Sobriety; The restoration of hope.

Dark times abound. Armageddon is played 24/7 on the media. An ominous virus sweeps the earth. Squeezing not only the breath from its victims but hope from the people around. The mood is sombre. A vaccine offers a glimmer of hope in these strange times. A slither of optimism. It is there if we choose to see it. But the incessant chatter of doom drowns out the sound of the dove carrying the olive branch. But it is coming.

Recovering addicts are evidence of the resilience of the human spirit. Their tales remind us that no matter how dark it may appear, there is a way back. The slow walk back into the light is possible no matter the distance. They are the reminder that no matter how lost and hopeless we feel there is a way out. The time frame is out of our control but all we can do is cling to the belief, things will get better. Fear is what consumes our spirit. Hope is what keeps it alive.

Some stories have transcended generations. Of the ability of humans to find hope. Tales of survivors of horrific situations who say that hope is what gave them the strength to keep going, even when the odds were stacked against them. Anyone who has quit drinking knows what that can feel like. In the early days, it seems an impossible feat. Life completely flipped 180 degrees and a mind in tatters. The challenge is trying to make sense of all the broken shards of something that probably never made sense in the first place. Addiction is the stealer of hope. Sobriety is the guide back into the light.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

Desmond Tutu

Sitting in AA meetings, I hear the transformation from despair to hope often. Reconnection, restoration, rebirth and love, happen all around. It doesn’t get the media coverage as the devastation does. But it is there. Hope exists inside us all. It gets lost. Consumed by the darkness it becomes despair and depression. A state of hopelessness can be a death sentence. It is destructive. These feelings are exacerbated by addiction. And they are being increased by the lockdown. Loneliness, anxiety and depression are on the rise. Being cut off from our connections to others, we are being forced to face ourselves. This is too much for many. Especially, in cultures dependant on consumption for the escape from the self. But it is an opportunity to connect with yourself. To make peace with yourself. To be reminded that you are a beautiful soul who deserves compassion from yourself. It is a time to reflect. To accept. To become who you were destined to be and be at peace with that person. It is time to be grateful for the things you have. It is time to face the boredom and question what you really want.

If you got sober during this time of uncertainty, then I have the utmost respect. This is a perfect opportunity to hide alcoholic behaviour. Dress it up as a reaction to the lockdown. “There is nothing better to do.” So if you have taken the step to quit during this time, give yourself a pat on the back. If you have stayed sober then kudos. You are stronger than you ever imagined. If you slipped, then there is time. There is still hope. Don’t forget that. The inner turmoil caused by drinking manifests as guilt which is an emotion alcohol can relieve. The cycle starts again. Just keep going one day at a time. Much like all we can do at the minute. One day at a time. When alcohol says “You know you can’t be without me.” Hope whispers, “Don’t listen to temptation. You can make it!”

Don’t ever doubt that things will change. Governments can offer a roadmap out of lockdown. They can set the stages for escape. Recovery doesn’t offer many milestones other than the days we stay sober. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. Things change in small steps. Health and wellbeing begin to change. People will notice the change before the inner chaos has subsided. Peace comes in fleeting moments, as a taster of things to come. But sometimes it’s not enough to keep people going. The only thing that drives us forward is faith in hope. A belief that things HAVE to be better than they were.

It can seem futile. It can be frustrating and boring. Quitting drinking can seem like a mistake. Life can feel like the fun has been sucked from it. Sobriety can feel like a lockdown. But it is an opportunity to escape the cage of addiction. To be freed from the guilt and shame. Most situations have positives and negatives. Our perception can dictate what we see. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and sobriety makes you enviable. Gratitude is the key to maintaining hope.

Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.

Jonas Salk

Things that we took for granted before the lockdown can now be cherished. A hug from a loved one. A coffee with a friend. A meal. All once normal parts of life. Now, they have been exposed for their importance to our human wellbeing. The winter months are a great reminder that if you are inside during the cold nights then things aren’t so bad. If you can eat then things are okay. Life could be worse. Yes, it could be better. And it can be. Hope is the driving force for change. It is the optimism that the road we are on will lead to positive change. It takes faith. It takes strength. It takes us to remember that when times are hard, we have to keep going. When sobriety seems a foolish decision, we have to remember where drinking can take us; the place where hope goes to die, addiction.

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.

Dale Carnegie

Sobriety is the restoration of hope. It is the crack in the curtains that allows the slither of light into our lives. It is the beginning of something extraordinary. We just have to believe in the process.

Charlie.

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Picking a path in life…

“There is the path of joy, and there is the path of pleasure. Both attract the soul. Who follows the first comes to good; who follows pleasure reaches not the end. The two paths lie in front of man. Pondering on them the wise man chooses the path of joy; the fool takes the path of pleasure”

Katha Upanishad

It has been discussed for thousands of years, yet we fall into the same traps. Religious texts warn about the dangers of temptations and desires. Yet we still pursue completion through the fleeting escape of pleasure. Rest bite comes in the form of escapism. Momentary transportation from the self. Relief from the angst that plagues us. Yet we also return to the place we yearn to escape. Pleasure is fleeting thus the escape is fleeting.

The searching for joy in pleasure is a thankless task. A road to nowhere. A journey of lessons in hardship and pain. Joy is the inner light. Contentment. It is the realisation of completeness that pleasure offers but never delivers. With true joy, there is still pleasure but it is an addition. Unregulated pleasure is addiction. Addiction is joyless. It is a thankless pursuit. A beating by an invisible assailant. It is the unending pursuit of escape from the addiction via the addiction.
The pursuit of pleasure may be a fools path, but addiction doesn’t seek the foolish. It can trap anyone. Anywhere. It will take your life and claim it as it own. It will chase away love and prosperity. It will bankrupt and destroy. The end of alcohol use is another chance around the monopoly board. It is the advance to go. It is the second chance to walk the path of joy. To connect with the soul. To find the light that alcohol tried to destroy but never could. The light within burns bright. It always will. It doesn’t disappear we are just blinded to its beauty. In turn, we are blind to our beauty. Alcohol makes us haggard. It distorts reality. Turns us against ourselves. It offers joy but delivers pain.

The joy we seek in alcohol becomes available when we remove alcohol from our lives. The peace we seek exists in the clarity of sobriety. The clarity of sobriety brings decisiveness. Action leads to peace. Inaction and escape lead to resentment of the self. Self-hatred leads to pain. The pain needs medicating. Alcohol offers that relief but delivers more pain. Well, it did for me. That was my escape. For some, it’s shopping, sex, drugs, porn, exercise. Whatever gives pleasure and offers an escape from the current pain. Alcohol was my emergency exit from life. But at the bottom of the stairs down that escape was only more of the same. The cycle continued. I was trapped in the search for joy. The path of pleasure isn’t a path. It is a circle. Frustration ensues at the constant mistakes. Returning to the same old situations. The same old shame and guilt. It builds in severity. The pain increases and as a result, the amount of medication gets greater. Addiction is inevitable.

