Nobody wakes up one day and decides that they fancy frittering their life away on drugs and booze. The drinking and the partying are just elements of what a person initially perceives as being fun and the more of it they do, the more it becomes acceptable. The lines get blurred. What was once off limits appears not so scary. The restrictions that prevented the bad stuff occurring are slowly eroded, and a wilderness fills the void – a barren landscape in which time is fluid and reality not certain.
Underlying my own alcohol and drug issues was a malignant desire to hurt myself. I relished in self-destruction, wore it like a badge of honour. The scars of my lifestyle were embraced and absorbed into my rebellious nature, it’s what I wanted to be. Dangerous. Free. Unconventional. Brazen. A warrior, fighting against my self, at war with my mind and inflicting neglect and suffering on my body. I liked it like that; there was a comforting familiarity to it all.
I think in the midst of this, I was frightened to acknowledge my future in a particularly honest way. I did not, for instance, fully accept that the chances of me developing cancer or liver disease were being significantly raised as a result of my alcohol consumption. Occasionally I’d be hit by a morbid fear, but there was always the drink to wash the worries away. I thought I liked who I was, and I never gave consideration to an alternative way of life. It was meant to be that way, wasn’t it? The time for casting roles had long since past and I was who I was, in my shoes, walking my path. Defined by drink and getting wasted. The one who would always take it a step further. And people who weren’t like that bored me to tears. I was a part of a tribe to which non-hedonists did not belong. I didn’t want anything to do with real life. Outside of my bubble of mind-altering substances, nothing interested me.
But if you give life a chance, sufficient time spent not under the influence of alcohol and drugs, it teaches you how to live it. Things become apparent and it starts to grow easier to exist. The demons that ate away at me in my teens and twenties have all been eradicated. I have a broader cognisance now, which has allowed stuff to fall into place. It isn’t necessary to hurt yourself to get your point across or to show the world just how different you are. There’s nothing unusual about getting out of your skull every day – people are doing it everywhere.
Conversely, this quiet acceptance, a real love for life’s minutiae as well as the major things that we exist amongst, self-awareness, self-compassion, reaching goals, being proud, having clarity, being calm, a ripple-free life, relationships on a plateau, less anger, more control – that’s different. That’s special. Being in tune with yourself as a human being, listening to your body and mind, and recognising who you truly were meant to be, that’s worth something. It’s worth fighting for.