It came from someone that had known me for a good few years. We had met whilst I was in the madness of addiction. We where two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl full of vodka. She isn’t an alcoholic. She has her crosses to bear. We were mixed up in different ways. She had seen me at my worse and witnessed the change over the years. A few weeks ago she asked, “How did you get from where you where to where you are?” It was the greatest compliment I ever received. It was the outside confirmation that I had made the right choices and was walking a good path. It was another high five from a sober life.
Where I was? Chaos! Inner chaos spilling out into my daily life. I was a child operating a man’s body. Like a Russian doll with a few inner pieces missing. Or so I thought at the time. I kept a well-built barrier to protect the facade. The thought of getting found out was fear-inducing enough to try to keep the false perception alive. I was only fooling myself though. Everyone saw straight through it. A few saw the vulnerability. A few saw arrogance. I pretended not to care what people thought. It was partially true. But only because I was so focused on keeping the chaos at bay. Anxiety medicated by alcohol is anxiety with an angry hangover.
Some people are drawn together by their madness. Their chaotic energy just matches. Two storms don’t cancel each other out though. They create a bigger storm. It wasn’t destined to end well. We stayed in contact. She has had an intermittent perspective on my recovery. Dipped in and out of my journey out of the madness and into a form of serenity. She has witnessed a transformation from chaos to peace. From anxious arrogance to confidence. From fear to adventure. To have that appreciated is a testament to the life-altering decision quitting drinking is.
I just knew I wanted to change in the early days. I wanted to be less anxious and calmer. I wanted peace. I wanted to be comfortable with who I was. Basically, I wanted all the things that alcohol promised but only delivered on a temporary basis. I wanted to have learned something from life. Enough, hopefully, to help out others. To be of service. And to offer support. It was nice to be asked for advice. Especially after being lost for so long.
Quitting drinking isn’t just for us. It is for the people around us. Quitting drinking is a gift to friends, family, lovers and colleagues. It is the hope that is much needed in a world that is often shrouded in pessimism. It is the light that guides others on a foggy night. It is wearing the scars of life and explaining how others can avoid the same mistakes. What a gift it is. What a pleasure it is to be lost and then to be able to throw a helping hand out to others. To develop from an empty shell to a sense of wholeness. To be able to be present and offer guidance. To show genuine love. To have care and compassion. To savour just a moment of life, no matter how fleeting, as a wonderful thing. To see genuine beauty where there was only unsightliness. To become a master of your own universe. No longer kicked around by the torrent of chaos that alcohol creates and cures in equal measure. It is available to us all. It takes work. It takes time. It takes perseverance and belief. But through incremental nudges in the right direction a metamorphosis takes place. Unnoticeable to us but noticeable to others. We just select the characteristics we desire and work on developing them. Eventually, others confirm we have become that person.
It is tricky to believe that things will get better after years of things getting worse. It is hard to be optimistic after another failure. It is nearly impossible to express self-love after a life of shame and guilt. BUT all those things can develop. I know because people have been there. Now people ask for my advice. I once couldn’t manage my own life let alone anyone else’s. The fact that people now think I can help them is the greatest compliment. I was once so lost I didn’t even know what path I was supposed to be walking. I would seek answers everywhere. I would cling to anything that I thought could save me from myself. Relationships would often be toxic but toxic is all I knew. I was desperate. I was hopeless. But eventually, I was found.
Many years ago I was given a St Christopher medal that had belonged to my late grandad. I lost it whilst drunk. I chastised my drunken foolishness for a long time. I ruminated over the fact and used it as another thing to drink to forget. The thought of replacing it felt like cheating. It would always be a reminder of my stupid mistake or like I was trying to change the past. I never did replace it. Until recently that is. Not with a St Christopher, a St Anthony. He is the patron St of lost things. Especially lost souls. It came with free engraving of up to six words. I chose “The lost soul is found.” It is a reminder that no matter how lost we are, we can find our way back. It takes honesty, mostly with ourselves. It takes moving our ego aside and admitting defeat. It means accepting weakness. It means tough choices and loss. It means looking at things we wished to forget. It means clearing the wreckage of the past and lightening the load for the future. It means liberation from old behaviours and the lessening of shame. It means self-love and self-respect. It means taking responsibility and being accountable. It means strength and decisiveness. It means people will look to you for help. It means that people may ask “How did you get from where you where to where you are?”
I’m not sure there is a greater compliment than that. I know that there isn’t much more proof that quitting drinking was the right choice.