Pain becomes the norm. It becomes our friend. Pain is what we know. It is there for us because it is constant. But it isn’t the only option. The fear of leaving pain and venturing into joy is frightening. It is the stumbling block that trips us into the cycle. It is the illusionary chain that holds in the turmoil. There is no way but through. On the other side of the fear lays the path of joy. It is ours if we want it. If we aren’t afraid to embrace its simplistic beauty.

When the chaos begins to calm it can be frightening. Peace can be overwhelming. Especially when the noise of our mind has been a constant chaotic companion. But the lack of inner noise isn’t the same as going deaf. It is the beginning of finally beginning to see and hear truly for the first time. It is the road to enlightenment. To awakening. It is the uniting of the self and soul. Embracing each other in an ethereal hug. A bonding beyond the cosmos. It is the discovery of the light that we sought for an eternity. It is the understanding of the mistakes. It is the realisation that those mistakes were part of the learning. That without those mistakes we would never be able to be free. That without the guilt and shame we wouldn’t learn to forgive ourselves. That self-hatred can grow to self-love.
The inner void is filled with inner joy. Pleasure is fleeting and needs to be refilled. Joy is a permanent filling of the void. It is the warmth that radiates from within. It is the road we thought we were walking with alcohol but had been fooled by false promises. It is sobriety. It is clarity. It is the greatest gift in life. Not just for us but it makes us the people we were destined to be. It makes us the people that others want to be. They will ask how we got there? How did we find the path? How did we find our way from the darkness into the light? Not only because of the lessons we learned but because of love. Shown to us by others who had made the same mistakes. They made us realise that love is possible from within. Genuine love for the self and each other. Beyond romance. Beyond expectation of reciprocation. It radiates from within.

Every day becomes a gift. A JOY to be spent in wonder. Bad days come and go but the balance towards good days begins to shift. Worry can set in. Worrying about the bad things that will arise. Eventually, we learn to deal with them when they arise. It is self-belief that makes us at ease. We are comfortable. We are present and we are free.

If not we continue to chase the nightmares dressed as dreams. Keep making mistake after mistake. Instead of bathing in the light, we stagger in the darkness. Lost. Wandering and wondering. Believing that to carry on is the only option. If we just keeping going down the same road it will magically happen. That salvation will happen with a flash of lightning. Divine intervention will save us. Or alcohol will cure the problems it is causing. Because it can’t possibly get darker? Keep going down the same road if you think that it can’t…

Choose the light. Stop. Believe the ones that have learned the hard way.

Charlie

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Just because you’re down. It doesn’t mean you’re out!

Down but never out. Once awash with alcohol. Drowning in a sea of chaos. Stranded and lost. Bereft of hope. It seemed impossible. Stuck in a cycle of destruction wishing for the end while fighting for life. The way to break a cycle is to introduce change. It doesn’t have to be extreme.

A small positive step is a catalyst for big things. A minor alteration is a nudge towards the path of safety and away from the cyclic behaviour that keeps us trapped in the madness.

“A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step”

It can be anything. From cutting down the chocolate to quitting drinking. Something. Anything that can set the journey in motion. Life doesn’t get better by doing the same things that make it shit. Some things we have to accept; work, tax, bills, people who want to steal our peace. But that doesn’t mean we should compound issues by making it harder for ourselves. Life is hard enough. Why create further chaos?

One day, I was sitting on the side of the motorway. My car had broken down. My body wasn’t far behind. My life was on life support. I was financially, mentally and physically ruined. I was in that dark sea, lost, abandoned and ultimately scared. I had known change was needed for years but I just hoped it would get better. Life doesn’t get better by doing the same things that make it shit. But I was lucky. The night before I had been told to stop drinking by a doctor. “You’ve got an enlarged liver. Stay off the drink for two weeks and it should be fine.” I wasn’t so scared of dying. I was scared of the health implications that would stop me drinking in the future. So I did the two weeks. Fuck it was hard. My head was a turbulent barrage of noise. The flood gates were opened for the things I’d been drinking to block out. I hadn’t been a nice person. I was reminded by the vitriol that burned its way across my brain. I didn’t think I would survive without a drink. I thought the chaos would consume me with the protective shield of alcohol. But I HAD to do two weeks. Or I may never be able to drink again.

“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”

Charles Bukowski

The storm slowly blew its self out. Chaos turned to boredom. A dangerous temptress is boredom. Alcohol alleviates boredom by making the mundane manageable. It presents nothing as something and the banal as entertaining. The quickest way out of boredom is an escape. Alcohol is the great escape.

I would sit at home twiddling my thumbs waiting for something magical to happen. Waiting for this thing called “life” to knock on my door and invite me out to play. It never came. Life is happening all the time. I had to choose to join in. I had to go looking for it. I didn’t know at first. I would spend my Friday nights reading books and condemning myself to a life of misery. Social media was the reminder of what I was missing out on. Images of fun times awash with alcohol were like the ex-partner who went on to have a great time without me. Yeah, I was jealous. Bitter even. That my life had been reduced to drinking tea and reading books whilst the world was out living the dream. The memory of the lonely moment on the motorway was a reminder of where it had taken me. It wasn’t a dream. It was my worst fucking nightmare. The fact I had to sit in and read books. The fact I couldn’t drink alcohol was caused by alcohol. I am an addict.

After the two weeks were up, I had a bit more money in my pocket. I’d had sleep that led me to feel refreshed. People had commented that I was looking a bit better. I felt a bit better too. I vowed to carry on. Another two weeks. It carried on like this for months. But I quickly realised that sitting at home waiting for a magical change to occur would slowly lead me back to a place I didn’t want to be. I started the small steps. Walking to be precise. Boy, was I unfit? But walking got me out of the house and out of my head. I started eating a bit better thanks to the money I had saved from drinking. I started drinking water by choice. Not for the fact, my mouth tasted like I had eaten a car battery like it did most mornings after drinking. I just kept it simple. There was no grand plan. No expectation. I just wondered where it would take me. I knew where alcohol had taken me. So I was inquisitive to know where sobriety would lead. If it was shit then I could always go back to drinking, was my train of thought. Nothing to lose really. It was just a break to let my liver heal. A gift. It had put up with so much punishment.

