Alcohol is not your friend…

A few months ago, a student was explaining to me the methods used by the local gangs to recruit kids. They would select the pariahs. The misfits. The outcasts. And offer them salvation in the guise of connection. Invite them out as a group and make them feel included. Eventually, there will be a price. Eventually, it would all end in pain. It sounded so familiar.

Acceptance is high on the list of things people want when they are younger. The yearning to fit in is so great that the fear of being pushed back outside makes some do unthinkable things. It may start out small. A bit of stupidity here and there. Then maybe a fight. Then maybe a serious violent crime. Then prison. Or death. I’ve heard numerous stories in the rooms of AA that follow a similar path; Shy, anxious teenager who never really fit in. Finds alcohol. Feels normal. Finally fits in.

Much like the gangs, advertisers groom us with false promises. Illusions of inclusion and dissolving of life’s issues. Much like the gang life, it is hard to get out once your in.

Alcohol pretends to be your friend. Pretends to have your interests and wellbeing at heart. It is always there for you; helping with your problems and it’s there for the big celebrations. It’s one of the family. A night out wouldn’t be the same without it. If fact, often, if alcohol isn’t there, many others won’t bother coming. That’s how popular it is. But behind the façade is an insidious ulterior motive. A nefarious plot to take away your dignity a bit at a time. A slow, systematic breakdown of your soul. When complete, you are to be replaced with an avatar of what alcohol wants you to be. It is done by offering a false promise; of connection and the sense of being part of something that was desperately needed. Alcohol presents the answers to the life questions we yearned for but could never find in the chaos of reality. It offers the reassurance that steadies the inner child and brings peace to a mind battered by the storms of uncertainty. But all it is doing is distracting us to gain prominence. Those problems don’t vanish. They are just going to reappear tomorrow.

The first few months of my sobriety mostly consisted of anger and grief. I was angry because I felt betrayed by alcohol. I was convinced it was saving me. I was convinced it was the answer to my problems. I was convinced I didn’t need anyone as long as I had alcohol. When my body began to fail and the evidence pointed squarely at my drinking, I couldn’t believe the deceit. Like a good friend who has really been sleeping with my partner behind my back. Or a gang that promises the world but then exposes the requirements for membership. To leave would push me back into isolation. Hence the grief. Quitting drinking was like losing a friend. From being a young teenager it had supported me through many difficult times. I’m not sure I would have made it through if I didn’t have a drink at the time. It did support me. It did help me through. It was the rock I clung to when life was stormy. BUT it left me broken. It left me emotionally stunted. It left me financially ruined. It left on a hospital floor riving around in agony. It was no friend of mine. It just exposed my vulnerabilities and temporarily filled the cracks. It pumped my ego and disappeared when it burst.

I recalled recently, I was in a pub many years ago and a woman introduced me to her friends as ” the coolest teacher she knew.” I assumed it was due to my drinking activities. So deluded was I by the influence of alcohol that it had consumed my identity. I was cool because I drank a lot. It is a self-fulling prophecy. If alcohol could speak, at that moment it would have uttered “I told you I would make you fit in. I told you I gave you a connection. I told you, you need me.” I would have believed it. I did believe it. I needed to believe it because without alcohol there was nothing. So powerful was it’s influence that a life without it was inconceivable. No matter what anybody said about my drinking, I defended alcohol with the ferocity of a protective parent. I was blind. I wasn’t in denial. Because I honestly thought it was what made me what I was. I romanticised alcohol. I imagined it made me interesting and cool. I thought together we were blazing a path through life. Venturing into the newfound territory. When in fact I was walking well-trodden paths. I was consumed by an obsession that I had mistaken for kindship and love. Accepting it was a lie was difficult to take.

The first warning from my liver was taken with a modicum of seriousness. Only enough to make me stop drinking for seven months. But I slowly gravitated back, as the delusions of change grew into affirmations of difference. “It will be different this time! It won’t let me down again… surely!” When it did, I was done. “Fool me once shame on you…” I was distraught. No one wants to believe that their friend is out to destroy them. Especially, a friend that has been in your life for as long as alcohol has been. But after blaming everything for my failings, there were only two things that had been present throughout it all; myself and alcohol. I could change myself but not while being under the influence of alcohol. I wasn’t in control then. I was doing things I wouldn’t normally do. I was in a place in life I didn’t want to be. I had to admit that alcohol wasn’t my friend. My life has only got better since I realised that it doesn’t have my interests at heart.

