I was always using the excuse that I didn’t have enough money or time.
Six months ago I was jobless, fresh off my dream job in this sweet little scratch kitchen and full blown out of my mind. The move, the depths of winter here so gray, my family far away. The pandemic hadn’t yet struck. I was an alcoholic, smoking cigarettes again, and high all the time. I watched so much television. It took me so long to read half a book I still haven’t finished I’m embarrassed to say. DJ and I were fighting constantly and I trusted absolutely no one, especially not myself. At one point I opened the front door of the Buick whilst still rolling at 30 or so and stepped halfway out of the car as though to stroll right away before DJ yelled at me to ask what I thought I was doing. He was understandably consternated.
We still have the same jobs. That hasn’t changed. But our lives are wholly different.
We live in a two bedroom apartment. There is grass for Anya to run on. We are paying our bills on time.
It was a change in values altogether. No more drinking either. Pay your bills and buy your groceries and don’t spend unless it’s necessary. The inadequacies of character I’d been pawning off on alcohol and lack of money became quickly apparent.
I began running.
That was it.
The mind and body are happy.
The difference in my quality of life is truly astonishing.
I’m not smoking weed now either and the uptake from depression to getting by to laughing and really feeling it is just as surprising.
It’s one thing for the mind to know what is good for you, it’s another to feel that difference. It’s worth it. Unquestionably worth it.
Why didn’t I stop years ago? Looking back on my twenties is like looking back on a different person. She went through a lot. I’d always figured my life was too easy to result in an alcoholic, traumatized woman but my life wasn’t easy, though it certainly wasn’t awful.
I just drank to get through school, through my doubts, through everything until that’s all that was left. Andrew Huberman calls addiction a “narrowing of the things that bring one pleasure.”
I like this.
I will say, my environment has changed considerably since I first tried to quit drinking a few years ago. My people have changed.
Looking back with a clearer mind, I can see how being surrounded by addicts made it considerably more difficult to quit. We adapt according to our environment according to our biological natures. To change a behavior that alters oneself so significantly is to welcome an ego death, a big change that feels like a literal death. Our instincts resist being ostracized or alone because historically, aloneness equaled death. Also, we adapt our personalities and egos to fit in to our surroundings. You can change your surroundings without changing yourself, but for me, changing myself meant I no longer wanted to be in my old surroundings. The self and the environment are symbiotic. If you’re not in symbiosis with your environment, you’re probably in the wrong place.
I tried to quit for years surrounded by the same bad influences. Cooking and industry work perpetuated that lifestyle for me as well. It’s no one else’s fault—my choices—but I feel it necessary to mention that with all of those influences out of my life, things got better faster.
My reluctance to quit drinking and my blaming everything on money or others or my parents or the circumstances was as much a reluctance to take responsibility for myself, especially because I’d neglected myself for a long time. She needs a lot of work. I didn’t know. But here we are and the work is kind of nice with a clear mind.
With a clear mind, I see that to care for myself is to alleviate that responsibility from anyone else. What’s more, the better I care for myself, the better I can do for others.
Today I’m grateful and there’s a million things more to say about how changing one’s values and oneself is the key, but not always enough, how setting those destructive behaviors aside also sometimes mean cutting people out of our lives.
I think about the friends I’ve lost along the way and how they went and I know they went because I was a bad influence. At this stage in my life, feeling bad about it and wallowing are behind me. There are people who would still pick up the phone if I called them ten years later.
I’m grateful for all of my flaws, for the rough times, for the assholes who I allowed into my space for too long, including my own drunk self.
Those sore spots are the markers for where to start on the journey of being a better person.
The first thing I had to look at was the blame. If you’re blaming anyone or anything, that’s where you’re giving away your power. Start by taking back your power. Own yourself.
For me this looked like running every time I wanted a drink until I ran so he’s I didn’t want to smoke cigarettes either. Running increases the dopamine.
I’ll admit, I would get high and go running at first. Some people don’t enjoy exercise whilst stoned, but I found it was the best way to zone in for a while. Now running is the high. I’m writing more because I’m not stoned and content to stare at the television all day, my house is clean, the chores are done, work is…well it’s still work. That hasn’t changed, but my attitude has.
So I guess the process of getting out of addiction was a widening in the scope of things that bring me pleasure.
I’m nearly two months sober. For any of you trying to get sober or stay sober, I wish you all the best, all the support, and all the health. If you need a leg up today, let it be the leg up you take to own another piece of your power today. Don’t give yourself away to anyone or anything that doesn’t bring you joy, satisfaction, and meaning including money. Money is a tool, not the end goal.
Joy and suffering are inextricable. If you must struggle to find joy, struggle against the demon that tells you to drink today, that tells you you’re not worth it, not enough. Tell it to fuck off and drink water like you’re slapping it in the face and then go outside and find something to explore. You are enough. You are worthy. Buddha, challenged by the storm, touched the earth to claim his right to be there and the storm passed.
Look at bugs. Learn about plants. Watch the clouds. Observe the birds. Breathe.
Kicking the habit: 5/5 stars.
Blessed be mon ami.