The plans came slowly. The freedom of sobriety was revealed in stages. Better health initially, then better finances and then improved mental health. All I did was those small steps. Read books. Went to AA meetings when I needed support. Just to get me around people if I’m honest. It helped. Slowly there were options. People invited me to places other than the pub. I had the money for the flights. I had time to learn the guitar and the piano. I fed the hunger for alcohol with positivity and growth. I abated the yearning to drink with positive distractions. Eventually, the yearning for positive distractions and growth overtook the yearning to drink. Alcohol drifted into the history books of my life. But like all crazy ex’s; it has the potential to destroy my life if I romanticise the old times and think it will be different the next time. It won’t. Forget it. It’s done.

It isn’t a destination, sobriety. It isn’t a day of awakening. It is a step by step journey into the potential we didn’t dare to pursue. Quitting drinking is the path to connection. To a life beyond our wildest dreams. It is a journey. With bumps in the road but ultimately they are bumps in a road I would rather be on. Drinking was an option if sobriety was dull and I still haven’t taken that option so it must have something. And what it is are options. Peace. Fulfillmentment. Growth. Love. Connection. All things I yearned for amid my addiction but could never understand why there were so illusive.

My journey has been fun. Fuck that. IT HAS BEEN AMAZING. I have explored the world. I have made a connection to myself and others in ways that I never thought possible. I have overcome adversity. And even in those dark times, I would rather be unhappy sober than have a drink. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know, I don’t know what will.

I was forced to quit drinking by my body. I was lucky that I had the nudge onto a path of positivity. But was still sceptical of living a life without alcohol. Which is why I probably took small steps along the way. I could never have envisioned what those incremental steps would lead to.

Charlie.

Stealing life from alcohol…

Sometimes, I look at life as if I managed to pull off a heist. That from the bottom of the pile, I managed to achieve everything I set out to do. With careful planning and patience, the unbelievable become achievable. From drunken stupidity to sober serenity. I look back and think how the fuck did I manage that?

For a long time in sobriety, I looked at my life like it belonged to someone else. A movie of something I wished I could achievement. Of a person, I wished I was. Living the life I wanted to have. It took a while to accept that it was happening to me. There have been overwhelming moments of happiness. I have been brought to tears by the beauty of life. Of the comprehension of the ability of a once-beaten alky to dared to try. Who one said “no more!” And then plotting his escape. Sometimes it was a slow crawl. Sometimes it was painful. But now I feel like I could walk into the sunset. Knowing that I achieved far more than I could ever have imagined. I pulled off a trick. Not to anyone else but to myself. I fooled my addiction that we were on a break. That it’s time would come again. That I was just borrowing money, I would have spent on alcohol to finance my dreams for a while. I just needed control of my life for a few years to get some shit done. That is the heist. I stole time back from alcohol and used it to live life. To explore. To love. To transcend time and experience bliss that alcohol could never deliver.

There isn’t space in life for alcohol and happiness. The two can’t co-exist. Alcohol is the antithesis of my happiness. I accept that now. To be happy, I have to be sober. Then I can have serenity anytime. Silence is the absence of chaos. Alcohol is the chaos creator. After tasting life in its infinitely beautiful simplicity, it’s difficult to return to misery. How is it possible to return to alcoholism after dancing in the paradise of sobriety?

Sobriety is a contentious word. It’s connotations stretch beyond alcohol. It is seen as a measuring stick of something unmeasurable. An AA creation that confirms membership. The dictionary meaning of sobriety is to be solemn, which in turn means deep sincerity. There is nothing beyond that for me. It is a genuine connection to myself. This has lead to a real connection outside. Alcohol was the block to all connections. Except for shallow connections with fellow drinkers. But by removing alcohol it cleared the way. Again it feels like I fooled addiction into a distraction. While it was sleeping I snuck past and made friends with myself. I had always looked at myself with disdain. Almost as if my own reflection run through the filter of alcoholism contorted my vision. Without this blurring of reality, it was possible to see clearly. I am not the person that alcohol led me to believe.
It’s been a hard road. But life with alcohol was a hard road. The things I drank to escape were often easy to deal with but were just an excuse to drink. Molehills made to mountains. Without alcohol, I have been able to deal with the things that once seemed unmanageable. The strength to overcome adversity has come from the strength to overcome adversity. I know that doesn’t seem to make sense. But by doing the best I can do at any one time will result in either a positive outcome or a life lesson. Each attempt strengthens the resilience for the next thing. Daring to take a step is the beginning of the lesson.

I never expected it to pay off. I never expected quitting drinking to lead to anything other than a boring, lonely life. I imagined nights sitting alone, while everyone was out having a great time on the drink. That is still possible. I can wallow in self-pity if I wish. It is a choice. But now I have a level of control over my thinking I once thought impossible. I don’t miss drinking life anymore. On reflection, I didn’t enjoy it much while I was drinking. I just didn’t know how to stop or what I would do if I did stop. I expected sobriety to be boring. But it hasn’t been. The perception I had back then was wide of the mark. The knowledge that boredom is dangerous has inspired me to pursue avenues of growth. Learning music, writing, reading, travelling, exercise, meditation, hiking. Whatever it is. It has all come about by the knowledge; sitting around moaning how shit sobriety is, is nothing but self-destructive.

Sobriety has been a revelation. The gift of peace. The joy of adventure. The bliss of a deep inner connection. The value of being a positive influence in the world. It is there. It is available if I just keep alcoholism in its bed. Acknowledging its presence yet not letting it dictate my life. Alcohol is the chain to a life of misery and disappointment. It is the restriction of freedom and understanding. Sobriety is the cure for that. Quitting drinking has delivered the opposite of what I expected. Thankfully, I didn’t expect positivity. But that is what I got.

I think it’s conditioning. Social programming. Has led to the false belief that life without alcohol would be bland. Years of adverts showing fun and freedom. The promises of the adverts were often unfulfilled. Ironically, I found the things I sought in alcohol by not drinking alcohol. I guess the advert that shows the benefits of sobriety wouldn’t make much money; “Don’t drink alcohol & be happy!”

The knowledge that life without alcohol isn’t only possible but is, in fact, enjoyable, only heightens the feeling of getting away with it. By daring to do the opposite of what culture demands, I have been rewarded beyond comprehension. The idea of social expectations dissolved in the realisation that not all of the advise I have been given has my best interest at heart. Sobriety is the transcending of external expectation by enabling a connection to my intuition. I don’t have the vocabulary to explain how important that has been. From self-hatred and self-avoidance to self-trust and self-love. That is invaluable.