Since quitting drinking, the lies that I believed during my drinking days have drifted away. Sobriety forced me to step up to the plate and be accountable. More often than not I have been alright. I don’t need alcohol like I once thought I did. Thankfully, I have genuine friends. Ones who don’t create doubt, they create belief. They are the true connection that alcohol promised but never delivered. They wouldn’t ever ask me to do something that questions my moral code, just to be accepted. A real friend never would.

Charlie.

Taking action & getting sober

When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was a “lad“. Well, a wannabe lad who was really a nerd. I would dismiss anything that laid outside of the narrative of my created image. This approach cut me off from so much of life. The bravado I believed I needed to protect me, isolated me from the connection I actually needed. This made me needy because I thought that someone would save me. Any indication of affection was misconstrued as salvation. Yet, any questions asked regarding my behaviour were perceived as an attack and shut down. It was a confusing time; wanting a saviour but chasing away any help. Closed off and isolated.

I eventually learned that nobody could walk the path for me. I had to be vulnerable but I also had to be accountable. Waiting for change had got me nothing but more misery. It was time to take action.

One of the central facets of addiction is the unwillingness to take responsibility. Without exercising the all-important watershed of self-responsibility, breaking the compulsive cycle that leads to addictive behaviour is all but impossible.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/enlightened-living/201006/addiction-self-responsibility-and-the-importance-choice

I could have written a book on bullshit excuses I used to justify my behaviour whilst drunk. I used to call alcohol my “get out of jail free card.” The power in those three words “I was drunk,” gave me immunity. So I thought. I was convinced that if I just kept drinking it would work out well in the end. I mean why did I have to change I would be saved right? That’s how life works? Someone steps in and does it all for you?

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the people who tried to help were batted away with bullshit. I wouldn’t change because I was scared of change. I would say “I can’t stop drinking…” what I meant was “I won’t stop drinking…” I used to say “I can’t lose weight…” what I meant was “I can’t be arsed to lose weight…” Why? Because change is scary and it can be very fucking hard to do.

But that shouldn’t deter you from trying because it is incredibly rewarding!

I had to learn that I had been looking for an external solution to an inner problem. Alcohol, food and anything else that could change my mood were to blame for my failings. I never considered that I was the mechanism that enabled their administration. Throughout my drinking life I had been spewing vitriol at a world I believed had failed me. Drunkenly, I would shout obscenities at the night sky. The silence from the ether only served to antagonise me further. Alcohol combined with my victim mentality created a perfect storm within. Anger and frustration from fear of failure slowly eroded my self-belief. I was systematically hollowed out and abandoned. Alcohol was a grifter that I let into my life. Yet, even after noticing the danger, I continued to fuel the devastatingly toxic relationship out of fear of change.

A rock bottom exposed me to the error of my ways. Not the first rock bottom but so far the last one. “Just because life slaps you across the face doesn’t mean you won’t chance it again.” Rock bottoms are talked about like they are some divine moment of clarity. What isn’t mentioned is that A LOT of people have many before the message gets through. Myself included.

In the early days of my sobriety, AA asked me to adopt a higher power and “hand my problems over.” I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to outsource my problems anymore. I had been pointing the finger, blaming others and hoping someone else would solve my problems for years. All the while refusing to take action. I used to sit in bars thinking it’ll probably work out in the end… MY LIFE ONLY EVER GOT WORSE. Sorry for the caps but some people don’t get the message that; waiting for change, whilst doing the thing you want to change, doesn’t result in change. I’m sure you would have a few things to say if your house was on fire and the fire-brigade stood and watched it burn down saying “it might go out on its own!”

Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James 2:14-26

Even being as open-minded as I could, I still struggled with the AA program and sought other means of going inward. I had been waiting for an external saviour for years so maybe it was time to look elsewhere.

