Towards the end of my drinking, the thought of the future chilled me to my core. Imagining another five years, living the way I was, made me want to cry. Another year, the same as the previous year, made me want to drink. Alcohol stopped the thinking but caused the negativity. It was a cycle of destruction. I couldn’t take the punishing effects of alcohol but didn’t know how to stop. I didn’t want to stop. Getting sober seemed worse.
A life without alcohol seemed dull. Lifeless. A bleak, boring reality with no escape. What I didn’t realise was that I could create a life that no longer needed escape. That peace was available without alcohol. That by removing the thing I obsessed about, I could calm the obsessing. I didn’t know this until I HAD to venture into the unknown. It was, do or die.
Sometimes a leap of faith is what is needed to get us out of a situation. A jolt out of routine and a fall into the unknown can be the difference between life and death.
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”Terrance Mckenna
A future without alcohol can be hard to accept. It can be daunting. The illusion of becoming a pariah can be fearful enough to stop change. A lonely, sober Saturday night is enough to make people want to drink. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Sobriety can feel like an illusionary life. The positives can be hard to accept. Especially after a life of things going wrong. Time passes at such a pace that moments begin to blur into one long scene. But eventually, I had to accept that it has turned out far better than I could have imagined. The unknown contained far more positives than negatives. I just couldn’t even begin to imagine them.
The fear of loneliness was removed by the support that was available right from the start. Phone numbers. People reaching out and pulling me from the murky waters of addiction. I thought it was a journey that I would have to walk alone. A struggle against the odds. A fight that would make me or break me. On the contrary, the journey has been one of connection, growth, learning, love and understanding. Realisation and awakening. Of course, there have been hardships but they have lost the impetus that they would have had under the magnifying power of alcohol.
I thought alcohol was what kept me alive and saved me from the chaos inside my head. I was a functioning alcoholic. I didn’t function despite the alcohol. I believed I functioned because of it. But alcohol wasn’t saving me. Alcohol was what sinking me. Sobriety saved me. The journey into the unknown was thrust upon me. Yes, it was scary. But slowly the panic subsided. I begin to enjoy life. The ominousness of the future gave way to potential. Soon, there were signs of hope. There were green shoots where there had once been a barren wasteland. The odd “pink cloud,” connected me to a feeling I had sought in addiction; PEACE. Yes, there were still problems. Without alcohol, it was easier to find a solution. And to the other problems, I had no control over? I could just remove myself from the equation. And still do.
The worry of the things that could go wrong had previously stopped me from pursuing the things that could go right. A recurring life of shame, guilt, remorse and self-loathing tainted the path into the future. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The only way to break the chain is to make a change. A continuation of the behaviour that led to feelings of guilt and shame will lead to a continuation of those feelings. To REMOVE the outcome we have to remove the cause.
If drinking leads to the same place often. If it is a place of misery then it is time to stop getting on the crazy train to misery town. The alternative, a life without alcohol, can seem daunting. Frightening even. But I can assure you it gets easier. Don’t expect miracles. Expect change. And you might just receive miracles. I have been fortunate to find peace in sobriety. My drinking life memories are foggy and broken. The memories from sobriety are vibrant and alive. A reward for the sacrifice of choosing to jump into the unknown.
The only unknowns in my drinking days were which negative situation would be the cause of my shame the following day. I was drinking alcohol but walking in treacle. Stuck. Trapped by an obsession and restricted by the thinking that accompanied it. It doesn’t have to be that way. It takes work. Quitting is not the end. It is the beginning. It is the freedom to choose what you see. But it takes action. Dreams only become reality by taking the steps to make it so. Alcohol is a huge problem. But quitting alone isn’t the solution. It takes steps to clear up the wreckage of the past. It can seem daunting but, often, perception has been warped by the past.
There have been occurrences along the way that I couldn’t even begin to have comprehended back then. Things such as accepting happiness and being deserving. The cycles of destruction made it hard to accept the construction of contentment. In the early days of sobriety, I would often destroy my positive thinking through a combination of habit and fear. I was scared that it was a mistake to feel okay. I didn’t think I deserved to be happy. I was convinced that it was a lie and my old life would be revealed. It never materialised in the way it had been before. If you would have asked me during my drinking days when the last time I cried because I was happy, I wouldn’t have been able to answer. This morning I was walking through the park. I could hear the birds and feel the breeze. The sun was shining and with a smile, I thought “You done good, lad.” It was a simple beauty that made me want to cry. I never thought I could view myself in this way. From the negative destructive cycles of low self-worth to inner contentment, that is not what I expected from this journey. A feeling of simple joy was unimaginable to the lonely alky twitching with anxious desperation all those years ago.
Who knows what the future brings. All I know is that if I don’t drink then it will be far better then if I do. Cyclic escapism of alcohol is a large price to pay for temporary relief. Sobriety is a small price to pay for the reward of peace.
Peace in its self was elusive back then. Now it is available through the practices that I have learned over the last six and a half years; meditation, time in nature, reaching out to friends, exercise, personal growth, facing my inner demons. It seemed daunting back then. It seemed impossible. A life without alcohol contained too many unknowns. What I have realised is that most of them didn’t come true. And far more positive ones have occurred. Not just materialistic things but things I couldn’t comprehend. An inner peace. Feeling at ease with myself. A sense of achievement and accomplishment. I have circumnavigated the obstacle that stopped me from achieving my goals; myself.
I was a victim back then. I was waiting for life to fall into my lap. I was often disappointed that it never materialised which only served to feed the mindset that I was being punished somehow. Night after night. Week after week. Angry at the hand life had dealt me.
When I stopped the childish attitude of entitlement I began to receive things I needed. When I admitted my part in my demise there were people on hand to help. If it wasn’t for the people who supported me, I would still be at the bar fighting the same battle I had for years before. Fearful of change. Hoping for a miracle. Not realising that all I had to do to find it was put down the drink. Retire my pathetic pride and ego. And dare to leap into the unknown. Thankfully I did.
I quit drinking to stop from dying early. What I got was a chance to live a life beyond my wildest dreams. I can guarantee that the unknowns are just that and they aren’t all negative. I know where the road I used to walk daily would take me. It is the path to misery. The road less travelled takes me places I couldn’t begin to imagine. To experiences, I couldn’t even dream. And to realisations that have freed me from the bondage of obsession.