That doesn’t really sound like a lot of time, does it? These last two months, though, have potentially been the longest in my life if that makes sense. A lot has happened, both good and bad. Let me start at the beginning, Christmas night into the morning of the 26th of December.
I don’t remember most of that night. I didn’t black out or anything. In fact, I’ve never blacked out. But the thing that stands out to me about that night is still the fact that I can’t remember what I did. I know that was the last time I watched porn, which I don’t remember. I know I got wasted and watched… something… on television. I can’t remember what that was, either. I know that while I got tanked my family slept peacefully in the house, not knowing that their husband and father was wasting away in self-loathing and depression.
I hide that stuff. I always have. I’ve kept it inside, bound tight, only letting it out when I was alone where no one could see or judge my weakness. But, truth? That’s a quick road to a short life. I know that very viscerally, now, because my friend did end his life on the morning of February 8th, 2021. I wrote about it in my post Swimming in the Sea of Pain. I don’t know what he was dealing with internally because he just didn’t talk about it. He was always laughing; always really good at putting on a show. I’m pretty good at that too, and I really don’t want to end up in that place. I’ve been there, on the precipice, staring into that great, dark abyss.
It’s scary. It’s real. I don’t want to end up on that precipice with so much pain that I don’t look back and see my family with their hands outstretched toward me. I don’t want to be there, so numb that I can’t hear their cries for me to please just turn around, their screams to “please don’t kill yourself!“
I don’t want to drown myself in liquor to the point that I can no longer hear the peaceful voice of God, singing words of strength and light into me and my life. I have been there. Separate from God is the worst place a person can possibly be.
And so, one of the reasons I’ve begun to be so open and honest both here and in my real life, in discussions with others, is because I can’t hold that inside anymore. I wasn’t made for it and I’m not strong enough. I don’t feel shame saying that, either. I feel free, because I am. The One who made me has promised to carry the burden for me, and I believe He is doing just that. So I’m not hiding stuff anymore, whether that makes people no longer want to read these posts or not. I’m being true to myself, my purpose, and my God.
I say all that to say that alcohol is a trigger for me. I never drink and wake up happy, and nothing good has ever come from it. You see, we were meant to experience this life. It’s why we’re here. We aren’t here just to bury every part of this life under a chemically induced stupor. We have to live it. To experience it. Even the pain, as terrible as it can be, is our lot while we are here. Maybe that wasn’t how it should have been, but it is what it is.
I was attempting to drown the pain, the anxiety, the depression, the OCD, and even the mania, under a cubic ton of bourbon and beer and only found myself drowning instead.
So I quit. It wasn’t alone. At some point prior to my decision to quit, not sure how long it was, my wife mentioned, “Maybe we should stop drinking.” I laughed and said I was good. It wasn’t within me at that time to set the drink aside. However, after that Christmas night and morning of the 26th it was a different story.
I wasn’t doing anything of value. No one was benefitting from my existence (not my family, me, or anyone else). I wasn’t creating anything. I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t working out. I was wasting everything God had given me. I was throwing away all the progress I’d made over the past few years. I was gaining more fat, losing muscle. I had told men how to fix their lives, then turned around and walked back into the swamp where I proceeded to disregard my own advice.
After that last time it was all or nothing for me. I had to quit then or I was never going to. Two days later, my beautiful wife made the same decision, and she reaches her two month milestone on the 30th of this month. *I’m gonna go give her a hug.*
Anyway, these last two months have taught me a few things, so without further gilding the lily, and with no more ado, I give you, the Seeker of Serenity… just kidding. Here are five lessons I learned from two months of sobriety:
- You don’t need booze to have fun
Not only do you not need booze to have fun, but it actually takes away from all the fun you could be having if you weren’t drinking. There are so many mornings that I missed which could have been spent doing something really fun with my family because I felt like ass after getting wasted the night before.
In fact, if I got drunk there was rarely a time when the next day was spent doing anything at all other than trying to not think about how much of a piece of shit I was being by drowning my own thoughts in entertainment like TV and video games. It sucked. My life has improved in every area since cutting booze out.