I began meditating thanks to a Kundalini yoga DVD I had used to lose weight. It worked on the weight and also, opened my mind to new pursuits. I thought that maybe meditation would help to get a grip on my thinking. I had been battling depression throughout my life but just didn’t know it. I had assumed that the low level of drudgery was a part of life that we all endured. The reward for this drudgery was alcohol. Yet, deep down I hoped there had to be more to life. I was scared of being different. Yet yearning to release the fire of inquisitive exploration that burned within. I wanted to get to know who I was and meditation has been a key component in that.

I started to practice and over time, began to see parts of my psyche I had forgotten. I had some experiences that made me realise that I was on the wrong road. I changed careers as a result. I found fulfilment in what I was doing for the first time in my life.

I have used different meditation practices from focusing on breathingmindfulness and transcendental. In the AA steps it talks about meditation but it is referring to Christian meditation to bring people closer to God. The difference can be seen here;

Work out your own salvationDo not depend on others.”

Buddha

I didn’t want to get closer to God. I wanted to know what I wanted and who I was. I’d been living a lie for so long I’d forgotten the truth. The character had consumed the actor. Thankfully, meditation made me centred for the first time. Coupled with the clarity of not drinking I was able to find a stable footing.

Being present allowed me to experience life in its simplistic wonder. To connect to moments I missed when my head was careering from one imaginary catastrophe to the next. Imagining one terrible scenario after another.

The life I have experienced since has been more simplistic but more beautiful. I have had some great connections to life and other people. The spirituality/connection I have felt is merely an understanding that I am a small part of a large universe but I still have a part to play. A deep realisation that my actions impact other people and nature. But I need those things to be able to enjoy life. The greatest of these feelings is always whilst walking. Either long distances or in nature. It reminds me to be grateful for my body and also, not to take nature for granted. It’s easy to be distracted by technology and miss the beauty that surrounds me. Walking and being present are the basis of my recovery. If I enjoy the simple things then all the other things are a luxury. It’s almost as if I had become so detached from nature that my life had grown to be unnatural.

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

Buddha

I spent years sitting on a barstool waiting for divine intervention to turn my life around and it never came. I had to stop believing in saviours and take action for myself. Thankfully, others came to the same conclusion. They walk beside me on the path of sobriety but they can not walk it for me.

Don’t wait for change. Make it happen!

Charlie.

Lessons from depression…

In 2008, I suffered a debilitating dark depression that kept me, prisoner, for most of the year. Being a working-class man, depression wasn’t something I knew about. The thought of reaching out was debilitating. The illusionary image of strength was the enemy of my recovery. It restricted me from reaching out sooner. It kept me in a dark place for longer than was needed. Last year (2020), I began to descend down the same road. It was a slow return to bleak negativity and eventual hopelessness. The mornings seemed darker. My body felt heavier. Depression is insidious. It is sneaky. It is tiring. And pretending to be strong is not the answer. I didn’t want to acknowledge it. Let alone reach out for help. I wanted to be the one who had beaten depression all those years ago. I wanted to be the one with all the answers. Who had walked through hell and had the burns to prove it. It wasn’t to be. Thankfully the misery of the first bout of depression was enough to seek help much sooner this time. The lesson from the first bout was; I don’t have to fight it alone. 

For most of my life, I felt out of step with everyone. Imagine a silent disco. On the headset, there are two channels. On channel one there is clubland classics pumping out baselines with the ferocity of a Mike Tyson uppercut. On channel two there is The Smiths greatest hits. Morrisey’s melancholy meanderings light a connection in my depressed soul. I feel like the only one in the room listening to The Smiths. Everyone else is having a great time. Partying. Loving the moment. While I am gently swaying contemplating my own existence.

I’m not alone in feeling this way. Many others feel disconnected and lost also. Cut off from others and themselves. Trying desperately to fill the void with something. Hoping that one day it will be filled with something outside. Not being comfortable to expose their true selves, many adopt a persona. A barrier to protect them from being exposed. The artificial attracts like. Connections are merely trivial distractions from the self. Another solution to the emptiness.

