Yesterday was a beautiful day. A cool breeze like a rousing slap that forces engagement within the moment. The sun magnified the vibrant colours of autumn. I don’t think anyone has a greater palette to select from than nature. And if they do, no one uses it as well. It’s so simple yet so elegant. So available yet often ignored. How did I miss the divine beauty of life for so long? I was elsewhere. Lost in the chaos of the unnecessary. Swimming in a glass. Searching for something lost that was never really missing. I refused to see. Almost like attending an art gallery at night and refusing to turn the lights on. Only to then voice my displeasure at the exhibition.
I only saw the negatives. My world was created by my perception of what I saw. And my perception was skewed. Years of depression made me see the negatives alone. I never conquered it back then. Depression I mean. I just learned that it wasn’t what people wanted to hear. They didn’t want to hear about the negatives in life. They didn’t want to wonder about the injustices in the world. They wanted to get drunk and get laid. It was easy for them. It was mapped out for them. I always felt different. Tainted. An outsider, desperate to be accepted. Which fuelled the uncertainty. I wanted to be honest but couldn’t be honest with myself. I wanted to talk about what I thought but no one seemed to think the same. A scary choice. Isolation or suppression. Suppress my own personality and be accepted for who I am not. Or be isolated for who I am?
Now let me be clear, this choice wasn’t given to me. That was the black and white thinking that fuelled most of my decisions. All or nothing. Simple. Not helpful in most situations but that’s the way it was.
I chose the suppression route. Alcohol is wonderful for that. Want to forget something have a drink. Want to become a convoluted cocktail of false and real personalities? Have a drink. Want to slowly forget what it was all about? Who you are? Have a drink. Slowly the reason to drink was lost. Acceptance was secondary. I cared for nothing and no one other than alcohol. I have thought about this for years. Battled the belief that this view of alcohol was implanted by too many AA meetings. But unfortunately, it is true. In the end, I was a functioning alcoholic. I saw nothing. I held onto a job and juggled finances badly. My life was in tatters. Yet I was still seeking the same answers to different questions. I was no longer that teenager. Scared of not fitting in. I was a grown man. Lost in a world of misery. The mental health struggles had become battles. Ones I was losing all too often.
I saw no beauty in Autumn back then. I just knew I had to sit inside to drink instead of outside. I knew the SAD would be here soon because I never went outside and got vitamin D. It was bleak. It was lonely. It was all because I couldn’t be honest.
“The truth will set you free.“
I was so used to being disappointed by myself that I had come to expect the worse. All the time. I expected everything to go wrong. Do you know how that impacts your life? Expecting the world to fall down, time and time again? It’s almost disappointing when it didn’t. Because when things go well I couldn’t say “I know it was going to go badly. Everything goes fucking wrong in the end!” Woe is me. No wonder I ended up drinking on my own in the end. I must have been a barrel of laughs.
This mindset wasn’t alcohol alone. It was the underlying feelings that I used alcohol to suppress. Somewhere my view of the world got skewed. Somewhere I got lost. But do you want to know the truth? I used to fuck things up on purpose because it was what I thought I deserved. If things were going well I would fuck them up on purpose! Why? Because I had become so used to the misery that I thought I didn’t deserve happiness. I was so used to the darkness that I would rush to adjust the curtains if any light was getting in.
“Hello, darkness my old friend!”
Alas, it wasn’t always to be that way. I thought it would be. I had accepted it as the norm. I accepted the same tired path. Day after day. Drinking to escape but begging for change. It came of course in the most painful of ways. A rock bottom. Physical, mental, financial, social breakdown. I was almost happy. But for different reasons than now. A choice; escape or remain. In a perverse way, sobriety seemed like the worse option. Almost like punishing myself by taking away the one thing I enjoyed. Or the one thing I had in life. But deep down I knew I had to change.
I don’t recall the first time I saw the beauty in the people around me. I don’t recall the first time I smiled at the birdsong. I do recall the first time I cried from happiness. It was sitting at the end of the El Camino de Santiago. I was so proud. Almost disappointed that things had gone right. That I had achieved something. Something I’d set out to do. I saw it through to the end and didn’t fuck it up on purpose. That’s when I knew the mental health, drinking, drugs, whatever is lying. Mike Tyson once said, “my mind is not my friend!” If I don’t do the things I have to do then I will eat shit food. Get lazy. And start slipping down the road of self-loathing. Life is almost a biblical tale. There is temptation everywhere. And if left unregulated it will destroy me. I have to keep myself in check. I have to remember what I think is best for me isn’t always. I have to take stock. I have to remain as well as I can be; both mental and physical. By doing the things that keep me that way.
Do you know the reward for keeping myself in check? For keeping my demons in their seats? I get to walk through a tired old town in the north of England and see nothing but the simple beauty in the world around me. I sought that feeling in everything. And found it in simplicity by doing simple things that were readily available to me; meditation, gratitude, self-reflection, acceptance, therapy, exercise, good diet, removing harsh judgements of myself, removing comparisons to others, stopped reflecting on the past as if it can be changed “If I would have done this…” or “If I hadn’t have done that…”, control of worrying, I accepted that not every day will be good and not every day will be bad, questioned the narratives I had of myself, learned to erect boundaries, learned to take responsibility.
I went searching for paradise but was too blind to see I was already there.