My drinking days weren’t a string of arrests. There wasn’t broken bones. There weren’t many fights. There wasn’t much blood. There were laughs. There was connection. There was chatting into the light of the morning. There was sitting in the dawn drinking cooking brandy from the bottle because everything else had been drunk. There wasn’t the type of stories that would make an AA meeting hall of shame. But there was a lot of misery.
There was internal chaos which I tried to silence with the deadening effects of alcohol. There was persistent darkness that followed me around. Behind the laughs, there was the real me trying to escape myself. There was disconnect. There was a prevalent fear of the following day. Of reality returning and being transported back to the person I hated for no real reason other than it was easier to hate than love myself. There was a reluctance to feel emotions. A fear, of putting my adult pants on and dealing with life. Alcohol was an escape. From everything. It was the divide between fantasy and reality. It was the wedge that kept me safe from myself. It was the promise of romanticised joy of beautiful melancholy. Unfortunately, the melancholy wasn’t beautiful. It was as aggressive as cancer and equally as destructive. Yet it is what I knew and what I thought I deserved.
Sitting in my garden, alone in a drunken haze blowing smoke signals to a starry night. Hoping for answers but getting no reply. Trying to plot an escape. Trying to figure it all out. I could never decode the flickering stars. If they offered hope it passed me by. That’s where my drinking days ended. Alone. Even in company. I always felt alone.
I never liked too much company. I couldn’t be the person a group of people wanted. I was a chameleon. Shifting personas to suit the company. A bad actor in a terrible film. Too scared to engage with me. What I would confuse in those quiet moments staring at the stars was that at that moment I was genuine. Yet I believed it was the alcohol who made me that way.
Ironic, that I spent my moments in quiet reflection wondering how to find peace. Wishing away the moment in the hope of finding a solution to the chaos. Using the mirror to ask questions, not to see reality. It is difficult to see clearly with blurred vision.
In the end, it all became too much. But even my rock bottom was a normal day to others. An accumulation of mishaps. A signal from the universe too clear for me to ignore; “if you keep drinking life will keep getting worse.” Stranded on the side of the motorway, my car had just broken down. I was alone. I felt the most alone I ever had. I lit a cigarette. That instance was the straw that broke the camels back. It was the slap from life that roused me from my drunken slumbering. The message was clear. Stop drinking.
Others have thicker skulls than me. Some have greater resilience to pain and can carry on drinking until death is staring them in the face. Others, through fear, see sobriety as a prison sentence. There is something that keeps us engaged in that destructive life. Maybe addicts are naive optimists. Believing that it will all come good in the end if we just drink or use a little bit more. It’s the same thing that makes us watch a bad movie in the hope it gets better. It’s only when the credits roll we wished we had trusted our instincts. Unfortunately, the time the credits roll on an addicts life it is very rarely with a happy ending.
I was always searching for something. Trying to fill a void that existed within. Alcohol did the job for an evening. Took away that twisted knot of fear and anguish. Lightened the imagined burden on my shoulders. It gave me a sneak peek at a life of contentment. But it was always short-lived. The rock bottom made me question my actions. Made me seek out other ways to fill that void. Healthier ways of living replaced the old ways of destruction. Learning and discovery replaced ignorance and escape. But in the end, I learned there is no void to fill. There is no missing piece. It is just an illusion. A trick to make me drink one more drink. Or buy one more item. It is the feeling that without those things there will be no progress. For years I convinced myself that if I didn’t go to the pub I would miss out on some fantastic event. That the one night I didn’t go would be the thing I had been hoping to find. It never happened with or without me there. It was a fantasy fuelled by insecurity. It kept me chasing a dream that wasn’t mine. I was blind to the fact I was going backwards but assumed I was going forward. I didn’t realise until I felt the cold hard floor of reality.
There were uncomfortable truths I had to accept. I cannot moderate alcohol. I don’t believe in the disease model but I do believe I am an addict. One drink will start it again. I know this because I have tried. I don’t do it because I don’t want to end up on that cold stony ground again. Why? Because it took a huge amount of effort to get out once. I don’t want to have to do it again. I don’t want to relinquish control of my life to alcohol. I did once and it ended badly. Do I miss drinking? Sometimes. Is the pining to drink greater than the fear of hit rock bottom again? Not today or the previous seven years.
The point is how bad does it have to get? How much pain do you have to go through before you realise it’s enough? Admitting to having a problem isn’t weakness! It is strength! It is taking action and taking responsibility. I am grateful I’d had enough when I did. Listening to the war stories of other addicts makes me realise how bad it can get. It reminds me that it COULD still get that bad. All I would have to do is drink. Alcohol is the red button that launches the nuke. I may not have utopia but it is a damn sight better than the apocalyptic wasteland, pressing that button would bring about.
Self-destruction is easy. For years, I searched for a tranquil environment in my mind. I would meditate and read spiritual books. Only to go searching for problems. Only to drink again. Even in sobriety, I can fall into the trap of criticising my life as being less than. Forgetting the misery that once was and damning my life for it not being “perfect”. Whatever the fuck that means. I had to learn to accept my weaknesses and my failings. Once I accepted that less than perfection was okay, then I stopped damning my failure at obtaining it. I accepted that the ideals I was sold and adopting as fact were not to be. Alcohol was not the answer. It was not my saviour. It didn’t solve problems. It created them. It took more than it gave. It will again if I let it.