The social fabric is tearing as it’s material is cheapened. Life gets devalued. Connections become trivialised. Mental health increases as isolation and loneliness take hold. Clinging to trends in the hope of acceptance. Trying to keep up with the ever-changing world. It’s overwhelming and exhausting. It is this feeling that draws us towards escapism. Fantasist ideals tantalise our tastebuds. They tease us to believe that the next thing will be the key to our illusionary prison cells. The result is that our day to day life suffers. Our minds are on tomorrow. Not now. We become focused on the things we lack and not the things we have. Escape from this makes perfect sense. TV, sex, food, alcohol, drugs, anything that gives temporary relief from the emotional pain is sought. 

Alcohol appealed to me because it gave me freedom from an anxious mind. Placed me firmly back within the moment and silenced the dream machine. Eventually, escapism is all I knew. I had forgotten how to live. Alcohol became my life. Yet, after quitting alcohol, the behaviours still remained. I still sought to escape from myself just by other means. I was blinded by broken promises of happiness dressed as manikins. The illusion of technological vicariousness swallowed my integrity. An artificial audience has begun to dictate my direction. I got lost in the delusion. Clouded by bullshit. Dragged along by nothingness hoping to reach something. Searching for reality in the artificial. 

Basically, I have reverted back to addictive behaviour without using alcohol. I had been searching for completeness. Browsing the shelves for my missing piece. No wonder I was fucking miserable. Like a hamster on a wheel dreaming of escape. I had been going around and around. Each new item I bought was the thing to liberate me. Yet, happiness wasn’t included. Everything new becomes old eventually. Consumption is fleeting. Life isn’t dispensable. It is to be savoured. Devoured. Explored. Tested. Tried. Bent and prodded. By searching externally I only found the same answers. External stimuli are temporary. Eventually, the feeling will be replaced. Like a bucket with a hole in the bottom. Contentment is a fixed bucket. I had to find the road to contentment.

Perception makes a huge difference. Most mornings I would wake up and imagine sliding a pistol against the base of my skull. Suicide or face the day. That was my choice for a long time. I would say “One more day,” And then I would get out of bed. I mean, it isn’t a great way to start the day. Contemplating suicide. It wasn’t a conscious choice. It was just the way it was. A continuation of the guilt soaked mornings of addiction. When each thought would either be where am I? Or “shit! I’m still alive!” I have replaced suicidal morning meanderings with a morning complement. A much nicer start to the day. I have started being nice to myself, mentally. Saying you are good enough. It seemed like bullshit when I started but eventually, it made a difference. I’m just trying to find the level. Repetition is the mother of skill.

It has been a good lesson. An enforced reflection. A slap across the face. I have learned that obsession is putting all eggs in one basket. Addiction is a single escape. Imagine, there is a percentage of escape we need from the rat race to stop us from going insane. Addiction is 100% of that escape. The answer is to diversify our addictions. Spread them out to eliminate the obsession. Learning an instrument 25%. Exercise 25%. Spending time with friends or loved ones 25%. Reading 25%. Just examples but you get the idea. I know it isn’t as easy as choosing not to be an alcoholic/addict/user but it is integral to mental well being. 

Even after all these years, I can still obsess over people, products or travel. In fact, obsessing has been useful to achieve goals. Unfortunately, when the goal is accomplished, I am left floundering around for something else to obsess over. If I peg all my happiness on a single outcome, what happens if it doesn’t deliver? A single goal is a dangerous destination. After completion, it is a lonely place. It is good to have balance. To spread the love. To share the growth. To pass on your message. Altruism is great for happiness. It stops us from collapsing into selfishness. It also increases our awareness and mood. 

When I begin to obsess over a goal everything else falls by the wayside. Travel was a massive obsession. It has all the positives of alcohol; confidence, laughter, relaxation, dopamine, banter, connection and experience. But without the destruction of the self. In fact, travel expands the soul instead of destroying it. Because of these characteristics, I find travel addictive. Dopamine is constantly pumped into my brain by excitement and wonder. It is a beautiful feeling. Returning home is the hangover. Crashing through the floor into a dark cellar of despair. Especially, when I have pushed everything away to get to the finish line. Each time I have to rebuild the bridges to the people who saw the real side of my obsessional behaviour. It’s similar to a manic episode. It is similar to a drunken episode. It consumes my thinking and I stop doing the simple things that keep me well.

