Sometimes I wonder what would have become of me if I hadn’t fallen into that hole on the sidewalk on 31 December 2006? Would I still be spending my Friday nights drinking and partying, wasting my Saturdays recovering and living in the pits of depression from Sunday until at least Tuesday. Only to start to feel human towards the middle of the week and then to repeat the cycle all over again. There were changes in the general pattern, but that pretty much covers my drinking habits. There were weeks where I might have included a second night of drinking if there was a special occasion, but generally the last couple of years of drinking followed this routine. Substance abuse comes in all shapes and forms, and just because I wasn’t drinking every day, doesn’t mean I wasn’t suffering from what is now termed Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
The truth is that my life was either taken up by the direct effects of drinking such as a good solid binge night or a nauseating hangover, or indirectly by the depression, lack of motivation and general feeling of unwell that followed my epic nights of drinking. No matter how many online questionnaires I did, the outcome was always the same, I was in the final stages of alcoholism and probably heading for the worst possible outcome.
So, no, I would probably not be following that exact pattern and it scares me still to think that I’d probably be either suffering from chronic health problems (take your pick of those that are brought on by heavy alcohol use) or god forbid, dead! I drank to excess when I drank and this often ended with me being incredibly sick! Great for the liver and stomach… But the thing that would probably ended up killing me was the ridiculous judgement I displayed when I was inebriated. No matter what anyone tells you, nobody functions at their optimum mental capacity when they are “boozed up”!
How many times have you heard yourself and your drinking buddies say, “I don’t get drunk!”? It’s the most ridiculous statement of all, because now as a sober observer, I realise that even those people who believe that alcohol has a minor effect on them are delusional. And when people’s faculties are marred by their drink of choice, they make irrational decisions. I hate to admit this, but I shudder to think how many times I got behind the wheel of a car after a few too many. And I am beyond grateful that I never got into an accident and hurt an innocent person in my stupidity. Now I would rather stay out way past the fun has stopped to ensure that my loved ones get home safely with me as their designated driver. I will go out in the middle of the night to collect my people if I know that it means they are not taking a chance with their lives or anyone else’s.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not playing the saint here, but it in some way makes me feel like I am re-balancing my karma for the years when I paid no heed to friends trying to convince me not to drive. There are other lapses in judgement that could well have seen my ultimate demise, but I imagine that chances are I would have ended up totaling my car. Death would have been a sweet escape compared to the idea that I might have ended or destroyed others’ lives… I know that this sounds morbid, but the ultimate truth is that unless untreated, substance abuse in any forms’ ultimate outcome is death. It might take years of slow decay or in some cases mere months, but it’s going to happen sooner or later, and the effects are devastating for those around us to observe.
Imagine watching someone slowly killing themselves and being powerless to do anything about it? Devastating! Not giving a crap what you are putting the people around you through? Well, to be honest about addiction, it’s the last thing you are really thinking about! Arriving at that point in recovery when you start to understand the pain and suffering you’ve caused? Incredibly tough! Moving through that and moving forward? Liberating!
The truth is that you have to let go of the guilt that you find yourself in when you do get to that point, because you cannot move forward if you are caught in the past. So when I do think what might have happened if I was still drinking, it’s more of an observation these days then a good old-fashioned wallow. I feel as though I’ve got to the point where I can be objective about the things I did in the past, rather than mortified when I think about them. It’s taken an incredible amount of personal truth and hard work to get to that point, but it’s been worth it.
This is not the first time I’ve posted along these lines, but I feel that it’s a point that needs to be made. Once you’ve made the decision to let the past go and really start living your life in the present, the results are truly incredible. I do believe that the past remains an excellent point of reference to measure our progress and development, but that’s all it should be. It shouldn’t be a place we revisit to beat ourselves up about things we have done, practice any sort of self reprisal or go to to feed our addict thoughts. So today I am grateful that I can look back to the point before my sobriety and use it as a measure of how far I have come and how much I have achieved in the last 2,320 days. And when I do that it astounds how much more incredible my life is than it had been for at least the 6,000 days preceding that, and those were just the legal drinking years. Because life is better with a clear head and an honest heart.
‘Til next time