I think the hardest thing for people that are not alcoholics to understand is what we feel we’ve lost when we quit drinking. Although we wake up with a clear head and a clear mind there always seems to be an empty space inside our soul. I do not know if all recovering alcoholics feel the same as I do but I do know that something always seems to be missing. I’m not one to make excuses, I’m just going to continue to fight each and every day to make sure I never fall back into the life I was living; where each moment of each day was just a filler until I put that drink into my body.
For about 20 years of my life, all of my social interactions during evenings and weekends basically revolved around drinking and it was all I knew. For the past three years I have tried to find happiness and fill that void in my life with other addictions, be it women or more recently work. Every time I think about going out and trying to get away for just a little bit, my mind switches on and I convince myself otherwise. Do I want to go out and enjoy a concert or spend time with friends? Absolutely! But it always comes back to the same thing.
When I look at social events in Costa Rica and get-togethers with locals or friends it almost always revolves around alcohol. Being around drunk people now annoys me and also there is a part of me that says, “You know you want to partake in the fun that everyone else is having.” Alcohol allows you to make stupid mistakes in judgment, act like an idiot, and have an excuse to fall back on when anyone says, “Do you remember what you did last night?” These are the thoughts that go on inside my head.
We all crave human interaction and intimacy, but the situation I have mentally put myself in has become a prison. I do not want to go out after about 8 pm because I do not want to be around people drinking. I work at a job where, although great because I make my own hours and set my own schedule, is very solitary. People always tell me when you are out grocery shopping or running errands you can meet people. Yes they are correct, but without my alcohol serum I am a shy recluse that is terrified of rejection. It is so difficult for me to interact with others and try to get over the hump of letting go of this feeling of emptiness without a drink in my hand.
The most frustrating part of my disease is many do not understand what is going on inside me and the demons I have to fight off each and every day of my life. Although I never went through the 12 steps, having open heart surgery helps you jump into cold turkey pretty quick, I do know that it is a fight that you have to take one day at a time. Each and every day is a battle until you go to sleep to keep your demons at bay. We are not allowed to skip one day because it leaves us susceptible to falling into the same old life we used to live.
I would always hear old friends and people I knew tell me that I should just get over it and let it go. They could never understand the daily mental struggle I had just being me. I would love to have been able to find an answer to my problems the same way I quit drinking, cold turkey, but unfortunately not picking up a bottle of beer and fixing your mind are two different animals. I know if I go back to drinking I let all those that stood by my side during my recovery down and that is probably the only thing that keeps me from going to buy a bottle of vodka at the store right now. I would love to say that I am doing it for myself but then I would be lying.
When I was drinking and partying I did not know how unhappy I truly was and the old saying that ignorance is bliss could be applied to each day of my life. Since putting down the bottle I now see how hard life really is and the 16 to 18 hours of work I put in each day never get me very much ahead. I look around and see people that have scammed or fallen into a pot of gold and keep saying, “When is it my turn to experience true financial independence?” With each day that passes it does not happen and with each day, more and more anger grows in a space that used to be filled by booze and drugs.
So many things about people around me have started to irritate me on a daily basis. Things like, women marrying men for money, stupidity, arrogance, and most of all the sense of entitlement that has become a part of so many in today’s society. Why are the dumbest among us the ones that are breeding? Why do Costa Ricans stop their cars and bodies in the worst places? It is almost as if people think that laziness and not proving themselves should be rewarded. I have seen interns and young adults feel that just because they are around, that they deserve to be part of something or paid. I had a Costa Rican the other day make a joke while I was working on a website talking about how people really do not want to work anymore and just want things handed to them. He said, “You are working”, he then came up and stood beside me and looked over my shoulder at the screen and said, “Now we are both working.” I thought to myself exactly!
There is a wave of apathetic behavior that has become a virus in society. Kids that want to grow up and be musicians, or actors, or athletes. While I would never say to them not to chase your dreams, I also know that most will never make it. I think that there is a thought that this would be the easiest path to follow but the fact is most do not want to put in the work required to accomplish those dreams. All of these things vibrate in my mind each day developing more and more anger in that empty space that used to be soothed by having a drink.
But I will never have another drink and I will continue to live ethically. It may require 100 times the work and effort but at least I can sleep at night. The alcohol addiction in my life had been filled by another addiction, creating successful businesses and building an empire. I know that sounds silly being that I was still living on commission payment to commission payment, but I wanted to follow my dreams to financial success. Only one problem, the new addiction just like the old addiction did not pertain to having a relationship.
When I was drinking if I had met myself I would not have wanted to be my friend. I was arrogant, conceited, and full of myself, but in my own way happy with the way I was in my alcoholism. The old me was outgoing and exhibited asshole behavior when drinking, while the new me was shy and afraid to open up to anyone I did not know. Having to try to figure out who I was again at age 36 was not something that I wanted to do. I hated the fact that I had not died in the hospital because the pain of living a life trapped in my own emotional hell was worse.
Who was I? Where was my life going? Would I ever find someone that could be with the person I was? The questions continually ran through my heart and my mind. Each day would consist of work and each night the same. I was in a metal cage that had been locked by my alcoholism and the search for the key to set me free seemed like an unending journey. It was all I could do to not break down and cry while trying to seem happy.
I knew and I know that this struggle will probably still be a fight until the day that I die. I know that it will isolate myself from others as I do not want to let anyone inside my heart. I know that many people will never understand the demons inside the mind of an alcoholic. However, I will wake up each morning, open my eyes and try to get through another day, taking them one at a time. I will fill the void that was once filled with alcohol with work or whatever other thing seems to work that day and I will pray that one day soon I will be able to come out on the other side of this and say “I won”. Right now I am just hoping that day comes soon as it is an exhausting journey.
Next Up – New Year, New Life