Down but never out. Once awash with alcohol. Drowning in a sea of chaos. Stranded and lost. Bereft of hope. It seemed impossible. Stuck in a cycle of destruction wishing for the end while fighting for life. The way to break a cycle is to introduce change. It doesn’t have to be extreme.
A small positive step is a catalyst for big things. A minor alteration is a nudge towards the path of safety and away from the cyclic behaviour that keeps us trapped in the madness.
“A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step”
It can be anything. From cutting down the chocolate to quitting drinking. Something. Anything that can set the journey in motion. Life doesn’t get better by doing the same things that make it shit. Some things we have to accept; work, tax, bills, people who want to steal our peace. But that doesn’t mean we should compound issues by making it harder for ourselves. Life is hard enough. Why create further chaos?
One day, I was sitting on the side of the motorway. My car had broken down. My body wasn’t far behind. My life was on life support. I was financially, mentally and physically ruined. I was in that dark sea, lost, abandoned and ultimately scared. I had known change was needed for years but I just hoped it would get better. Life doesn’t get better by doing the same things that make it shit. But I was lucky. The night before I had been told to stop drinking by a doctor. “You’ve got an enlarged liver. Stay off the drink for two weeks and it should be fine.” I wasn’t so scared of dying. I was scared of the health implications that would stop me drinking in the future. So I did the two weeks. Fuck it was hard. My head was a turbulent barrage of noise. The flood gates were opened for the things I’d been drinking to block out. I hadn’t been a nice person. I was reminded by the vitriol that burned its way across my brain. I didn’t think I would survive without a drink. I thought the chaos would consume me with the protective shield of alcohol. But I HAD to do two weeks. Or I may never be able to drink again.
“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”Charles Bukowski
The storm slowly blew its self out. Chaos turned to boredom. A dangerous temptress is boredom. Alcohol alleviates boredom by making the mundane manageable. It presents nothing as something and the banal as entertaining. The quickest way out of boredom is an escape. Alcohol is the great escape.
I would sit at home twiddling my thumbs waiting for something magical to happen. Waiting for this thing called “life” to knock on my door and invite me out to play. It never came. Life is happening all the time. I had to choose to join in. I had to go looking for it. I didn’t know at first. I would spend my Friday nights reading books and condemning myself to a life of misery. Social media was the reminder of what I was missing out on. Images of fun times awash with alcohol were like the ex-partner who went on to have a great time without me. Yeah, I was jealous. Bitter even. That my life had been reduced to drinking tea and reading books whilst the world was out living the dream. The memory of the lonely moment on the motorway was a reminder of where it had taken me. It wasn’t a dream. It was my worst fucking nightmare. The fact I had to sit in and read books. The fact I couldn’t drink alcohol was caused by alcohol. I am an addict.
After the two weeks were up, I had a bit more money in my pocket. I’d had sleep that led me to feel refreshed. People had commented that I was looking a bit better. I felt a bit better too. I vowed to carry on. Another two weeks. It carried on like this for months. But I quickly realised that sitting at home waiting for a magical change to occur would slowly lead me back to a place I didn’t want to be. I started the small steps. Walking to be precise. Boy, was I unfit? But walking got me out of the house and out of my head. I started eating a bit better thanks to the money I had saved from drinking. I started drinking water by choice. Not for the fact, my mouth tasted like I had eaten a car battery like it did most mornings after drinking. I just kept it simple. There was no grand plan. No expectation. I just wondered where it would take me. I knew where alcohol had taken me. So I was inquisitive to know where sobriety would lead. If it was shit then I could always go back to drinking, was my train of thought. Nothing to lose really. It was just a break to let my liver heal. A gift. It had put up with so much punishment.
The plans came slowly. The freedom of sobriety was revealed in stages. Better health initially, then better finances and then improved mental health. All I did was those small steps. Read books. Went to AA meetings when I needed support. Just to get me around people if I’m honest. It helped. Slowly there were options. People invited me to places other than the pub. I had the money for the flights. I had time to learn the guitar and the piano. I fed the hunger for alcohol with positivity and growth. I abated the yearning to drink with positive distractions. Eventually, the yearning for positive distractions and growth overtook the yearning to drink. Alcohol drifted into the history books of my life. But like all crazy ex’s; it has the potential to destroy my life if I romanticise the old times and think it will be different the next time. It won’t. Forget it. It’s done.
It isn’t a destination, sobriety. It isn’t a day of awakening. It is a step by step journey into the potential we didn’t dare to pursue. Quitting drinking is the path to connection. To a life beyond our wildest dreams. It is a journey. With bumps in the road but ultimately they are bumps in a road I would rather be on. Drinking was an option if sobriety was dull and I still haven’t taken that option so it must have something. And what it is are options. Peace. Fulfillmentment. Growth. Love. Connection. All things I yearned for amid my addiction but could never understand why there were so illusive.
My journey has been fun. Fuck that. IT HAS BEEN AMAZING. I have explored the world. I have made a connection to myself and others in ways that I never thought possible. I have overcome adversity. And even in those dark times, I would rather be unhappy sober than have a drink. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know, I don’t know what will.
I was forced to quit drinking by my body. I was lucky that I had the nudge onto a path of positivity. But was still sceptical of living a life without alcohol. Which is why I probably took small steps along the way. I could never have envisioned what those incremental steps would lead to.