My life sucked. Not only was I drinking too much, I…no, that’s not the start of the sentence, that IS the sentence.
I was drinking too much. I was miserable and unhealthy and my life was a Groundhog-style cycle of repetitive days with a variety of different backdrops. My lonely suburban house, hectic annual work conferences and trips, the open road on solo travel ventures. It all geared around drinking to excess, hiding it where possible and not giving a fuck when it was hanging out for all to see. I just couldn’t stop and it coloured every aspect of my life. I was totally miserable hiding in plain sight. People could see with one eye closed that I was a drunk but I don’t think they could see how deeply unhappy it was making me and how isolated I was becoming. I think I was quite good at hiding my misery.
I spent a lot of time in the past many years reading about how to give up drinking. Trying to find some rehab option that sounded right to me. Something residential where I could go away for some time and have professionals say something to me that would make it all make sense and make me stop. Many times I googled ‘but what do they ACTUALLY say to you in rehab?’, hoping to find some secret mantra on the web that would suddenly make sense and either make me stop drinking through its sheer wisdom or make me sign up for some magical programme on the spot. I became too reliant on trying to google my way out of my drinking problem and of course it didn’t work.
I think I might have tried rehab if it had been clearer how to get there. I guess I wanted something like booking.com where I could make a choice based on the programme, location and price and then narrow it down by reading reviews. Still, all the rehab sites seemed pretty generic, had testimonials that clearly they themselves had selected and never gave anything away about price. I wasn’t prepared to contact them to start a discussion so I never got beyond adding ‘so how much does rehab ACTALLY cost?’ to my google search pattern and not getting any satisfactory answers. I still have no idea what rehab would actually cost and where a middle income northern European would choose to go. Somewhere in the south of Spain maybe? Would my GP know?
What did work better – unsurprisingly – was abandoning google and taking action. By taking action I mean locking myself away isolated for months on end until the urge to drink went away. I didn’t tell anybody or go to AA. By all accounts this is the wrong way to do it but it seems to be working okay for me and I’ve got some way past the isolationist approach now. It feels like it is over. I guess it depends on your character type and the nature of your drinking. Giving up alcohol for me was a lot like giving up smoking, 70% physical and 30% psychological, and once I got past the physical withdrawal I was readier than I expected for the battle with my psyche. Like the Wizard of Oz that devil was much smaller once the curtain was pulled aside.
Back when I was still searching for the elusive rehab miracle I began to wonder how much would I pay? What is it worth to me to get sober? £5k? £10k? 10% of my net worth? How much of my money would real, meaningful sobriety be worth. A lot. But how about if I spent that and it didn’t take. Wouldn’t that be a monumental waste of money?
Anyway it turns out for me I needed to jack it all in and take an extended break from normal life. It took me two years of that unfettered life before I finally put the bottle down but now I am coming up to day 300. I really don’t think I would have given up drinking if I had stayed in my last lonely house in my last full-on job. I was too stuck in the cycle of highs and lows, misery and self-gratification and messed up thinking. I needed to get away to do this. So I’m glad I abandoned all that even though it has left me distinctly poorer than I was three years ago and without the safety net of a job. Financially it has cost me a lot to get here but I am sure it was worth it.
But now I need to get off my sober laurels where I have been resting for too long and get my act together to start building my external life up again (and my net worth!). I’m really out of practice but it has to be done. As with the drinking I know I need to stop with the googling, hoping to chance upon some magical solution, and start using my brain again to figure out what I really want and how to do it. Okay, off now to try and do that.