People used to say to me, “go with the flow!” They didn’t see the tide I was trying to hold back inside. The chaos in my mind that I fought daily, threating to consume me. Alcohol made it disappear for a short time. An evening of peace was what alcohol gave. Nightly vacation from myself. But I was only running. Reality always returned the next day.
I drank to escape the problems that were amassing due to my reckless abandon. I would pass off responsibility as boring. I was too cool for that nonsense. I was above that shit. Lies. I was scared of that shit. The thought of having to be responsible petrified me. I just used a false front to hide it. A few beers is what took it away. A few beers made me normal. A few beers was the lie that got me into trouble. I never only had a few. I was perplexed by people who could just have one after work and go home. “What’s the point?” I would often ask inquisitively. People thought I was joking. I was trying to find out how to do it. I couldn’t stop at one. I definitely couldn’t stop after three.
The thought of quitting drinking brought an image of being consumed by the tide I was holding back. I was convinced that without the life raft of alcohol I would drown in my own neurosis. The insanity that I drank to silence would take control. And I would no longer be able to function. I was struggling to function anyway. My world had become a cage. Trapped by an obsession and a need to feed that compulsive desire to block out life. Being drunk silenced my mind. It made me feel “normal,” if only for an evening. It would be insane NOT to drink. Why would I give up the only thing that made me feel well?
Why? Because it wasn’t making me well! It was making me sick.
Focusing on alcohol made it impossible to live on life’s terms. Or go with the flow. I saw no opportunities. I was blinkered by the halo effect. Infatuated by Stockholm syndrome. Life flowed and I stood still, getting ever more worn down by my resistance to change. Eventually, I had to let go and believe that it would be okay. I had to relinquish control and savour the moment. Like having a blindfold removed on a sunny day, it was overwhelming at first. Eventually, my eyes adapted to the clarity of sobriety. I adapted to the opportunities in life. I became someone who I could only have ever dreamed of becoming. I am not perfect. I make mistakes and will always be learning. I believe that things are how they are and all we can do is deal with it the best we can.
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”Albert Ellis
It is easier to make decisions with the clarity that quitting drinking brings. It is easier to see life when I am in the moment. When I am present, I can see the gift of life. It is hard sometimes. The hard times have been the greatest lessons. Without a rock bottom, I would never have quit drinking. Without that pain, I wouldn’t have sought a solution. Without that chaos, I would never have learned the value of peace. The financial chaos that was brought about by addiction taught me the importance of budgeting. The health scares taught me to care for myself better. Most things are out of my control but the things I can control are my responsibility.
Thanks to those lessons I have been able to turn it around. I am grateful for the hardships. I learned that life has peaks and troughs. The good times will pass just like the bad times. Both will happen intermittently. No matter what is happening there is something to be learned. Like the last September, when I was suffering from depression. It was impossible to see anything other than darkness. There was no path to walk. All I could see was hopelessness. Thanks to the people I have met in recovery, friends and family, I was able to get help. Slowly, the feeling lifted. Slowly, I began to see options. Slowly, the world got a bit brighter. If I was still drinking I would have been self-medicating and in denial of both problems. Thankfully, I am much more positive. I’m taking it one day at a time. With alcohol, I would still be fighting an unnecessary battle. Trying to escape myself instead of acknowledging the problem and seeking help. That is the gift of freedom from addiction.
A couple of weeks ago, I was walking down the street and cut down a side street to get out of the wind. As I walked, I noticed two for sale signs on two houses. It seemed like a nice area. I wasn’t particularly looking to buy a house. One was too expensive. One was in my price range and hadn’t been advertised online yet. I thought I might as well arrange a viewing… if all goes well, I should have the keys in a month. It will be mine. I didn’t expect that. It was only possible due to the financial stability of not drinking my life away. And the confidence to take a chance. As a result, I was in the right place at the right time. But I am starting to learn that when I am not drinking each moment is the right place at the right time. There is always something happening. I just need the clarity to see it. Obsessive thinking snatches me from the moment. It transports me to an ideal bar or off-licence that promises dreams but serves nightmares. I lived on the coat tales of the next drink. Now I try to live in the moment. There really is nothing beyond that point anyway. It is just an illusion.
“I can control my destiny, but not my fate. Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one-way street. I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfil our destiny, but our fate is sealed.”Paolo Coelho
I have gone from being afraid of responsibility to seek it out. From fighting life to watching it pass. Understanding that yesterday does not dictate tomorrow. I used to fight to maintain control and eventually realised that I was only fighting myself. I believed that I would die alone on a barstool, lonely and depressed. It may still happen that way but I no longer believe that it is guaranteed like I once did. I thought it was my destiny for alcohol to take my life. I thought it was written in the stars. It was just a psychological trick to keep me trapped.
I gave up trying to control everything in life. Alcohol was one of the things I could no longer control. I stopped trying. I accepted defeat.
When alcohol ceased to flow anymore, life began to.
Here’s to clarity, opportunities and life. Here’s to riding the rough with the smooth and good friends. Here’s to connection and compassion. Here’s to peace and love. Here’s to the ones who dare to try. Here’s to dreams and hope. Here’s to going with the flow and accepting what life brings our way, good or bad. Because I can only point the ship in the direction I want to travel, I can’t control what is in the water.
Life is constantly flowing. Chances, interactions and opportunities arise. Some we take, some we don’t. Some we miss. But more will come. We have to have faith.
With clarity we will see. By being open we can receive. “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”