4 million minutes

Each one without a drink. Not one sip of alcohol. 4 million minutes of life that I never thought I would have. Moments that I thought would have been lost to the darkness of a drunken stupor. 4 million lots of sixty seconds that were mine for the first time since my teens. I wasted a lot of those minutes. But the time you enjoy wasting is wasted time. I travelled. I loved. I remembered. I got down. I got up. I struggled. But kept going a minute at a time.

I wished some of those minutes away. I prayed never to relive some. I thought that some would never pass. And I wanted some to never end. I felt fear and anxiety. And I felt love and security. I felt wronged. And I felt wanted. I felt lucky to experience those minutes for what they were. Without judgment. I could condemn myself for not achieving more with that time. I COULD have learned an instrument. I COULD have helped more people. I COULD have earned more money. I COULD have. I COULD have. I COULD have. I did what I did at the time. I did what was right at that moment. Over four million minutes that’s a lot of decisions. I can’t expect perfection. And only a crazy person makes a decision knowing it is the wrong one. There are wrong outcomes but not wrong decisions. I tried my best. That’s all I could do. A minute at a time.

Four million minutes being stuck with me. The person I hated most. In my head. The place I hated most. No more drunken escapism to give me a break from babysitting my neurosis. The first 250,000 minutes were tough. Getting to know someone that you have known a long time but don’t really know. Kinda like a neighbour that you have lived next to for twenty years. One day, you’re trapped in a lift with them and forced to interact. Initially, it’s disjointed. And there’s panic. Then, it turns out you have everything in common. Holy shit. I wish we had talked in depth sooner. Just like that. That’s how it was. There were moments of worry and anguish but the first 250,000 minutes was good practice for the rest. Who knew there was such a good friend so close? I had been looking everywhere for that fulfilment.

I slept a lot of minutes away. I mean REALLY slept as well. Not fall drunkenly onto a bed and then get up a few hours later. I mean refreshed. I used to think sleep was a waste of time. Now I realise it is vital. And nothing promotes sleep like quitting drinking.

I’ve spent a lot of those hours outside. Walking, hiking, jogging. Sometimes with friends. Sometimes alone. Those are precious minutes to me. The most time I spent outside before quitting drinking was sitting in the beer garden. Those minutes walking or hiking is therapy. A reminder that in the big scheme of things I’m just a tiny cog in the machinery of life. That if left unchecked my ego will try to take over the machine. Which leads to all kinds of problems. Stay humble.

Four million minutes of life. Of struggle and strife. Of travel and adventure. Of lessons and fulfilment. Of more questions than answers. It’s been a quest to find a replacement to fill the minutes that alcohol consumed before it. It’s been a trek to find the serenity that alcohol promised but didn’t deliver. It’s been an awakening to the fact that everything I sought, I already had. And everything I wanted to be, I already was. It is minutes of acceptance. Of rewriting old messages. And removing old labels. It is minutes of dreams becoming reality. And changing perceptions, holistically. It is nothing like I thought it would be.

I expected to watch those minutes tick away. In Gods waiting room, watching the clock tick past. The chattering of voices going to the pub in the distance. A reminder of the only joy I once had in this vapid thing called life. Taken away by the bastard sobriety. That’s the picture I saw. That was the message I received. That every minute from quitting drinking will be boring as fuck. “No alcohol, no life!” Initially, that was the case. Eventually, I realised it was a choice. I am free to spend these minutes staring at the clock thinking about the life I no longer have or want but am too fearful to leave behind. Or I can try something new. Learn something new. Make goals. Use these minutes more productively. Or learn to love those minutes for what they are. And that is the essence of quitting any addiction. It is the return to the choice to use the time how you wish. It is a return to autonomy. To responsibility. Which was the thing I feared most. I didn’t want to have to take ownership of the clusterfuck I was as a person. I didn’t want the shambolic charade that masqueraded as a life. I wanted to drink and blame drinking for my problems.

Four million minutes is a long time to have to put shit right. The rest of my life is longer. An apology only takes a minute. Although some can take a lifetime. Quitting drinking is a lifetime apology to myself.

The first few thousand minutes wasn’t me picking up my life. Or making plans. It was me laying on the sofa sweating. I wasn’t fixing my life but my body was starting to fix itself. Then slowly I began to spend a couple of minutes picking up the pieces. Planning. Taking ownership of my problems and trying to find solutions. Minutes delving into things I didn’t want to. But had to. It seemed daunting but only took a few minutes to overcome.

A lot can happen in a minute. Lives change in a minute. And the minute I decided to have a go at quitting drinking? That was the best decision I ever made. It took one minute to make but gave me millions back in return.

Charlie.

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