On the 1st of June 2014, I decided to try another way. To venture into a life without alcohol. I expected nothing and received more than I could ever ask for. This knowledge is the power that fuels my positivity. That no matter what happens, I already achieved more than I ever expected. Whatever joys or hardships life brings now are just extras. I feel blessed to have been through this journey. I have eternal gratitude for the people who have helped me along the way. I can happily help others get to where they want to get to because I have the memories in the bank that remind me that I pulled off the greatest heist in life. I stole time and money from my addiction and used them to pursue my dreams.

Addiction still wants my time and money back. But it will be waiting for a while.

Charlie.

I just wanted to say thank you… 100th post

I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to read my blog. This is the 100th post on here. Over 100,000 words of, well, stuff. I expected to give up after a few months but I get some positive feedback. I started it because I had experiences to share. Battling addiction. Losing weight. Getting my bank balance in order. To then realising my dream of travelling the world. The feedback people give makes me realise that the bad times weren’t for nothing. They were lessons to be shared. To hopefully help another person get out of the same place or even better to stop them getting there in the first place. I just wanted to let people know that it is possible. That with belief and dedication, it is possible to make a change that alters the direction of life. I have been the change and seen the results.

The naysayers will say that it was easy for me. It wasn’t. I just kept going even when it seemed like a stupid thing to do. I wanted to see what would happen if I kept going. Would it be worth it? Would the sacrifice produce enough rewards? A resounding yes. Adventure. Experience. Serenity and peace. All of them became available. But to get there it was hard choices. I had to sacrifice short term gratification in the hope of finding genuine fulfilment. The relinquishing of old habits and old mindsets. Spending nights reading instead of partying. Dragging my arse out of bed to exercise even when I didn’t want to. Forcing myself to buy healthy food instead of the shit I used to eat. Then repeating it over and over until it became a habit. Of course, it was hard. But it was worth it.

It would be easy to claim glory and pump my ego with the belief it was all me. It wasn’t. It was the people who supported me. Who fought my corner and encouraged me. Who saw in me what I didn’t see in myself. It is in us all. The beauty I saw in others yet ignored in myself, is in us all. We have to believe it. The knowledge that no matter what you can keep going to make that change. It is down to how much you want it. How much do you want to know what you could do? I couldn’t imagine the outcome would be this rewarding. It isn’t always happy and joyous. There are hard times. Thankfully, there are underlying gratitude and contentment that emanates the warm glow of self-belief. Even in the hard times, there are enough things to keep me on track.

Life can dark sometimes. Times can be hard. The world can feel bereft of life and love. It can seem that it will never change. But it can. Small steps. Set a goal and head towards it. Be flexible. Don’t give yourself a hard time. It isn’t helpful, it only hinders progress. Belief isn’t born in a place of self-hate. The catalyst to change is a small goal. It leads to large changes. A small accomplishment is a realisation that more can happen. Eventually, you will be standing in a place you thought was impossible to reach. I only know that because I have been down that road. I spent a large part of my life with a debilitating mindset. One of worthlessness. It caused me to put obstacles in my own way. It was a fear of failure. A fear of looking stupid. Don’t let fear dominate the simple things.

Take a moment to realise that one day it might not matter. Think of issues in the past that seemed serious then but now has lost its hold. Over time the power diminishes. Life without alcohol once seemed like an impossible achievement. Slowly, it became normal. Slowly, the old began to drift into the ether. It was replaced by new behaviours. Through repetition, they cut new neural pathways that led to positive thinking patterns. A revelation after years of being a prisoner to my own negativity. Change was the key to the shackles of harmful routines.

I cannot do it for you. But I can show you it can be done. From being deep in a pit of darkness to bathing in the light of possibility. From scarcity to an abundance mindset. So pull down those mental mausoleums of misery that celebrate the worst of mistakes. Tear down the statues of the dictator that has controlled our mental language for far too long. Freedom awaits. This isn’t some pop psychology nonsense designed to look good on a meme. This is the advice of someone who was restricted by his own outlook. Lacked self-belief but was forced into change by the tragedy of his own life. Don’t wait for the tragedy.

I was unfortunately lucky enough to be forced into change by my failing body. My screaming liver demanded to be treated right. That put an end to the overindulgence in alcohol. Years before, my enormous BMI demanded I made a change. I’m grateful to have seen the error of my ways but I am a little sad it took so much punishment before I saw the value in myself. It was standing at the cliff edge of destruction that made me question if I should try a new approach. It didn’t have to be that way. It was the lack of inner love that made me continue to want to destroy myself. I believed I had nothing to offer and thus nothing to lose. Utter nonsense. I knew. I felt shame, guilt and remorse often. All of which I tried to suppress with more alcohol. It was a war I wouldn’t win.

After getting a handle on my drinking thanks to the wonderful support I never felt I deserved. I began to realise the message that was playing on a loop in my mind. My inner chatter was the dialogue of fear. Projecting into an unwritten future and painting all the positives with a coat uncertainty. Yet, illuminating all the negatives and elevating them to certainties. I was paralysed not by the unknown but by the guarantees that my mind presented. It was an illusion presented as fact. It was the mental gymnastics of addiction. Using fear to keep me leased to a life of misery. But it was a manifestation of my mind, I could change it. It just took time and patience. A lot of reading. Meditation. Facing the fake foes that used shadows to make themselves more imposing. They ceased to create fear once the light of introspection was shined on them.

I don’t talk about success in financial terms. I am not a careerist. I am not motivated by positions of power. My most cherished certificate is the Compostela from the El Camino de Santiago. That is the reward for making the changes. Without them, I would never have made that walk. Without getting in physical, mental and financial shape, I wouldn’t have made the 775km distance from St Jean in the gruelling heat. It reminds how far I have come. My pursuit has been an answer to the chaos that punished me internally. I wanted to bring an end to the obsessive mind that leads me through life from one catastrophe to another. It was the pursuit of peace that brought the pain. Anything that brought temporary relief from life was sought in abundance. Overindulgence is rife with problems when practised for long periods. The answer isn’t in the fleeting escape. It is the re-writing of the neuropathways that lead to mistake after mistake. It is the conquering of the inner bully who demands everything but offers nothing. It is hard to find self-worth with an inner narrative of worthlessness. Life is hard enough externally without making it an inner war as well. The path to peace isn’t in escapism. It is only possible by clearing the chaos and conquering the demons that keep us trapped in perpetual misery.


There is another way. There is positivity. There are adventure and fulfilment. I hope that you can take that from the 100 posts on this blog. They are all true. My life was a chaotic mess. Now, there is peace.

The moments of calm are a reminder that change can happen. If you want it, that is.

Thank you for reading. I hope you can take something from these blogs.