- Sans addiction, your mind is free to think big thoughts
Addiction takes up a lot of headspace. I was at the point where I could not stop thinking about booze. Far too much mental energy went into thinking about how I could make myself not think. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but that’s how it was.
Now, though, I find myself once more being able to consider things of far greater import. I can clearly think about my goals, I can course correct more effectively, I can consider concepts and ideas which I was simply too bogged down to think about before.
I’m writing again. A lot. And it’s awesome. With alcohol? I was unmotivated and unable to write with any passion at all.
I’m reading again. A lot. And it’s also freaking awesome.
Alcohol took a lot of enjoyment from me with the promise of a new and better enjoyment. It lied.
- All those wasted hours can be used for something brilliant
Like I said above, so many days were wasted as a result of my choices to drink alcohol. Hours and hours that I could have used for pretty much anything productive. How many books could I have written in all those days spent wasting away in alcohol and hangovers? How many posts could I have written? How many books read? Skills learned? People helped? Ropes thrown?
Looking back it saddens me. I can’t get back that lost time. I can, however, make the most of the time that I have before me, which is what I’m committed to doing. I’m back on a regular writing and content creation schedule. I’m back to working out six days a week. I’m back to eating in a healthy way to fuel myself rather than to deal with my negative emotions. By the grace of God I’m on the right path again.
Actually, this is more the right path than I’ve ever been on before. I’m doing better now than ever before. I’m not where I want to be yet of course, and in fact I know that I’m not going to just get somewhere and settle in because I’ll keep challenging myself to do better and achieve more, but I’m on the damn way to being a better man and being better at being a man than I’ve ever been before.
- It’s great to have fun with your family, and even better if you can remember it
There’s this weird high that comes from knowing you’re about to get drunk. It makes you kind of carefree and energetic and happy. Then comes the drink and even more happiness… sometimes.
There are a lot of times where I was motivated to play with my kids because I was energetic as a result of knowing I was going to be drunk, or from already drinking. I don’t remember most of it. My mind was on booze, not my kids. And that brings me shame.
Having fun with my family is far better without alcohol in the picture, and my kids think so too. They know I’m sober and they are proud. They know now that when I’m hanging out with them it’s because I love them and I want to spend time with them, not because I’m just checking boxes before I pop open a beer.
- Having a support network and people who keep you accountable is an underrated strength
Something that’s crazy is that when my friend ended his life, I could actually taste the bourbon in my mouth. That’s how badly I wanted to drink and bury the emotional pain. With the encouragement of my brothers in the Fraternity of Excellence, though, I was able to push through that desire. The first night was the most difficult. Who would judge me for trying to lessen such an immense pain, especially when I’m so fresh into sobriety?
That’s the excuse I could have used. But instead I went to FoE. They held me accountable through not only messages on an online chat board, but also through texting me and calling me on my phone. By having conversations with me and helping me to focus on anything other than that sudden and visceral gut punch which was my friend taking his life. By listening when I said, “I can taste the booze.” By telling me the truth that men aren’t made to drown our pain, but instead to keep pushing through the storm no matter how bad it hurts.
This isn’t an ad for the Fraternity, but I have to say that if you’re a man in my position or a similar one then this group will change your life. There are no excuses accepted, only commitment, discipline, and honesty. The men in this group are killing it and are some of the best men I know. If it wasn’t for them I would have failed on February 8th, and this post would not be being written. It’s for men only, so if you’re a man click the link up there and at the very least check it out. I can’t say enough good things about it.
Finally, this is not a lesson I learned on my own. I was taught this one by a man who has been a major inspiration, Zac Small. The lesson is that you can forgive yourself for not being the person you should have been. You can forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. You just gotta stop making them. Learn from them and become better and don’t let them hold you back from becoming all that you are capable of being. Read his post on How to Forgive Your Former Addicted Self for more of his words on the subject.
As an aside, there is the very real addiction of porn that I didn’t really go over too much here. However, I am writing a series of posts on how to overcome porn addiction. You can read the first post in the series here: The Porn Problem: 7 Negative Effects of Porn Consumption.
Stick around for more posts like this, and let me know if you have any thoughts or questions in the comments below.