If the world ends tomorrow, then I don’t think I would be wracked with guilt and regret over mistakes and wrongdoings in my life. I have made mistakes, and too many to mention, but I feel that since giving up alcohol I have strived hard to iron out my creases (metaphorically speaking – the physical ones are all too apparent, a sorry sign of my diminishing youth), and for the most part have succeeded.
As a drinker, I would have told a very different story. There wasn’t one aspect of myself that I felt fully happy about, not one characteristic that I genuinely felt proud of. I knew nothing of living life to the full, consistently fell short of my maximum potential and had the self- esteem of someone who persistently lives out her life in the shoes of a drunken, moody, instant-gratification-seeking narcissist. Not that I wish to be too hard on myself but that was me.
Addiction generally makes one self-serving and it is a hard habit to break, much more difficult than resisting the demon drink. For months after I gave up, I would often be about to totally disregard someone’s perspective or needs because they differed from mine, only to force myself to try a new method; self-sacrifice and a teeny bit of empathy. Over time I have rewired my brain and now I do think about consequences to a greater degree than merely how they will impact on me.
Learning not to be selfish breeds an altogether new phenomenon in the brain of the ex-addict; liking yourself, thinking you are ok, maybe even a nice person. And beginning to like yourself sets off a chemical reaction of its own; slowly, methodically, the building bricks of self-respect undergo a metamorphosis from a scattered pile on the ground, to a solid, well-constructed wall, sturdy enough to weather a few storms. Once you have built your wall, you’re all set – ready to face the world and all that it throws at you.
As someone who drank almost every night, mostly to excess, I had no walls, no defences to fight the fight with. Whenever something troublesome cropped up in my life, I drew on the old tried and tested (and routinely failed) methods of manipulation, crying, neediness and ultimately, giving up. I had no balls, no faith (I don’t mean that in a religious way, but faith in a better life, faith in the sun coming out again, faith in finding the way out) and no gumption. I have all those things now (again, with the balls, I speak metaphorically).
So if tomorrow is the end for us all, I feel like I have done the best I could have done with the cards I got dealt. And you can’t really do better than that.