God bless,
Charlie.

Life without alcohol…

People used to say to me, “go with the flow!” They didn’t see the tide I was trying to hold back inside. The chaos in my mind that I fought daily, threating to consume me. Alcohol made it disappear for a short time. An evening of peace was what alcohol gave. Nightly vacation from myself. But I was only running. Reality always returned the next day.

I drank to escape the problems that were amassing due to my reckless abandon. I would pass off responsibility as boring. I was too cool for that nonsense. I was above that shit. Lies. I was scared of that shit. The thought of having to be responsible petrified me. I just used a false front to hide it. A few beers is what took it away. A few beers made me normal. A few beers was the lie that got me into trouble. I never only had a few. I was perplexed by people who could just have one after work and go home. “What’s the point?” I would often ask inquisitively. People thought I was joking. I was trying to find out how to do it. I couldn’t stop at one. I definitely couldn’t stop after three.

The thought of quitting drinking brought an image of being consumed by the tide I was holding back. I was convinced that without the life raft of alcohol I would drown in my own neurosis. The insanity that I drank to silence would take control. And I would no longer be able to function. I was struggling to function anyway. My world had become a cage. Trapped by an obsession and a need to feed that compulsive desire to block out life. Being drunk silenced my mind. It made me feel “normal,” if only for an evening. It would be insane NOT to drink. Why would I give up the only thing that made me feel well?

Why? Because it wasn’t making me well! It was making me sick.

Focusing on alcohol made it impossible to live on life’s terms. Or go with the flow. I saw no opportunities. I was blinkered by the halo effect. Infatuated by Stockholm syndrome. Life flowed and I stood still, getting ever more worn down by my resistance to change. Eventually, I had to let go and believe that it would be okay. I had to relinquish control and savour the moment. Like having a blindfold removed on a sunny day, it was overwhelming at first. Eventually, my eyes adapted to the clarity of sobriety. I adapted to the opportunities in life. I became someone who I could only have ever dreamed of becoming. I am not perfect. I make mistakes and will always be learning. I believe that things are how they are and all we can do is deal with it the best we can.

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”

Albert Ellis

It is easier to make decisions with the clarity that quitting drinking brings. It is easier to see life when I am in the moment. When I am present, I can see the gift of life. It is hard sometimes. The hard times have been the greatest lessons. Without a rock bottom, I would never have quit drinking. Without that pain, I wouldn’t have sought a solution. Without that chaos, I would never have learned the value of peace. The financial chaos that was brought about by addiction taught me the importance of budgeting. The health scares taught me to care for myself better. Most things are out of my control but the things I can control are my responsibility.

Thanks to those lessons I have been able to turn it around. I am grateful for the hardships. I learned that life has peaks and troughs. The good times will pass just like the bad times. Both will happen intermittently. No matter what is happening there is something to be learned. Like the last September, when I was suffering from depression. It was impossible to see anything other than darkness. There was no path to walk. All I could see was hopelessness. Thanks to the people I have met in recovery, friends and family, I was able to get help. Slowly, the feeling lifted. Slowly, I began to see options. Slowly, the world got a bit brighter. If I was still drinking I would have been self-medicating and in denial of both problems. Thankfully, I am much more positive. I’m taking it one day at a time. With alcohol, I would still be fighting an unnecessary battle. Trying to escape myself instead of acknowledging the problem and seeking help. That is the gift of freedom from addiction.

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking down the street and cut down a side street to get out of the wind. As I walked, I noticed two for sale signs on two houses. It seemed like a nice area. I wasn’t particularly looking to buy a house. One was too expensive. One was in my price range and hadn’t been advertised online yet. I thought I might as well arrange a viewing… if all goes well, I should have the keys in a month. It will be mine. I didn’t expect that. It was only possible due to the financial stability of not drinking my life away. And the confidence to take a chance. As a result, I was in the right place at the right time. But I am starting to learn that when I am not drinking each moment is the right place at the right time. There is always something happening. I just need the clarity to see it. Obsessive thinking snatches me from the moment. It transports me to an ideal bar or off-licence that promises dreams but serves nightmares. I lived on the coat tales of the next drink. Now I try to live in the moment. There really is nothing beyond that point anyway. It is just an illusion.

“I can control my destiny, but not my fate. Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one-way street. I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfil our destiny, but our fate is sealed.”

Paolo Coelho

I have gone from being afraid of responsibility to seek it out. From fighting life to watching it pass. Understanding that yesterday does not dictate tomorrow. I used to fight to maintain control and eventually realised that I was only fighting myself. I believed that I would die alone on a barstool, lonely and depressed. It may still happen that way but I no longer believe that it is guaranteed like I once did. I thought it was my destiny for alcohol to take my life. I thought it was written in the stars. It was just a psychological trick to keep me trapped.

I gave up trying to control everything in life. Alcohol was one of the things I could no longer control. I stopped trying. I accepted defeat.

When alcohol ceased to flow anymore, life began to.

Here’s to clarity, opportunities and life. Here’s to riding the rough with the smooth and good friends. Here’s to connection and compassion. Here’s to peace and love. Here’s to the ones who dare to try. Here’s to dreams and hope. Here’s to going with the flow and accepting what life brings our way, good or bad. Because I can only point the ship in the direction I want to travel, I can’t control what is in the water.

Life is constantly flowing. Chances, interactions and opportunities arise. Some we take, some we don’t. Some we miss. But more will come. We have to have faith.

With clarity we will see. By being open we can receive. “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Charlie.

Clearing out the past…

Some memories are like burned paper. Charred but legible. We tried to destroy them but their blackened remains still lay in the fireplace of our mind. Some of the more negative memories, ones that should have been processed and forgotten, hang proudly above the fireplace. Where our achievements should be the pride of place there are dark memories. A constant reminder of days gone by. It is often that positive memories have been discarded and destroyed. A lack of worth dictates that the positive moments were chance. A fleeting mistake by the universe which usually serves up the misfortune that we believe we truly deserve. Joy is a fleeting thing that happens by chance. Pain is the norm.

If we disregard the positives as a mistake we miss the message. The feelings of peace, no matter how small, are a reminder that there is hope. That in the wreckage there can still be moments of joy. It feels like it isn’t deserved at the time but it is. Peace and joy are available to us. With clarity comes the ability to see it more clearly.

Before I quit drinking, the thought of a life without alcohol contained no peace. How could it? How could a life without the only thing that lessened the noise and pain serve up anything other than pain and chaos? Makes a lot of sense but it is a total lie. Yes, there is pain without alcohol. Yes, there is chaos. But they are fleeting. They heal and I progress. I had to learn how to though. I no longer pick at the scabs of the past. The memories of guilt and shame have been put away and replaced with reminders of the joy of sobriety. The drunken shame has become sober pride. If I feel the need to drink I can take those old memories out and look at where I was. The shame no longer keeps me drinking. The shame now STOPS me from drinking.

