“For me, the choice to leave the drink behind and tell my story loudly and proudly has been the best decision of my life.”
As I drove west on Interstate 70 out of Denver and into the Rocky Mountains, I was looking for something. Something elusive. I didn’t have a specific destination, nor an activity like skiing or hiking on my mind. I wasn’t in search of the serenity of the snow-capped mountains nor the adventure of summiting one of Colorado’s 58 14ers (a 14,000 foot peak).
I was looking for answers about my relationship with alcohol. I was desperate for the clarity that had evaded me for a decade, and I was determined to bring my mental gymnastics to an end. I was convinced the answer I so fiercely wanted was hidden somewhere behind a mountain pass or on the steep descent to the next valley.
I had looked everywhere else, after all.
I had conducted exhaustive research about my relationship with alcohol. I had never experienced legal trouble as a result of my drinking. I had a good job, four beautiful kids and a wonderful wife. My finances were intact, and in a few more years, my house would be completely paid off. You might even say I was living the American dream.
But the picture of my idyllic life that I projected on the outside was betrayed by the anguish I suffered within. Drinking alcohol was like pouring gasoline on my smouldering depression and anxiety. After a particularly excessive weekend of imbibing, I could barely function to start the ensuing week. The shame from once again failing to control the amount I drank was rivalled only by the self-loathing from the things I had said and decisions I made while having a “good time.”
Outwardly, everything seems picturesque.
Friends and family watched my wife and I manage our relationship and our children as a team. They saw us demonstrate appropriate affection for each other in public, and they knew we were active in our community and in the extracurriculars of our kids. We seemed too busy being loving and content to possibly be facing the marital challenges that threatened to rip our relationship apart.
Behind the facade, our arguments were as brutal as they were meaningless. When I was drinking, any little indiscretion would set me off in an unreasonably venomous rage. Denial was part of my defence system as I continued to be high-functioning in all outwardly visible aspects of my life. And denying that our disagreements were entirely my fault was part of my game-plan. Sure, I often apologised for my rants the next day, but those apologies missed the mark. My wife had been through it too many times to forgive that which she knew would reappear the next time I had a few too many.
Looking for answers…
As I drove the winding mountain highway, I continued to look for a definitive answer about my relationship with alcohol in the wrong places. I searched for evidence in comparisons between myself and people firmly classified as alcoholics. Comparison isn’t helpful. Consideration is what’s required.
How did I feel after a weekend or weeknight of heavy drinking? How was alcohol serving my relationship with my beloved wife? Was I as productive as possible? Was I as loving as possible? Was I as happy as I deserved to be – not just as I finished my second pint, but all the time?
The prominence we assign to alcohol in our lives really comes down to the answers to two questions, and they haven’t a thing to do with comparisons to others. They are about our relationship with drinking – how much of our precious time on earth we are willing to devote to worshiping an elixir in a bottle, and how much damage we are willing to let our drinking do.
How do you answer the questions that define your relationship with alcohol? Do you think about alcohol when you aren’t drinking – either regret from your last drink or anticipation of the next? If you answer affirmatively, you are allowing booze to not only occupy the segment of your life when you consume it, but sober times as well. How much of your life are you willing to dedicate to a substance that delivers to you mediocre results at best?
The second questions is: Does alcohol cause problems in your life? They can be seemingly minor problems like conflict in relationships or less money in our pockets than we desire. If you are waiting for the problems to get worse, keep drinking abusively, and they will. Only when you stop analysing the severity of your turmoil and deem its mere existence as unacceptable can you take the steps necessary to improve your life and find the freedom you deserve.
A simple revelation
As I drove through the Rocky Mountains that day, my thoughts were locked incessantly on the topic of alcohol. And the collateral damage was undeniable despite my best efforts to deflect and deceive. Labels weren’t important. Comparisons were useless. Drinking was making my life worse, and the only solution was to redefine my relationship with alcohol.
Does any of this sound familiar? Are you locked in an exhausting and useless mental battle to determine your status when the changes you need to accept are inevitable?
It took me ten years of drinking through the mental gymnastics before I faced my demons and reclaimed the life I deserved. Now I share my story, sober and unashamed, because I want people who resonate to find freedom before the toll they pay is as steep as mine, or even worse.
Whether you decide to take a break and reset your relationship with alcohol, or like me, you decide booze is not serving you well in your life, and you make the decision to leave it permanently behind, one thing is indisputable: Your life will never get better if you keep drinking to excess and comparing yourself to the worst of the worst.
For me, the choice to leave the drink behind and tell my story loudly and proudly has been the best decision of my life.
To learn more about how I navigated the challenges of not drinking in a booze-filled world, please download my free ebook, Guide to Early Sobriety.