Sobriety, The Gift of Peace…

In the crazy days of alcohol abuse, life was dramatic. It was chaotic. It was shambolic. Things were significantly worse than they are now. That’s why I had to drink. To battle on through the shitstorm that was raging daily. People, places and things only served to test my resilience. Alcohol was the prop that held me up against the hurricane of life. It brought peace to the war that raged all around. It brought respite from the uphill battle I was facing. Alcohol brought peace to the chaos in the beginning. 

Seeing the negatives in life was the fuel for my denial. The perception of chaos was to escape the fear of facing reality. Alcohol was to escape the fabricated reality. To remove the need to escape, I had to face the reality and understand why I was trying to escape. The only way this was possible was with a clear head. Alcohol had to go.

Life hasn’t changed much since I quit. It is still the same as it was. People, places and things test my patience. Sometimes they get the better of me. That’s life. Sometimes things arise that are unexpected. Life doesn’t always go to plan. No matter how meticulous that plan may seem. It can be difficult relinquishing control and accepting that it may not go the way I want. But accepting that I can only do my bit, instead of trying to control reality is the quickest way to peace. What will be, will be.

Ten years ago, that would not have been my approach. Shit, I used to make mountains out of molehills. Make monsters from mice. Paint the world as an enemy and me as a victim. It was difficult to be victorious whilst playing the victim. It is equally difficult to relinquish control of my thoughts. Recently, I vowed to meditate for 100 days to see if it made a difference. The first 50 days has made a noticeable change. The compartmentalisation of my thoughts is incredible. The ability to observe and acknowledge the punishing potential of thoughts is a gift. It has been so profound that during this period of stress, I have managed to find moments of peace. 

For thirty minutes of meditation a day, I have managed to maintain a sense of clarity. Most of us would say we don’t have time to meditate

As per eMarketer, the average US adult spends 3 hours and 43 minutes on their mobile devices. That’s roughly 50 days a year. 3. And the average screen time in the UK stands at 3 hours 23 minutes per day as per CodeComputerLove.

Screen Time Statistics 2020: Your Smartphone Is Hurting You (elitecontentmarketer.com)

I made time to meditate because I was coming off the back of a bout of depression. I thought meditation may help and thankfully it has. It didn’t cure but it has helped find some balance. It has been beyond my expectation. I am at day 50 and feel relatively calm a lot of the time. My mind in those drinking days was a ceaseless storm. Now it is like a crisp spring morning with a cool breeze that reminds me I am alive. There are moments of elevated anxiety but ultimately it is manageable. 

The biggest benefit I have noticed from the meditation is the ability to reign my thoughts back to the moment. Previously, my thinking would go walkabout. Before, my mind was like a dog in a park, off its lead, having a wonderful time, ignoring the repeated shouts of its owner. Now, it is a dog on a retractable lead. It can go so far and then I can pull it back. If I start to envisage the future. Or notice a train of thought that serves no other purpose than to cause unnecessary pain. I can pull it back to the moment. It is a gift. All it takes is a little time and practice.

Meditation is the medication I sought in alcohol. It is the access to peace I sought in alcohol but without the negative consequences. Much like alcohol, I have to be a repeat user to get the benefits but it is a practice I am happy to partake in. So, far I haven’t withdrawn £100 at 1am to carry on meditating. I often did that whilst drinking.

The practice has allowed me to notice temptation trying for my attention. Sitting silently, it is possible to feel the yearning to check Facebook. Watch TV. Anything that would take me out of the moment. It is strong sometimes. Like a child pulling at my sleeve demanding to be entertained. Thankfully, it is now possible to let it pass. I am not perfect. Temptation often gets the better of me. I don’t give myself a hard time. I just meditate again the next day. 🙂

It is clear that the chaos I felt in my life as an alcoholic was just the externalisation of the inner chaos. Alcohol was the white flag of surrender to the war that raged inside. Slowly throughout the day, the alcohol would wear off. The inner chatter would increase. As if the volume was at a 1 when I woke up but then, hourly, it would go up a level. By the afternoon, the noise inside was unbearable. My only option was to drink again until the noise went quiet. The cycle repeats. The chaos continues. The fight appears to be won. The morning brings reality. In the early days of drinking the noise was anxiety. In the latter days, it was an addiction demanding to be fed. Neither was healthy. 

Breaking that cycle has been the gift of sobriety. Peace has been the prize. My life has been far more chaotic without alcohol. But positively. No more fighting incessant noise daily. Instead, the chaos has come in the form of options. Of opportunities. And experiences. From having a linear path from work to alcohol, life has branched out like the tree of life. Shit still happens. Most things are out of my control. So I do the best I can when I can. Worrying about what I can’t change is a waste of energy and a stealer of time. If I spend my time thinking about how beautiful the roses will be whilst planting them, I miss the joy in the act of gardening. If I peg my happiness on the future, I miss the possibilities that will arise at the moment. 

Charlie.

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