I drank to escape inner pain. I kept the inner pain alive to have a reason to drink. I didn’t know how to deal with it. Escapism was my only tool. It brought more pain. Eventually, I had no other option but to PROCESS what I was trying to run from. It was scary. It hurt. But it was short-lived in comparison to the years of agonising over past hurt.

Escapism is the process of keeping open old wounds. To tear the scabs of the partially healed. The pain is what we know. It is what we deserve. Existing in a place between pain and fear. The pain is what we know yet we are too fearful to explore it fully.

Instead of sitting with the pain. Carrying it like a burden we must sit IN the pain. It is an extension of us. It is advisable to do this with a professional if the pain is severe. But to progress, we have to remove the weight of the past. What went before doesn’t predict the future. We are not defined by the failures of the past. But we have to embrace the past to remove its power.

It is unpacking the bag of memories. Taking down the painful pictures of the past from the museum of our misery that lives in our psyche. It is re-evaluating the power of the pain NOW. It may have hurt a year ago. Or twenty years ago. But is it as painful today as it was then? Or is it the fact the pain is being relived by ourselves? Picking that scab off day after day. Self-harm. The way is through. Sometimes this means acceptance and forgiveness. Incredibly difficult. But occasionally the only option.

Life really is too short to be at war with yourself. You no longer have to be the casualty of a war that only exists in your mind! It all starts with YOU loving YOU.

Life is Too Short to Spend it at WAR With Yourself (linkedin.com)

Someone could hold us firm and stare into our eyes, repeating the words, “you are beautiful.” If we don’t believe it about ourselves, then we will think that persons words make us beautiful. But it isn’t so. We have the capacity to build or destroy. To care or corrupt. To be the person in the world that we want to be. To leave a legacy of love. To make the world a better place for those that come after. Not because of guilt. Not because of redemption for past wrongs or favour for access to heaven. It’s because the inner love that can be achieved spills out from our core. It is achievable. It starts with us. It starts with clarity and ends with love.

Pain and punishment are everyday occurrences for millions of people in the world. In the west the numbers are less but yet we suffer emotional turmoil often at the hands of ourselves. There is enough darkness in the world without building unnecessary crosses to carry. It’s time to take down those old reminders of a time gone by. To accept them as things that happened. Get some help if it is hard to put them where they belong. We have suffered enough. We deserve to be free. We deserve the warmth of love. We are here to share it with others. To tell them that they don’t have to suffer as we did. We do the work so others don’t have to.

I used to think I had been punished in some way to be plagued by anxiety and addiction. But after all these years I look back with gratitude. The lessons I have learned and the journey I have been on has been unique, hard and sometimes unbearable. But I’m still here. Stronger than I could ever have imagined as I walked those halls of regret heavy with shame and picking at the scabs of guilt. I deserved nothing. But ended up with more than I could ever imagine. You can too. Like Jordan Peterson says “you don’t make people less anxious, you make them stronger,” it’s the same with removing escapism. By facing the problems we grow in courage. We gain the strength to face adversity. Life is the same it’s just easier to deal with. Not because it changes but because we do.

Change comes in small steps. Sometimes unnoticeable to us but noticeable to others. So, don’t get disappointed if it doesn’t materialise instantly. Just keep going. Keep believing. Just put one foot in front of the other. Enjoy the moments of joy when they come. Don’t worry how long it will last just be grateful for it. Watch your thoughts. Watch the negativity and treat it as an unwelcome friend. Acknowledge the inner narrative and realise that thoughts aren’t always reality. Look in the mirror and realise the person looking back got you through whatever you went through. The person looking back, who you believe had no strength, got you here. It may not feel like an ideal place they got you to. The strength it took to keep going can be used to get going in a direction you want to head. You are stronger than you realise.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If it’s the first day of a new goal, don’t vow to have everything sorted by the second day; beach ready, emotionally stable and financial sound. One thing at a time. Get to know yourself. Don’t be scared of yourself. Even though you might not like who you are. Don’t try to be someone else. Life is too short for that. Compare yourself to your own metric of success. Chart your progress against your own standard. Walk at your own pace. Don’t compare yourself to others we often don’t know their truth, especially on social media.

Become your friend. You deserve that much. A good friend is invaluable. So don’t give yourself a hard time. Treat yourself with love. Tell yourself you are beautiful. Tell yourself you are enough. Tell yourself you are strong. You are love and have love to offer. Tell yourself it until you realise it is the truth. The past has gone. Leave it there. Yesterday is just a sketch of a moment the edges will smudge as time passes. Each day it will fade unless we choose to keep the sketch alive. Don’t give time to memories that only serve to keep you miserable. Each day is building towards something beautiful. Who knows what it will be. That is fun. That is freedom. That is sobriety.

We were all born with inner love and joy. It just got lost in the cynicism of life. It still resides within us. We just have to accept that it was there before the halls of our memories became tarnished with the negative experiences of life. It’s time to start taking down the memories that keep us prisoner to a time that no longer serves. It is time to heal. The future begins today…

Charlie.

A friend requested an audio version of this blog. So here it is:

https://soundcloud.app.goo.gl/DJaVW

The greatest compliment…

It came from someone that had known me for a good few years. We had met whilst I was in the madness of addiction. We where two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl full of vodka. She isn’t an alcoholic. She has her crosses to bear. We were mixed up in different ways. She had seen me at my worse and witnessed the change over the years. A few weeks ago she asked, “How did you get from where you where to where you are?” It was the greatest compliment I ever received. It was the outside confirmation that I had made the right choices and was walking a good path. It was another high five from a sober life.

Where I was? Chaos! Inner chaos spilling out into my daily life. I was a child operating a man’s body. Like a Russian doll with a few inner pieces missing. Or so I thought at the time. I kept a well-built barrier to protect the facade. The thought of getting found out was fear-inducing enough to try to keep the false perception alive. I was only fooling myself though. Everyone saw straight through it. A few saw the vulnerability. A few saw arrogance. I pretended not to care what people thought. It was partially true. But only because I was so focused on keeping the chaos at bay. Anxiety medicated by alcohol is anxiety with an angry hangover.