The depression last year started after achieving my dreams. All I had ever wanted to do was travel. I wanted to KNOW what the Inca trail felt like. I wanted to experience it. The fire in my soul was ferocious. Alcohol cooled it but never extinguished it. I had naively assumed that achieving my dreams would lead to fulfilment. But I was mistaken. The aeroplane wheels barely touched down at Heathrow airport, on my return, before the thought “Is that it? Now what?” entered my mind. I was lost. Without a goal, I felt I had nothing to aim for. I had stopped doing the simple things. I wrongly believed that travel and achieving dreams would answer all my problems. I heard Tyson Fury talking about how deflated he felt after winning the world title. I understand the emotion. I thought that achievement would fill the void.

I know it sounds ungrateful. I know how lucky I am to have done what I have done. I am not saying that I didn’t have a great time. Neither am I suggesting there is no benefit it having goals. Setting goals can lead to contentment. What I am saying is that the thing I dreamed about doing for twenty years didn’t make me content. What does make me content are the simple things that I can take for granted. It is those things that are the basis of my contentment. I was almost disappointed to realise that there wasn’t some magical thing in the world to complete me. Meditation, reflection, creativity, connection, gratitude, love and self- care. Those things are what I need to stay well. Not doing/acknowledging them is the same as digging up the foundations of my house. Once the undermining begins then the negativity creeps in and then the whole house comes falling down.

I recently heard of a young man taking his own life. None of his close friends or family knew of how he was feeling. Reaching out may not have solved his problems but it may have. IF YOU EVER FEEL THIS WAY THEN PLEASE TELL SOMEONE. Reaching out can seem pointless when amid despair. But it changed my life. You don’t have to go it alone. The world needs you. It may not seem like it but you are loved.

Charlie.

https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/

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The Power of positivity…

The mind is everything. What you think you become.

Buddha

In 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in less than four minutes. It was deemed to be impossible. The specialists at the time said that to achieve such a feat was “beyond human capability”. Despite this, Roger Bannister trained and attempted it. How did he achieve the impossible? Hard work and a belief that it could be done. When all around saw impossibility, Bannister saw an opportunity. He opted to test how true the narratives of the time were. He pushed the boundaries of belief and conquered the impossible.

The narrative of impossibility stands as the guardian to the gateway for many of our dreams. Things in life that appear impossible, remain that way because we believe they are. The narrative dictates our self-worth. Steals progress. We become paralysed by the knowledge that to attempt, is to fail. Inaction is the outcome. But look around. Take a look at the people who have achieved what you want. It is possible.

Many stood in the wreckage of a life destroyed by the effects of addiction. Each thought how the fuck do I put this together again? How do I live a life without a drug? How do I even function? This is impossible!!! But how many are there sharing their story? How many thought it was impossible but still gave it a go, only to succeed? Millions of people. Some found it impossible. Or should I say they let the narrative win? Many others stayed the course. Despite the odds being stacked against them. Each positive change was another piece of coal that kept their belief burning. It is imperative to have faith that things will work out. How do you get it?

Years of guilt and shame. Years of not being able to control your behaviour are enough to destroy self-worth. But it can be rebuilt. It can be restored. Repeat “I can do this!” Scream it. Exercise and repeat it until you believe it. Want to lose weight? The same “I can do this.” YOUR PAST FAILURES DON’T DICTATE YOUR FUTURE! You have the capabilities to do it! You just don’t know it. They got lost. The path to success got clouded by the narrative that was adopted. The one that says it’s impossible. The negative thinking patterns that limit our progress are changeable. The belief that the future will end up the way it always has creates anxiety. The ominous outcome that is predicted by the negative narrative is debilitating. Fuck that narrative. Take control.

