where I learn, love, connect and grow. There is no tomorrow. It is always today. It is hard not to engage in the thinking of tomorrow. But the worry is what brings uncertainty.
When I drank I lived on the coat tales of the next drink. Never present. Either reliving the night before with a sense of trepidation over some unknown action. Or fighting the obsession of alcohol. I was only ever at peace when alcohol calmed my chaotic mind. But the calm is available without the alcohol. Joy is abundant without alcohol. True love for the self and others. A deep connection to the world. It is all available right in front of us if we just stop searching and start observing.
My recent dip in mood has abated. But it reinforced the importance of enjoying the moment. It was a harsh reminder that the future cannot be planned, built and lived all at once. It unfolds like the petals of a flower. The beauty is revealed slowly. Forcing life destroys it.
Inner peace is like a beautiful rare bird that has landed in our garden. But instead of appreciating its presence, we wonder how we can make it come back. After it’s gone we didn’t get to enjoy it’s wonder.
All I can do is be patient and observe. On the tube to work the other morning I was overwhelmed with a feeling of unconditional love. A warm feeling in my chest slowly spread throughout me. Thankfully, I was wearing a face mask because it hid a huge smile on my face. I was present. I was happy. Most importantly I was sober. I can’t fix everything today but I can take the steps to make the next today a little easier.
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