Some people are drawn together by their madness. Their chaotic energy just matches. Two storms don’t cancel each other out though. They create a bigger storm. It wasn’t destined to end well. We stayed in contact. She has had an intermittent perspective on my recovery. Dipped in and out of my journey out of the madness and into a form of serenity. She has witnessed a transformation from chaos to peace. From anxious arrogance to confidence. From fear to adventure. To have that appreciated is a testament to the life-altering decision quitting drinking is.

I just knew I wanted to change in the early days. I wanted to be less anxious and calmer. I wanted peace. I wanted to be comfortable with who I was. Basically, I wanted all the things that alcohol promised but only delivered on a temporary basis. I wanted to have learned something from life. Enough, hopefully, to help out others. To be of service. And to offer support. It was nice to be asked for advice. Especially after being lost for so long.

Quitting drinking isn’t just for us. It is for the people around us. Quitting drinking is a gift to friends, family, lovers and colleagues. It is the hope that is much needed in a world that is often shrouded in pessimism. It is the light that guides others on a foggy night. It is wearing the scars of life and explaining how others can avoid the same mistakes. What a gift it is. What a pleasure it is to be lost and then to be able to throw a helping hand out to others. To develop from an empty shell to a sense of wholeness. To be able to be present and offer guidance. To show genuine love. To have care and compassion. To savour just a moment of life, no matter how fleeting, as a wonderful thing. To see genuine beauty where there was only unsightliness. To become a master of your own universe. No longer kicked around by the torrent of chaos that alcohol creates and cures in equal measure. It is available to us all. It takes work. It takes time. It takes perseverance and belief. But through incremental nudges in the right direction a metamorphosis takes place. Unnoticeable to us but noticeable to others. We just select the characteristics we desire and work on developing them. Eventually, others confirm we have become that person.

It is tricky to believe that things will get better after years of things getting worse. It is hard to be optimistic after another failure. It is nearly impossible to express self-love after a life of shame and guilt. BUT all those things can develop. I know because people have been there. Now people ask for my advice. I once couldn’t manage my own life let alone anyone else’s. The fact that people now think I can help them is the greatest compliment. I was once so lost I didn’t even know what path I was supposed to be walking. I would seek answers everywhere. I would cling to anything that I thought could save me from myself. Relationships would often be toxic but toxic is all I knew. I was desperate. I was hopeless. But eventually, I was found.

Many years ago I was given a St Christopher medal that had belonged to my late grandad. I lost it whilst drunk. I chastised my drunken foolishness for a long time. I ruminated over the fact and used it as another thing to drink to forget. The thought of replacing it felt like cheating. It would always be a reminder of my stupid mistake or like I was trying to change the past. I never did replace it. Until recently that is. Not with a St Christopher, a St Anthony. He is the patron St of lost things. Especially lost souls. It came with free engraving of up to six words. I chose “The lost soul is found.” It is a reminder that no matter how lost we are, we can find our way back. It takes honesty, mostly with ourselves. It takes moving our ego aside and admitting defeat. It means accepting weakness. It means tough choices and loss. It means looking at things we wished to forget. It means clearing the wreckage of the past and lightening the load for the future. It means liberation from old behaviours and the lessening of shame. It means self-love and self-respect. It means taking responsibility and being accountable. It means strength and decisiveness. It means people will look to you for help. It means that people may ask “How did you get from where you where to where you are?”

I’m not sure there is a greater compliment than that. I know that there isn’t much more proof that quitting drinking was the right choice.

Charlie.

A letter to my eighteen year old self

Hey up, Charlie,

I know you will probably dismiss everything I say as nonsense but I ask you to read on and reread until what I tell you sinks in. I know you believe you need to live with reckless abandon because you are destined for failure. So why try? Well, I am here to tell you that you are not destined for failure. That feeling/nagging that you have; the one that tells you not to try. It is a liar. Don’t listen to it. You have more to offer than you could even begin to imagine but you have to try. You have to get off your fucking arse and do something. Instead of sitting around drinking alcohol under the pretence that you are a rebel. You are not a rebel. You are a human with huge potential that you are pissing away because you don’t dare to try to change it. Your fear of failure is stopping you from progressing.

Dismissing things because of fear isn’t cool. It’s cowardly. You have value. You know you have value because you stand up for yourself against people but yet you allow yourself to treat you like shit. You call yourself names. You eat shit food. You have no self-respect. You know what you want to do but you daren’t do it because you are scared of failing. I am telling you that until you begin to take steps you will not move. Until you start planting seeds nothing will grow. So follow your heart, soul, gut, head whatever you want to call it and ask yourself “What the fuck do I want to do?” You know. You know but you just won’t go for it because it might not work out. Make that a goal. Make it a line in the sand and head for that. That’s how you get shit done. Because the way it’s going you will spend the next fourteen years sat on a barstool moaning about how life dealt you a bad hand. When in reality you just didn’t have the courage to try to do something and as a result you became lost. Believe in your strength and make an attempt. Trying and failing doesn’t make you a failure. Not trying makes you a failure. Each attempt that doesn’t succeed is just a lesson. I should know. I have learned many along the way. Here are a few:

  • “You can do anything but not everything. You have to pick the things to sacrifice.” Spending all your time and money in the pub is doing nothing. You have one life. You can go out into the world and experience all its beauty. You don’t have to be working 9 to 5 in a job you hate. That’s where you will end up if you don’t have a plan. Even if you do have a plan it might not work out so you may as well try to do something you enjoy.
  • Look after yourself. Treat yourself with love and respect. You are young and believe you will live forever but take care of yourself. I know you are scared inside and that you think you are not enough but you are. You are enough lad. So treat yourself accordingly. Drop the act it’s a load of bollocks. Everyone knows it.
  • Don’t get into debt. It’s a trap and takes a lot of escaping. The shit you will buy will not be worth the agony of paying it off. Go without and save. By the time you have the money, you won’t want the thing by then anyway.
  • Watch how much you drink. I know you love it but be careful. It is addictive as fuck and destroys lives. I know you don’t care as you don’t believe you have any value but to realise your potential you need a bit of clarity. When you notice the drinking is getting out of hand, reach out to people for help. It isn’t weak to ask for help, it is human. We all need a helping hand sometimes.
    Don’t be scared of love. Be vulnerable. YES, you might get hurt but the trade-off is worth it… sometimes. You’ve got to buy a ticket if you want to win the raffle. Not every ticket guarantees success.
  • On the topic of emotions; don’t be scared of them. Having them doesn’t make you less of a man. Avoiding them does. So don’t be scared. Embrace them. Don’t push them down because they will manifest as anger. Internalised anger at the world. This, in turn, creates a toxic mind that will take years to purge clean, if you’re lucky.
  • Eat well and exercise; I know you don’t see the point. Just do it to look after your body. You don’t have to be ripped, just healthy. You will have more energy and will feel lighter. The saying healthy body healthy mind is missing a word; and. It should be healthy body and healthy mind because they work in harmony.
  • If you want to be creative then do it and be proud of it. Don’t be ashamed of what you can do.
    If you don’t believe how much potential you have then set a goal. When you meet an obstacle on the path to achieving that goal, instead of abandoning it, seek to find a solution. I am sure you will be surprised at what you are capable of.
  • Travel to learn about life and yourself not just get drunk. Learn about new cultures and experience life. Go with an open mind and an open heart. You will be rewarded.
  • Don’t be ashamed of feeling down. Self-medicating anxiety and depression with alcohol is the road to addiction. Seek help when you feel down. It will be hard but you have what it takes. Fuck what others think. Take the steps to get yourself well. Alcohol is more destructive than helpful. It will take a long time for you to realise.
  • Accept yourself. In its entirety. Feminine and masculine. The dark part of your soul. Your fears and strength. Until you do you will feel you are missing something. Only love can fill that void. Self-love that you can share. You will search far and wide for something to fill that void. There will be fun. There will be pain. The realisation will be you are everything you sought. Enjoy it. Bring love.

