Sometimes, more often than I would like, I slip into a mindset that is destructive. Negativity fuelled worthlessness. All of my achievements are pointless. Life is futile and I have wasted that futility. Comparison is the seed of this destruction. It is the first shot that leads to inner Armageddon. It is a fight that need not be fought. Because I cannot win. The only option is to not play the game of thinking. To stay present. To navigate my perception away from the visions of futility and guide it gently back toward the moment. It is hard. It takes practice and I believe I will never fully overcome myself. Unless I move into the mountains away from all distractions. And then, no doubt, I would still have something to moan about.
Someone said to me whilst I was in the midst of one of these anguished thinking patterns “What would the drunk version of you think of your life now?” A good question. A great question. But what I would have said starkly contrasted with what I would have felt. I would have said “Who gives a fuck?” but I would have felt jealous, bitter, ashamed but mostly, weak. I would have felt weak because I “thought” I didn’t have the strength to quit drinking and turn it around. I thought that what I dreamed of doing would remain as images in my imagination. I believed that I couldn’t do these things because I was worthless and weak. That to dare to attempt to change was a guarantee of failure.
I know this because I spent days, weeks, and years thinking these things about other people. I was convinced that I was forsaken by God, the Universe, or whatever else I could blame. I looked at life through these eyes and saw what I expected to see. I ignored the positive things. And I got what I expected to get.
Now, I’m not saying perception is enough. Action is important. But the first change in quitting drinking was “Why?” Why did I stop? I was convinced I was going to die a horrible, lonely premature death. That might still happen. But mainly, and I don’t know why, I was convinced I was better than the life I was living. I used to see myself sitting on a barstool as an old man telling stories of places I wished I’d been to. Of life, I wished I’d lived. I was bitter and jaded. I was full of anger and despair. Hopeless and helpless. And nobody is those things. No matter how much they believe it to be true. There is hope. There is help. But it isn’t available until we accept that we need it. Then it will come.
Drunk me would have said I must have had a lucky break in life to be able to travel. To buy a house and find relative peace. Because it’s easy to dismiss these things when we don’t want to put the work in to get them. That’s what I used to do to protect myself. Dismiss and sneer. Spew bile while pining. I was a wretch. And I am glad I am no longer that person. I was too stupid to admit defeat until I could no longer fight. I thought it was brave to keep doing more of what was killing me. It wasn’t. It was fucking dumb. Addiction made me dumb. Blind to the reality around me. The positive things that I could have. Not materialistically. Mentally. Peace is what I sought. Self-acceptance is what I sought. Alcohol was a low-cost way to peace in the beginning. But the interest was astronomically high. I just never read the small print. To be honest, I thought alcoholics weren’t drinking in bars. They were glugging cheap cider and stinking of piss. Nobody ever told me they started in bars and the slippery slope of addiction took them to doorways and park benches. I never realized many had everything and lost it. I always thought they had nothing to lose, to begin with. A scary, often ignored reality.
The drunk version of me wouldn’t have listened to my advice. Wouldn’t read blogs about quitting drinking. Because I didn’t quit until shit started going wrong. And even then the only coping mechanism I had was more alcohol. It only ever got worse.
The day I decided enough was enough, I was sitting on the crash barrier of the M25 motorway. My car had broken down. 16 hours earlier I had been discharged from the hospital with an enlarged liver. I was sitting and waiting for the car recovery service to come. I felt alone. I remember sitting smoking a cigarette and scrolling through my contacts thinking about who I could call or message. And I couldn’t think of anyone that could change the reality I was in. I had to sit with the pain. The emotional and physical pain was inescapable. I had to sit there and wallow in the pain of my reality. Debt, depression, misery, isolation, emotional turmoil. I was as broken as the car next to me. No more escapism. No more running. No more excuses. No more blinkers. I looked up at the stars and said “I can’t take this anymore.” I couldn’t handle the way I felt. I wanted to run away. I wanted to drink to block it out. But the doctor told me it would harm my liver. Cirrhosis. I couldn’t handle that. I couldn’t handle the thought of my liver being destroyed by my own behavior. I had to accept that I was going to sit there, alone and feel the shame I felt. On the 1st of June 2023, it will be 9 years to the day. I still don’t ever want to feel that feeling again.
Now, the person sitting on the crash barrier wouldn’t dismiss me. If I could go back now and sit next to that version of me, I would say “The decision you are making today is one of the hardest things you will ever do. You will question yourself. You will think it is the wrong choice but I promise you it isn’t. You will experience loneliness and unhappiness but they will pale in comparison to how you have felt for the last few years. You will experience things beyond your imagination and taste reality in its rawest most glorious form. You will be bowled over by the beauty that is available to you and you will find moments of peace that transcend anything you ever experienced with drink. You will eventually take all this for granted and slip back into despair. But this moment, here on this crash barrier, will be the reminder why it was all worth it.”
I can’t guarantee you anything I can only tell you my experience. And if you are heading that way, broken and beaten, and are seeking advice, then this is mine. Don’t wait for the misery. Stop before it comes. Don’t wait for everything to be lost. Quit and cling to the things worth keeping. There is hope and there is help.
Thanks for reading,