That negative narrative will kill you. It will leave you broken and trapped. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are things that can be done to change the narrative:

  • List all the things you have that you are grateful for. Not superficial things. Genuine things that resonate with your soul. Love and connection. Something that feeds life. Things like food and water are often taken for granted but they are vitally important.
  • This is hard but necessary; what do you like about yourself? Not superficial. Something that defines you. That gives you a connection to life. Write them down. If you can’t find something then it is time to accept that those parts of yourself do exist. It is time to shine the light on them once again. “There is nothing to like about me!” that is the narrative, not the truth.
  • Set small goals. For example, to lose a small amount of weight. Or to pay off a small amount of debt. Then repeat this process. It is small steps that build to larger change. But also by achieving things, no matter how small, it builds confidence.
  • Celebrate your achievements. You deserve it.
  • Tell yourself you are good enough. You are capable. You are beautiful. Repeat it until you can say with conviction.
  • Take action to improve the things you wish to improve. Setting goals is important. But without the action they may just remain as goals. Instead of becoming achievements.

“Strong, pure, and happy thoughts build up the body in vigour and grace. The body is a delicate and plastic instrument, which responds readily to the thoughts by which it is impressed, and habits of thought will produce their own effects, good or bad, upon it.”

James Allen, As a man thinketh (1903)

In 1903 the book “As a man thinketh” by James Allen was released. Over the years the ideas have been reshaped and relabelled. In 1957, Earl Nightingale released the strangest secret. Which reignited the ideas. In modern times, terms like the law of attraction and The Secret have been reignited the belief in the power of positive thinking. The message remains the same. If we plant the seed of positivity, it will alleviate the anxiety created by the fear of failure. The mindset that something is achievable is the start of it becoming achieved. But the thought is just the precursor for the action. Thinking that something will happen, then sitting and waiting is not the way. Belief is the fuel for success. It is the thing that gets us up to go again. It is the crack of light in the darkest days that make us realise that there is a way out. But we have to put that faith in motion. “Faith without works is dead!”

Many people ask “what do I want out of life?” Which to me is a vague question. Life is made up of many parts. It is complex. The reason many people get lost in this question is that it is a huge task to try to figure out. Life can be broken down into smaller components; health, relationships, finances, knowledge, personal goals. Each one can be reviewed. They can be measured by our metric and evaluated where we are on that path. Is it okay or does it need improvement? For me, many improved with the removal of alcohol but others needed to be cultivated. By breaking them down they become manageable and more realistic. This process removes the ambiguity of the whole and enables growth through smaller steps. Positive thinking is the belief that we can achieve those goals.

In the misery of addiction, the only goals I had were 1) not get sacked for drinking 2) drink. That was it. That wasn’t my life. That was the life afforded to me by an addiction to alcohol. Sobriety became the first goal I set. “To try and stay sober!” that was the start. How? By not drinking! But it seemed impossible at the start. Unrealistic. Unachievable. Yet, I just kept going. Eventually, it became natural. I found the simple things that worked for me; exercise, connection, creativity, meditation reflection. When the gloss of alcohol disappeared it left behind the mind it had created. One of negativity and poison. Of defeatest low self-worth. That narrative is the one that destroyed me. Drove me to the gutter and kept me there. That mindset wouldn’t enable growth. It had to change. I read psychology, philosophy, self-help. I watched numerous videos on promoting self-belief. Eventually, I stood in the footsteps made by my beliefs. I walked in the shoes of the person I believed I could become. Yes, it took time. But my god it was worth it.

I believe it is available to us all. That we all have gifts and talents that are restricted by the limiting chain of self-doubt. But with a little encouragement and rewiring through changing our beliefs then we can achieve what was once impossible.

“Just because they say it’s impossible doesn’t mean you can’t do it!”

Roger Bannister

Some of the darkest times in my life have led me to great achievements. Once, amid alcoholic ruin, I imagined being on a beach far away. The sun was just rising and I was happy. It was a far cry from the situation I found myself in. Years later, I was lucky enough to rent a beach hut in Cambodia. The sun was just rising. The sky was illuminated. I walked down the steps of the hut onto the beach. At that moment I recalled the visualisation from the years before. I was standing where I had imagined myself being. It had come to fruition. It had been nothing more than a comforting dream but eventually became reality. The seed had been planted. Sobriety freed me to take the action needed to make it a reality.

So try it. Listen to that inner chatter and hear what message you are repeating about yourself. Is it negative or is it positive? Is it one of love and gratitude? Or one of scorn and fear? You can change it. You can become the beautiful soul that resides within. I know you’ve got what it takes. Do you?

“If you realized just how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.”

Destiny awaits,

Charlie.

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Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

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.

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