“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
– A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Today is my 45th birthday. I spent almost exactly half of my 45th year doing some of the heaviest drinking of my life, and the other half not drinking at all – learning to live with sobriety, of both the alcohol and emotional kind. The Dickens quote does not quite literally apply, as there was no magical “best of times” when I quit drinking, early sobriety is a bitch. I feel that it represents the situation though. I believe I quit growing emotionally in 1987 when my father died. I learned to turn to other things to calm the chaos in my head: drinking, partying, control, ego, anger, resentment – the duct tape of my life. Much like those duct tape repairs around the house, the patchwork tenuously holds together until it just cannot anymore – leaving you with a seemingly irreparable mess.
I believe I am now picking up where I left off in 1987. The absence of drink is only a small part of it, albeit an important beginning. The principles of the 12-step AA program are showing me that there is another way. Something that my best strategizing and piles of self-help books could never do (although I must admit that the foot high pile was wife was collecting on my nightstand went largely unread). This post is not meant to be an AA endorsement, but for me it is the only thing that has (so far) been successful in convincing me that there is another way.
I feel that I have been graced with the gifts of humility and honesty, acceptance is progressing, and I have new and improved ways of dealing with life. I do occasionally sit back and think that I wish I had done some things differently, but at the end of the day I have no regrets. What Eminem says in Not Afraid is 100% true for me: “I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one.” I buy into the idea that the drinking is a symptom, and without that symptom I would have never visited the doctor.
So, for this birthday, I was given amazing gifts that I never knew I wanted. For the rest of my present, my hope is that some of you who are still struggling will begin to find some of what I am discovering.