Celebrating eight years without alcohol…

Today (1st June) it has been eight years since I last had a drink. Insane. They seem to be speeding up. The gaps in between are getting shorter. The highs and lows are still the same. Life still happens. Shit still goes wrong. I don’t want to go to work somedays. And somedays are bliss. I wouldn’t want it any other way unless I could do whatever I wanted, of course. 

I was in the pub the other day watching some football. For the American readers; I was in a bar the other day watching some soccer. And I bumped into a guy I last saw in AA about six months ago. I asked how he was doing. “Better than before.I have it under control.” was his reply. The sweat on his brow suggested that alcohol wasn’t the only thing he was using that day. And the words suggested he was also fuelled by delusion. “You look well,” he said back. And before I could measure my words I said “that’s because I don’t drink…” I wasn’t meant to be smug or glib. It was a statement of fact; I do not drink and put much of my health and well being down to that fact. We watched the football together. I was in no mood to 12 step him. It wasn’t the place. It was a shame he didn’t get it. Or see the benefits of quitting. I guess he just loved cocaine and alcohol more. 

I think that escapism through drugs and alcohol is a perfectly normal response to life. I also believe that depression is a natural response to unnatural life. The way we live as a culture came about so fast it is well beyond what we are evolved to do. We have artificial stresses that usurp the fear of any preditor we once had. It is fast and it is constant. Escape is a natural response to the chaos of life. But it is an unnatural way of dealing with it. It doesn’t ease or abate the chaos. Just blocks it out. The natural way is to remove unnessecary stresses. To identify the ones that are merely an illusion created by our inner need for discomfort. Demonised by our culture for being lucky enough to live within it. Coated in guilt. Constantly seeking validation and/or escape. 

But one thing I have learned in all these years is that people will judge you whatever you do. If you drink they will judge you. If you don’t drink they will judge you. If you are poor or comfortable. Dressed well or in rags. People will always judge you. So don’t try and live for the acceptance of others because it is impossible. The fear of ridicule was what made me hesitant to quit drinking. “But what will people think?” I used to ruminate on it. Fuck what they think. I didn’t quit for them, I quit for myself and the people around me who had to watch me make mistake after mistake. The misery and pain I created for us all was the reason why. And even when I feel down, and question the choice, it was still the best thing I ever did. I could change it. I could leave my house now and walk to the corner shop to buy some beers and change it. It’s that simple. So why don’t I? Because it isn’t worth it anymore. I have too much to lose and I am not only talking about possessions. I’m talking about inner peace, contentment and self-acceptance. The things I yearned for in my drinking days. I am not prepared to trade them in. Not today, maybe tomorrow but it’s unlikely.

It isn’t all blissful wonder. Quitting drinking didn’t make me divine. Nor did I find god. I have moments of loneliness and depression. Of negativity and FOMO. But they are fleeting in comparison. The other day, for example, I was down on myself. Bemoaning all the things I didn’t have. Thinking do I have to work for another 27 years? Fuck that!! I was searching for reasons to be unhappy, which is my way sometimes. I noticed my mood slipping and began to look at the things I did have. I met a friend the next day and went to the pub (where I saw the AA guy) and it was a good laugh. I went from being suicidal to being content. Just by reaching out and changing my focus. It’s a strange life. On the point of it not going well, I got sacked last year and I thought that it would have a greater impact on my career but I managed to find another job quite easily. The fear I had of the future was just the False, Evidence, Appearing, Real. Illusions making me uneasy about an outcome that may never occur. Those illusions used to be the reason I drank. I would create the fear than abate the fear. It was a perpetual cycle of misery. The way to change is to change.

To change takes a few things; patience, perseverance, positivity and optimism. I would not have been able to stop drinking if I hadn’t believed it would be worth it. I had to believe it would be better without it. If I believed it would be worse then I wouldn’t have bothered. But the state I was in it was impossible it could have been worse. It can seem like a shit choice sometimes, when it’s Friday night and the belief that everyone else is out, having the time of their life. But in reality, it isn’t quite like that. The insecurities are still with them. The self-doubt. The uncertainty for many people remains. Because alcohol pushes them away. For people without the escape, have to face the inner turmoil, process it and grow because of it. We are the lucky ones. Not only because of the pragmatic presence of sobriety but also because we don’t have to wake in shame. The slow return to reality after a heavy night of drinking. The slow drip-feed of information from the previous night was like a type of poison used in torture. The guilt and shame over behaviour that may or may not have happened. That was once a price I was prepared to pay to escape for a day or two. It is a price I hope I never have to pay ever again.

Read through some of my blogs to see the journey I have been on. I have gone further than I ever could with alcohol in my life. And much further than I thought I would without it.

Here’s to another day without a drink. Here’s to freedom. And here’s to serenity. Because peace is my new addiction and it is blissful.

Charlie

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