It’s my birthday tomorrow. I’ll be 38. Creeping up on me over the last few years has been the dawning realisation that eventually (drum roll please), I am going to die.
I have always known this to be the case since I was a little girl, but back then it was the kind of acceptance where mentally you exclude yourself from the situation, i.e. no acceptance at all. We are born, we grow old, we die, but apart from that, I’ll be here forever – gross delusion, one might call it.
Sometime around the age of 30, that all changed. I became deeply aware of my own mortality, a cognition which provided, in part, the motivation I needed to stop drinking. Now, a couple of years of sobriety later, this acknowledgement of my own ultimate demise is never too far from my consciousness. I consider it often and occasionally feel fairly overwhelmed by the force it. The world will keep on spinning, the sun will continue to rise and set, people will go about their business and build things and have children and go on holiday and buy stuff and take out mortgages and attend school and visit the dentist and the hairdresser, and I won’t be here – ever again.
One thing I have realised as an ex-drinker is that regularly quaffing booze acts as something of a barrier to these thoughts. Especially when you drink on a daily basis, the addiction process operates sufficiently well in limiting how far one thinks – the major concern is to make it through to the next drink, thus reducing the scope of one’s thoughts, and once that next glass has been filled the mind-numbing process begins all over again. Mornings are adequately taken care of thanks to the low-level but all-too-noticeable hangovers, and onwards the little cycle proceeds. What an alcohol dependency initiates in us is a shrinking of the reaches of our minds.
And I often wonder, is this (at least in part) the reason why we, as human beings, have been attracted to mind-altering substances for so many thousands of years? Why so many of us seem utterly compelled to escape our reality, that reality being that we all, one day, will be no more?
Other animals are in the dark with regards to their limited life span. They are not weighted down with the knowledge that their very existence will, one day, be of no relevance at all.
That is, for me, an epic and startlingly difficult concept to grasp.
Without excessive amounts of alcohol numbing and fogging and confusing my headspace, I am a far more profound thinker than I ever was before. And despite the lack of booze resulting in a greater awareness of my own mortality, I believe I am living a richer life, and am filled with a deeper level of gratitude, than would ever have been possible as a boozer.
When I hit the ripe old age of 38 tomorrow, these thoughts will be prevalent in my mind; I am alive and healthy, I have my freedom, I am surrounded by people I love, I understand myself, I know where I want to be and who I am striving to be, I am not constrained by any influences other than those I choose to be constrained by, I learn from my mistakes, I am making progress, I recognise my weaknesses and know how to work at improving on them.
On my birthday I will be intensely thankful for living – and the finite nature of that life makes it all the more valuable.
6 thoughts on “Live Life to the Full”
Happy Birthday! We definitely reach for something to survive thoughts of mortality, whether mind-altering substances, philosophy or religion. It is difficult to face these existential truths on our own. I enjoyed reading this post. Best, Jen
I hope that you have a wonderful birthday!
Happy birthday! As someone who has just turned 30 (last week) I relate to so much of this. It’s become a bit of a joke amongst my friends that I am not handling turning 30 very well ( I have moaned a lot) but I think the reason I find it harder than others is because I didn’t think about this kind of stuff when I was drinking. Occasionally I would worry about not having found a perfect boyfriend or job but then I’d quickly drown those thoughts out with booze. Now I think about this kind of stuff all the time.. From one extreme to the other!
Great post – death has always been a negative driver in my life. I remember trying to give up my cigarette habit. I tried everything including hypnosis. The crunch question came when i was under – “why do you smoke?” Me: “because I’m scared of dying”. I couldn’t believe I’d said that when i came to – still can’t really. I haven’t smoked for years now but i gave up a 28 yr habit that was fuelled by fear of death! How crazy is that given that it’s known killer ..
Happy belated birthday! Fantastic post – and one which (once again) I can really relate to. I am 33 and I have recently kicked the drink, and one of the many reasons I have done so was a growing awareness of my own mortality, and awareness that I had a choice as to whether to live life to the full (which could only be achieved by giving up the booze) or to live a sort of half-life whereby I was controlled by alcohol (whilst kidding myself that I was actually the one that was in control). I chose the former and am very happy with my choice. It hasn’t been easy and the reactions of other people have ranged from being supportive and understanding to being downright bizarre, but I’m going to push through. Waking up sans hangover in itself feels amazing and my body will thank me for it in the long-run. The human body, after all, only builds up a tolerance to alcohol as a survival mechanism – because it has no choice. We live in a society where tolerance to alcohol is actively encouraged as no one wants to be seen as a “light-weight”. Where people take pride in their ability to drink someone else “under the table”. It’s about time the tables were turned on this one! Non-drinkers (or people who have a very low alcohol intake, like my parents) will come out on top, in the end.
Have a great day!
The Cellist xx
Being sober is the best thing I have done, except for having my kids substance free. As I sit north of 40, I envy that you are still south. Enjoy feeling everything you were meant to feel.