Ok, so I got sober. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to.
My life was an absolute mess. It was falling apart. Slowly but surely, I was losing everything that was once important. Alcohol and drugs, once a weekend pastime, had come to dominate my affairs. I’m not talking about a slow creep either, they really became my life, and quickly.
My work suffered and so did all of my relationships. I couldn’t have told you the last time my wife and I were intimate, and as for my kids, well, suffice it to say I became an absent father. I understood the concept that all of these things were supposed to be important, I understood them well in fact. I just couldn’t muster up the energy to partake in anything other than my devious secret life. I say secret, but that joke was on me; everyone else knew.
Then they blindsided me, during a moment of my lamentably standard pitiful existence, they told me that something had to give. I’m not sure who my family thought they were, but they had decided that I clearly wasn’t capable of changing on my own. Well, they were probably right.
I was given a choice: accept help, or face the avalanche of consequences that they assured me would follow. The decision was actually harder than you think, but mostly because I was an irrational lunatic masquerading through life trying my utmost to appear normal. As the hole I dug got deeper, my theatrical abilities decreased exponentially. The show was over.
So I went to treatment. It was the last thing I wanted to do - no, I wanted to continue burning my life to the ground, 20 dollars at a time. I maxed out credit cards, went into debt, and obsessively lived in the moment. I can’t emphasize it enough: nothing else mattered.
I showed up, and stepping on the scale during intake showed me how underweight I really was. I was completely exhausted. Indeed, I had been dying, but the slow manner in which I was passing had allowed me to convince myself otherwise. Plausible deniability if you will.
And then something amazing happened. I made an unbelievable turnaround; with every balanced meal and full night of sleep, I began to regain my health. I hit the runway like a chartered jet and pulled back on the throttle. Lift off. As if a baby with a bottle, I nurtured my body with a steady dose of gym and nutrition.
Stan was back!
As my muscles started to reappear, so did my consciousness. All I could think was “oh my goodness, what have I done?” I remembered the let downs, broken promises, utter failures and awe-inspiring selfishness I had displayed on a daily basis. I had become a beast and impacted the people I cared about in profound ways.
The amazing thing was that the people who had intervened, something which I now appreciate, only cared about me getting better. No, they weren’t resentful, they just wanted me back. All of the over-expectant, demanding, grudge-holding conduct I expected never materialized. They just wanted me to find contentment; they would be happy if I managed to re-find joy myself.
But what the hell was I supposed to do with my life? I was 40 years old, a few months sober, and essentially directionless. My marriage was on the brink and my kids were confused about what type of man their daddy was. I understood the fundamentals, sure, get a homegroup, sponsor, support network, etcetera, etcetera. You know, the “you’ll get your life back if you do so and so - yaddi yadda ya”. Of course, all of those things are important, vital even. The thing is, all I could think was, “what the hell am I going to do with my life?”
What I do for work isn’t important, the main thing was that I hated it. I had derived net-zero fulfilment from my career, and simply saw it was a means to my end, which, of course, was to provide for my family. I needed more from my life though. I couldn’t simply go back to the McMansion and daily grind of hamster wheel exercise. No. I needed something that would give me meaning.
I realized that life was about so much more than things; things that society expects and almost demands from those who want to participate in the game. The very game that had led to my self-destructive, addictive behaviour. The whole concept was thought provoking and scary. Was I really going to change the very fabric of my life, the core foundations of my existence?
Eventually, I came to an interesting conclusion: I had already got sober and changed as much as I did, so what was a further little shake-up?
One amazing thing that I’ve realized is that in life, we’re all on our own trip. At the end of the night, when you’re going to sleep, you only have yourself to answer to. Are you doing things that you feel good about? Are you happy? Are you actively guiding your life in the direction that you actually desire?
If you’re still reading, well, I’m glad I got you this far. I expect you’re probably thinking that my mind is stuck in some sort of fairy tale land. Perhaps you think that I am still under the influence. Let me allay those fears: I had simply realized that I needed to seek self-actualization.
Making money wouldn’t make me happy, but, of course, I needed enough to get by. By asking myself what I actually required, as opposed to what I thought I needed, I was able to simplify my life. I was able to cut expenses. As a result, I was able to save. By saving, I was able to broaden my horizon and continue to pursue my course of change. Slowly but surely, everything followed.
As I said, what I do for a career isn’t what’s important. Suffice it to say that once we start doing things we’re passionate about, the world starts to open like a clam. Things just start to work out, and today I have more than ever before.
I don’t know what life has in store, but I know that I’ll be able to face whatever comes my way.
Let’s face it, getting sober is the biggest change you’ll ever make. The things that once dominated your life, the life-altering chemicals you once depended on, those things are no longer there. Once you decide to make an intentional change, you can do anything.
This path once seemed so daunting, but it brought me to the place I am now, a place where anything and everything is possible.
I’m a loving father and husband, I’m a man who leads a life that is finally sustainable. I get to be myself. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I no longer think “now what?”
Now what? Well, you’re sober now - so anything you want, silly.
Pictures courtesy of Unsplash.com.
Cover: Warren Wong, 1: Pierangelo Ranieri, 2: Steve Halma