I know many people will offer this advice throughout your life and you will ignore it all. Even though you know it to be true, you will dismiss it all as boring. Well, I know how it ends up and a lot of the lessons you will learn the hard way could be avoided by listening to people other than yourself. You think you know everything. In ten years you will realise you know nothing. Ten years still, you will realise you know less than that.

Take care, mate.

I love you, I just wish I could have told you sooner.

Older Charlie

The Great Reconnect…

Many people, myself included, drank alcohol to escape themselves. Or in some instances to try to be someone else. The thought of being a different person is often fuelled by a deep self-loathing. Possibly from some trauma. Or through repetition of negative sayings. This could be from a family member. Or even sensitivity to the cultural messages that bombard us with images of perfection that instil inferiority daily. The negative message becomes an inner mantra. Over time it is adopted as fact.

Whatever the cause, alcohol is the escape mechanism. Anxiety coupled with shyness was my burden. I didn’t know about the anxiety but drank alcohol to gain the confidence to overcome the shyness. What I discovered was that alcohol actually switched off my thinking. Silenced the negativity. The peace I found internally was as addictive as the alcohol I imbed to find it. I never did find the confidence I was seeking from alcohol. I was more interested in escaping myself than becoming someone else. Unfortunately, all too often, I did become someone else. Not a very nice person either. Alcohol didn’t switch off my negative thinking. It diverted the hatred outside. The spite would be projected onto unfortunate victims and passed off as a joke. Banter. It was nothing of the sort. It was the down beating of others to elevate my non exist self-worth. It didn’t work. It only fuelled the fire of self-hatred even more.

Over time a chasm grew between my body and mind. Alcohol was the wedge that divided me internally. I welcomed this fragmentation of myself. I despised who I saw in the mirror most mornings. I loathed my lack of self-control. I berated my lack of strength and condemned myself as weak. Although, neither was true. I was wrapped in a ceaseless cycle of addiction. A fear-induced obsession that preyed on my discontent and multiplied it. As problems stacked up, so did the empty bottles. With no self-worth, there were no solutions for fear of consequences. So hiding was my stock response. My life wasn’t just unmanageable. It was unmanaged. I was an observer in my own life. I was out of control but desperate for a solution. I only knew escape.

With quitting drinking I was met with life. Emotionally, I was still a child. My coping mechanism was to hide. Like the shy child that used to hide behind his mothers’ apron. I was still that child. Fearful and scared. I had never dealt with life. I’d constructed a false front of strength built on a foundation of bullshit. It had to be destroyed. It had to be stripped down and rebuilt. I had to learn to live. I had to learn how to do… life. But most importantly I had to learn to become one again. All the years of disconnect had made me fearful of myself. I mean who wants to spend the rest of their life with someone they hate? There were two options as far as I could see; learn to love or learn to cope. I tried to cope with self-hatred. Swapped the alcohol for other obsessions. Anything that gave a kick and got me out of my head for a bit. Anything that allowed me to ignore the negativity and find peace. It works. But is temporary. Any escape can only be short-lived. Afterwards, I always returned to the self. Back to the battlefield of my mind. Trying to make sense of the turmoil. Only to then start looking for the next escape. The next distraction from the crazy washing machine mind I had.
Fighting myself was tiring. Exhausting even. This coupled with the physical escape led me to crash often. Only to pick up the pieces and do it again. I was in the same cycle. Searching for a solution. It was the same behaviour just without the alcohol. I began to meditate. Walk in nature. Read spirituality. Again searching for a solution to this crazy brain. Meditation helped. But slowly my brain would speed up and I would have to meditate again. Stopping to meditate every time I need to isn’t feasible in reality. I can’t just stop working every time I need to meditate. I would be meditating more than working. I would basically be getting paid to meditate.

I have come to realise that I am still doing the same behaviour. Still searching for a solution. Still searching for an escape. Whether it is alcohol, shopping, porn, sex, love, meditation or exercise. I am using it to alter the way I feel. But it always comes back to the self. My head is still on my shoulders and it still contains my crazy brain.

Instead of trying to alter myself, I have started to accept. When I am running to maintain my health I repeat the mantra; I am enough, I am good enough, I have value. It’s just a form of affirmation. It’s still difficult to accept that I may be enough. But through repetition, it is starting to become a reality. The void I felt inside for most of my life is starting to close. The emptiness is beginning to be replaced with a feeling of connection. The great divide that alcohol gave is starting to close. It is finally a feeling of reconnection.

Acceptance has been the only answer I have found so far that gives oneness. I have walked many paths in the pursuit of answers only to discover they weren’t the correct ones. It has been a great lesson. The depression I felt recently was the catalyst for change. The closure of the airports due to the pandemic cut off my access to travel and forced me to face the final missing piece of the jigsaw. Only to realise it wasn’t missing at all. It was with me. It was in me. I just had to get through the self-hatred and accept that I am not perfect. But I am enough.

I still meditate but no longer to escape but to observe. To understand. To acknowledge the negative and the positive. To remind me that whatever is happening all I can do is my best. No matter where I am, my head is with me. So I need to make it into a friend I want to be with. Because life is hard enough without fighting myself every day. I am not great. But I am good enough. That is hard to accept but it is true of us all.

Alcohol gave me the disconnect I needed to get through life when it was needed. Quitting drinking was the great reconnect that I was hoping to find all along.

Remember you are enough, you are good enough and you have value. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Including yourself.

Much love,
Charlie.

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