It’s easter Sunday. In my mind, the majority of people in the town I am in are drinking. They are joyous. They are free. Unbound from the self. Detached from the anxiety and neurosis prevalent in modern life. They are happy.
In reality, there are many who are not like this. The laughs dried up hours ago but the drinking continues. Still seeking the feelings that departed hours ago. Fights. Anger. Depression. Guilt. Shame. All present. Only temporarily removed. Now returned. The illusion is dangerous.
I haven’t drank for a number of years, but still the false reality titillates my bored mind. Temptation is a bastard. But only if it wins. Yet it is a ceaseless battle. Especially when the sun is out and the music from the local bar drifts mockingly into my garden. In all honesty, it is the work of my imagination that does the damage. It is the thing that creates the fantasy. A falsehood I use as a measuring stick of my own present. My present is always worse than the illusionary alternative. I am the destroyer of my own happiness. I am the noise to my peace. I am the chaos to my serenity. Temptation exist externally but it is the internalisation that does the damage.
The truth is the FOMO was making me miserable. Depressed. Lonely. Bored. Ungrateful and angry. IE everything was shit. So I decided to write this. I want to recount a conversation I had the other day when someone was asking me about why I don’t drink. In a small town in the UK, to not drink is to face societal expulsion. The pub is the only place to go after 5 o clock. One young lady professed recently “I only drink because there is nothing else to do!!” She wasn’t wise to her own message or the power she yields in that knowledge. I only drank because I thought that’s what I had to do but then I absolutely loved drinking (hence why I wrote a break up poem).
The conversation went a little something like this:
“So Dan, why don’t you drink?”
“Honestly? I’m in recovery.”
“So you’re an alcoholic? What makes you an alcoholic?”
“Yes. There are many different beliefs about what makes an alcoholic but for me? I loved being drunk. I loved not thinking. I loved not being me. I loved it. But eventually I couldn’t stop. No, fuck that. I could never stop once I’d started. Even from being young? I could go without or I wanted oblivion. Eventually I only wanted oblivion.”
“But you’re older now couldn’t you control it?”
“No. Someone once told me that if you have to control something then it is out of control. I spent so much energy trying to manage my drinking it became all consuming. I used to get stoned and then go to the pub. Drink different beers. Drink in different places. Drink at different times. I was perplexed by the fact that no matter what I did I always ended up worse than what I wanted. Eventually, I had to accept that I couldn’t do it anymore. It was an extremely difficult decision to make but one that saved my life and gave me opportunities that I would have never had.”
“But how do you know you couldn’t control it if you don’t try?”
“Because I have tried it before that’s how I know. I could have one beer tonight and go home. But within a period of time I would be back getting smashed. The addiction hasn’t gone it is dormant. Waiting for an opportunity to awaken. And I can’t risk that happening. I have too much to lose. The most important thing is self respect. I have worked hard to get past that part of my life.”
“Don’t you miss it?”
“Rarely, sometimes when the weather is nice I fantasise about a previous life. About a different version of me having a good time. But it is only like looking back on a relationship that didn’t work out. You accept it and move forward.”
“But don’t you wish you could have one?”
“I never saw the point in having one, ever. I know accept that I can’t have one. Because if I have one then I can have two etc. And having one would be like selling everything I have and heading to the casino. It isn’t a gamble I am prepared to make. I see no benefit to drinking anymore. It brings nothing into my life that I can’t already have. Except, for maybe the odd time of escaping my own mind. That would be nice but it will still be there tomorrow with or without a drink. It just isn’t for me anymore. A difficult thing to accept but it is reality.”
“Don’t you feel like you’re missing out though?”
“Sometimes. But I’ve been lucky enough to have a life I once could only dream about. I have travelled extensively and come to find a level of peace with my mind that I once used alcohol for. I drank to find peace but it only brought chaos. It wasn’t until I quit that I realised the peace I was seeking was actually a lot easier to find.”
“What about fun? Isn’t it boring not drinking?”
“Yes, sometimes. But if you have been sober around drunk people you realise it doesn’t change reality just your perception of reality. Drunk people can be really fucking boring. In fact if you have to be drunk to enjoy something then I would suggest that it isn’t that fun in the first place. There is plenty of fun to be had without drink but I had to find what I enjoyed doing. Trail and error really. Drinking made me think I was having a good time when in fact I was doing nothing.”
“So even if you could have one you wouldn’t?”
“Like I said, I never saw the point. I only drank to get drunk. I loved being drunk.”
“If you could go back in time would you never have drunk at all?”
“No, I don’t regret it. If I had never drank alcohol then maybe I would be tempted to try. I am happy I lived that life and learned from it. If I was a steady drinking I would have never stopped. I only stopped because it consumed my life and my soul. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was beaten. I tired of being ashamed of myself. Somewhere in a dark corner of my mind i was convinced I was better than that. I set out to prove myself right. I never want to walk that road again. I am not convinced I could make it again. So I stay sober. It isn’t all roses and rainbows. Wonder and bliss. Sometimes life gets on top and I would love to not have to deal with it. But I have to ride the waves. It’s hard but worthwhile.”
“You’re looking at me like this is a well rehearsed lie?” I said
“No I find it hard to believe you don’t miss it?”
“If you had asked me 8 years ago if I missed it my answer would be different. My outlook was different. I was different. I was a shaking mess. I was hanging on to life like I was on a roller-coaster with a broken harness but somehow, with help, I made it through. Why would I want to go through that again? Why would I want to chance that hardship for one night of escape? Tell me one benefit I would get from having a drink?”
*He couldn’t answer*
The thing is I do experience a lot of the negative feelings I had in my drinking days but they are lessened and infrequent. I am diagnosed with depression. I don’t medicate I try and regulate. I once self medicated with alcohol. It was an unmitigated disaster. Now it is the moments of comparison that fire up the negative emotions. The illusionary lives I measure my actual reality against. As the great quote says ” comparison is the thief of joy,” I know that but it doesn’t stop it. It is fleeting. A piece of music that takes me back to a moment in time. The memory contorted by the years to become so much more painful to view. An illusion that would have once had me reaching for the bottle to block out. Too painful to endure or just an excuse to drink? Sobriety taught me that it is the latter.
So why would you want to quit alcohol? Well if you drink and it isn’t working out then try the opposite. It might just surprise you. Don’t wait until it is the only option left after every other potential cause has been ruled out.
Thanks for reading,