There she blows… 90 days alcohol free. I’m not sure what I was expecting, a rush of euphoria perhaps? But no, aside from a final congratulatory email from Andy and Rauri at OYNB, Sunday morning was much the same as any other. Saturday had been a late night and it was past midnight before my head hit the pillow. After a restless night’s sleep, I snoozed until the light of day and the call of the coffee machine drew me, reluctantly, out of my nest.
Over the past 90-days I have experienced many mornings like this. Each was duly attributed to two decades of rubbish sleep and the lethargy of a lingering hangover. At the start of my alcohol-free journey, I had expected to wake each day at the crack of dawn after an undisturbed night, and to leap out of bed with a beaming smile, ready to seize the day. As with so many aspirations, this proved to be an idealistic expectation.
It had quickly dawned on me that mornings were still going to be hard work. There will always be late nights (as I quietened my non-sedated and active mind at 11pm), my bladder would still wake me up in the pit of night and the winter storms would noisily batter the eaves during the small hours. I knew that this change would be gradual and require patience.
October 23rd 2017 had been my day of reckoning: the day I was called to pay my debts and to account for my actions. In the kangaroo court of my mind, it was both I who did the calling and I who would answer the charge. Having appointed myself judge and jury, and with more than a hint of internal conflict, I committed to a path that I had stubbornly avoided for years. As such, there was no fanfare or launch party… I simply stopped.
And there, it seems, I began:
I began to think. No longer restrained by the numbing effects of alcohol, my mind was swiftly free to roam. Like a pet dog let off its lead and allowed to run alone in the woods. After each expedition it would eventually come back around, sometimes muddied and carrying a stick, contented and tired but enlightened, having been allowed to explore somewhere new.
I began to feel. Rather, I allowed myself to feel. Emotions are hard work, none the least the negative ones. Fear had caused me to head these off at the pass, often in anticipation and with no good reason, by preemptively shutting my system down. Free from the numbing effects of alcohol, I was suddenly free to experience the full gamut of emotion, or as it’s otherwise known, ‘life’.
I began to listen… and to pay attention. Real attention… to my family and friends, to my inner voice and to my body, to the birds in the trees and to nature. Listening builds trust, strengthens relationships and anchors us in the present… and when we listen, we hear! I began to hear music again. Those times I thought were lost in adolescence, when music would make me feel invincible or reduce me to tears… they were back.
I began to care about myself. As I emerged from the fog I gave myself permission to feel important and to put myself first. I dedicated time to connect with my body and to consider my health. I began to care about who I was and how I responded to the world. I started to care about my place in the universe and to care less about what people thought of me. I took up Yoga.
I began to read. Especially in the evenings when I had TIME, when my busy mind would ask questions (what do we do now Dan?) and demand answers. I read more books back to back in those 90 days, than in several of the previous years combined. I always loved to read, and in the quiet of evenings, books invited into someone else’s world and was able to lose myself in their stories.
I began to live. The conflict was gone and I began to feel free. After 25 years of being a regular drinker, it was indeed time to change. I can’t say I’ll never drink alcohol again (who knows the future?) but right now it’s simply something I don’t want to do. The end was the new beginning. You don’t need much to be happy, and now alcohol is out of the equation, I appear to have everything I need.