Many people, myself included, drank alcohol to escape themselves. Or in some instances to try to be someone else. The thought of being a different person is often fuelled by a deep self-loathing. Possibly from some trauma. Or through repetition of negative sayings. This could be from a family member. Or even sensitivity to the cultural messages that bombard us with images of perfection that instil inferiority daily. The negative message becomes an inner mantra. Over time it is adopted as fact.
Whatever the cause, alcohol is the escape mechanism. Anxiety coupled with shyness was my burden. I didn’t know about the anxiety but drank alcohol to gain the confidence to overcome the shyness. What I discovered was that alcohol actually switched off my thinking. Silenced the negativity. The peace I found internally was as addictive as the alcohol I imbed to find it. I never did find the confidence I was seeking from alcohol. I was more interested in escaping myself than becoming someone else. Unfortunately, all too often, I did become someone else. Not a very nice person either. Alcohol didn’t switch off my negative thinking. It diverted the hatred outside. The spite would be projected onto unfortunate victims and passed off as a joke. Banter. It was nothing of the sort. It was the down beating of others to elevate my non exist self-worth. It didn’t work. It only fuelled the fire of self-hatred even more.
Over time a chasm grew between my body and mind. Alcohol was the wedge that divided me internally. I welcomed this fragmentation of myself. I despised who I saw in the mirror most mornings. I loathed my lack of self-control. I berated my lack of strength and condemned myself as weak. Although, neither was true. I was wrapped in a ceaseless cycle of addiction. A fear-induced obsession that preyed on my discontent and multiplied it. As problems stacked up, so did the empty bottles. With no self-worth, there were no solutions for fear of consequences. So hiding was my stock response. My life wasn’t just unmanageable. It was unmanaged. I was an observer in my own life. I was out of control but desperate for a solution. I only knew escape.
With quitting drinking I was met with life. Emotionally, I was still a child. My coping mechanism was to hide. Like the shy child that used to hide behind his mothers’ apron. I was still that child. Fearful and scared. I had never dealt with life. I’d constructed a false front of strength built on a foundation of bullshit. It had to be destroyed. It had to be stripped down and rebuilt. I had to learn to live. I had to learn how to do… life. But most importantly I had to learn to become one again. All the years of disconnect had made me fearful of myself. I mean who wants to spend the rest of their life with someone they hate? There were two options as far as I could see; learn to love or learn to cope. I tried to cope with self-hatred. Swapped the alcohol for other obsessions. Anything that gave a kick and got me out of my head for a bit. Anything that allowed me to ignore the negativity and find peace. It works. But is temporary. Any escape can only be short-lived. Afterwards, I always returned to the self. Back to the battlefield of my mind. Trying to make sense of the turmoil. Only to then start looking for the next escape. The next distraction from the crazy washing machine mind I had.
Fighting myself was tiring. Exhausting even. This coupled with the physical escape led me to crash often. Only to pick up the pieces and do it again. I was in the same cycle. Searching for a solution. It was the same behaviour just without the alcohol. I began to meditate. Walk in nature. Read spirituality. Again searching for a solution to this crazy brain. Meditation helped. But slowly my brain would speed up and I would have to meditate again. Stopping to meditate every time I need to isn’t feasible in reality. I can’t just stop working every time I need to meditate. I would be meditating more than working. I would basically be getting paid to meditate.
I have come to realise that I am still doing the same behaviour. Still searching for a solution. Still searching for an escape. Whether it is alcohol, shopping, porn, sex, love, meditation or exercise. I am using it to alter the way I feel. But it always comes back to the self. My head is still on my shoulders and it still contains my crazy brain.
Instead of trying to alter myself, I have started to accept. When I am running to maintain my health I repeat the mantra; I am enough, I am good enough, I have value. It’s just a form of affirmation. It’s still difficult to accept that I may be enough. But through repetition, it is starting to become a reality. The void I felt inside for most of my life is starting to close. The emptiness is beginning to be replaced with a feeling of connection. The great divide that alcohol gave is starting to close. It is finally a feeling of reconnection.
Acceptance has been the only answer I have found so far that gives oneness. I have walked many paths in the pursuit of answers only to discover they weren’t the correct ones. It has been a great lesson. The depression I felt recently was the catalyst for change. The closure of the airports due to the pandemic cut off my access to travel and forced me to face the final missing piece of the jigsaw. Only to realise it wasn’t missing at all. It was with me. It was in me. I just had to get through the self-hatred and accept that I am not perfect. But I am enough.
I still meditate but no longer to escape but to observe. To understand. To acknowledge the negative and the positive. To remind me that whatever is happening all I can do is my best. No matter where I am, my head is with me. So I need to make it into a friend I want to be with. Because life is hard enough without fighting myself every day. I am not great. But I am good enough. That is hard to accept but it is true of us all.
Alcohol gave me the disconnect I needed to get through life when it was needed. Quitting drinking was the great reconnect that I was hoping to find all along.
Remember you are enough, you are good enough and you have value. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Including yourself.
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