Have you you ever wondered what it might like to be in jail for years and then come out only to find that the world has changed for you beyond recognition? No, me neither, but that’s exactly how I feel these days. I can’t really explain it if I’m honest. I can only think that whilst I was drinking I appear to have kept myself in some strange Alcoholic Neverland of false security, fair-weather friends and apparent proof that if you choose to do so, years can indeed pass by without you actually knowing what is going on around you. Ouch.
When I made the decision to quit, I had, at most, thought it might be strange to go to my local pub and not drink and that seemed like it might be a big enough deal to me. The problem of “rounds”, not “fitting in” or not being able to “have a good time” and wondering what sort of hell it might be sitting there constantly wanting a drink time after time. But all those things are so irrelevant in the scheme of how things have actually worked out. The truth of the matter is just about everything in my life has changed. And right now, all I can do is go with it and see what comes out the other end. If there is such a thing as Karma, then I might be OK.
The first thing I noticed was that I didn’t actually like going to the pub as a sober person. Sure, if there is a good band playing in my local, I’m on it. I can go and be entertained and happily sip on a Alcohol-Free beer for the duration but then I just want out. You see, I think pubs are not so much about socializing, as I had always thought. They are actually about drinking. People go there to drink more than they do to see friends. Drinking with a friend is a good way to deceive yourself as to why you are actually there. It’s a fact. I know this because since I stopped going, none of my so called friends have been remotely bothered to socialize with me outside of the pub. As a sober person, pubs are really strange places..If you are with a group of people drinking, it does not take very long at all for the group to quickly move to a different plain to the one you were occupying with them until just a short time ago – when you walked in together.
Drinkers want to be surrounded by other Drinkers. Whether they realize it or not.They might go to pubs to drink just to fill time that they cannot otherwise constructively use, or they may go there to feel better about themselves through the illusion of “fun” that Alcohol falsly creates. But clearly, they want to do it with like-minded people. Go out drinking with a non-drinker for the evening and you’ll see what I mean. You might as well be foreigners by evening’s end. Some of my friends actually seem weary of being in the pub with me sober (personally, I know they are better off than me there drunk!). You could even deduce from this that Addiction breeds Addiction then? Let’s save that for another time. Suffice to say I have gone from someone that had previously completely ruined a fantastic relationship through spending too much time in the pub to someone that now dislikes them. Didn’t plan that.
The direct consequence of this is that I have stopped seeing just about everyone I’ve ever met since I moved to my idyllic small city here in the heart of the most beautiful county in England. I never realized that pretty much my whole social circle were people I had met in the pub, save for a very select few. As in 99%. Ouch again. Or is it? A few weeks ago I would have thought this was the worst thing that could happen. I have always feared isolation. But did I fear isolation, or did I fear being alone with myself? I have, for the last couple of years, been in relationships with women I didn’t really love just for fear of being alone. What a terrible reason to share your life with someone else, no matter how empty you perceive it to be! So I’ve just made myself single, and for the first time in as long as I care to remember, I am not scared to be alone. I feel I would rather be alone for years than to be with the wrong person for purely selfish ends. It was so unfair of me. And I guess women being the intuitive creatures that they are, knew this too. Plus, the early days of recovery are such a head-spinner that they really need to be explored in private. I feel I am just getting to know myself again and that’s not the best recipe for sharing. Far easier to share anonymously!
But I do have more time to myself than most people. I was able to retire at a relatively young age and now live off property rental income. Most people’s dream job? Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It can lead to a rather dull life. At the very least, you will not meet people at work any more, or have an excuse to dress up daily, or have any real balance in your life, and chances are the boredom will lead to vices to deal with all that extra time you have. How many times have I gone into a pub in the middle of the afternoon as I had nothing else to do? And if you have no goals, how can you continue to score?
How does one stay motivated when all the common drivers of motivation – social standing, income, promotions, better holidays etc are no longer present? And why would one go to work if all of those things are already “in the bag”? This is something I struggled with for some time. So when circumstances conspired recently, I put all those preconceived notions to one side and went back to work. It’s nothing fancy, and it won’t change to world. But working 3 days a week for a local charity has been one of the best things I have ever done. I get to meet and talk to nice people, I get structure back, I get the joy of weekends back and last but not least, I may just be doing a good turn too. In fact, every day I’m not working, I have a very uneasy feeling that I am wasting my time. And I’ve rarely felt that in the last few years. But hey, it seems I was doing nothing but wasting time, and that is truly a sin. Time is far too precious a commodity to waste. After all, it’s one of only two things money can’t buy. I used to think it was better to be doing nothing on my terms that anything on somebody else’s. I was wrong. And without planning it, for 3 days a week I am no longer isolated. And in the spare time I’m left with I am now studying like crazy to update my Microsoft and CISCO qualifications to ensure I can move back to full-time employment when a suitable position becomes available.
A much wiser person than I, Max Depree, once said “the greatest thing is, at any moment, to be willing to give up who we are in order to become all that we can be.” I’ll drink to that! Not.