Hello again and welcome, I'm back to doing actual stuff after a few days of concentrated sunbathing. As a true Brit, I still eagerly lap up every last ray of sunshine like it's gonna run out sometime soon! I am aware, of course, that the likelihood of sun here in Africa is immeasurably greater than in Sheffield, England but that doesn't allow me to take it for granted, it's one of my favourite things that really lifts my mood and makes me very grateful to live here in Cape Town.
So, I celebrated 14 months sober the other day which coincided with the 3rd anniversary of my fathers premature death at the hands of lung cancer. It always makes me sad to think of him dying when he did and I guess it always will but, like I've said before, I don't need anniversaries to appreciate his profound impact on the way I view the world. I was in awe of him and the only thing I regret is not showing or voicing it. Anyway, I sometimes struggle to use the word 'celebrated' in conjunction with not picking up a drink because most people could do this without really giving it a second thought should their life depend on it, as mine does, however on this occasion I believe that it's warranted. To put it into perspective, it's the longest I've gone without a drink or other substance in roughly a quarter of a century. I'm not one of those folk who put too much emphasis on clean time and I certainly don't seek out attention or praise for it. I've learnt that it's not easy having relapsed on many occasions and never take my sobriety for granted. I don't have a choice when it comes to alcohol, well I do but it's essentially one of life or death, and all I want out of the deal is that my quality of life improves and I become a better person than when I was drinking away any problems or responsibilities with aplomb. My life is better and I'm surrounded by people who like me the way I am and that's enough for me. My fathers death is constantly with me but now I've come to accept it and take the stuff that he taught me about living a good life and being a positive influence to others. He was always there for people and a constant source of sound, realistic advice. I like to think that I have inherited his heart.
When I feel strongly and react angrily to something there is almost always something wrong with me. Criticism from others mostly goes over my head and I react very calmly but when there may be some truth in what they are saying I feel angry and frustrated, threatened if you like. These days I have to check myself before reacting which is something very new to me. I used to just do and say stuff without thinking and a common phrase of mine was 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'. My reactions and actions were based purely on the way I was feeling at that particular moment and consequences never came into it with the comfortably numb backdrop of an alcohol blanket. Road rage is a prime example of this, I've certainly become a much calmer driver in recovery and that comes with serenity. I see other peoples aggression as them dumping their metaphorical shit on the road, it's not personal and I no longer take it that way, I even accept that some people just struggle to get the basics of driving right. If I react, it's not about what's just happened on the road but something internal, a result of stuff building up. Being in the moment (I hate clichés but can't think of a better way to say it) things are just easier, a little delay doesn't matter, I'm in Cape Town surrounded by beautiful scenery, why should I be concerned? In a nutshell, things are just easier, I get down on occasion and I still get neurotic but these periods are usually short lived and are gone before I have time to dwell on them. I always used to think the worst case scenario and still do, just briefly, until I practice my new way of thinking and lose the negativity. For example my girlfriend went a bit quiet for a few days, nothing dramatic, just got sick but I imagined that I'd done something wrong or she's found a more eligible man (unlikely, I know!) when the reality is simple, she has her own stuff to deal with and was ill so understandably needed a bit of alone time. It's not always me and I've had to rid myself of that paranoid, co-dependent side which was rife in my previous relationships, fuelled the drinking and ultimately ruined all of them. Again, things are just easier this way.
I still get depressed on occasion but when I do have a bad day, the only thing I have to achieve in that day is not to drink. It doesn't happen often and abstinence is just the basic last line of defence in a much more complex remedy to an insidious disease but for one day it'll do. It's all about my perspective now, I can be positive and enjoy my daily life, project into the future and become consumed with worry or dwell on the past and become consumed with guilt and shame - both unhelpful and both factors in my life that have led to drinking. To me, it's really that straight forward, I actually have almost nil control of things going on in the world and the only thing I do have control of is my attitude, words and actions. The way I am and the way In which I interact with others. Things are easier that way.
I used to have a desire to control things and people, now I understand that I have no control and let the world go on around me. A nice, albeit weird analogy that I heard recently is that I used to be like a flea sitting on a log and trying to steer it down the river. It was a fruitless exercise for me, the flea, but I still tried without success. Things out of my control happen and the world keeps on turning. I can now sit back as the aforementioned flea, often in the Cape Town sun, and literally enjoy the ride and things are easier this way.
I no longer crave madness and excitement, I look for inspiration in other, more simple things, like an interaction with friends at a BBQ, a laugh and a joke. Just having people around is now a pleasure rather than the chore it used to be. We alcoholics get so bogged down with low self esteem that sometimes we just need to let go and enjoy being the individuals we are. I'm trying not to be rude but those who constantly criticize as a way of dealing with their own failings can get fucked. Some people just want to bring others down and some people are worth the effort and it's not really that hard to figure out who's worth it and who ain't. If you're still reading this you're probably worth it and if I've failed you in the past I am sorry. I didn't always behave like a great human being though I always had the potential to become a good, loyal person and I feel like that's what I am today. Life is easier today.
I always like to end on a positive and although this sobriety lark isn't easy, it's bloody worth it and a damn sight better than living in fear of the next disastrous turn of events lurking around every corner. I really feel like I'm living life again and once my mate and potential business partner decides to get his arse on a plane to meet me in Cape Town (this has now happened and you can contact CapeRecovery SA or CapeRecovery UK for rehab referral options or any advice you may need with anything relating to recovery or addiction for you or a loved one) I can maybe start earning and becoming the productive and helpful alcoholfreeme.com