“What really matters is what you like, not what you are like”, High Fidelity

I used to think this was true –that you’re either into the Spice Girls and Taylor Swift or the Smashing Pumpkins and Hole. You’re Blossom Hill or Laphroaig. You’re The Holiday or True Romance. Bukowski or Ahern. I thought life had to be experienced at the edge where all the interesting stuff happens not in some saccharine middle of the road yankee-candle-scented centre. The trouble with the edge though, is that you tend to fall off. It’s a tight rope. Trying to balance is fucking stressful.

You may root for the anti-hero, but you don’t want to become the anti-hero.

I was riding the booze train for over twenty years. More than half of my life. Throughout which I developed a pretty consistent boozing persona. A persona who truly believed it impossible to eat a fillet steak without a large glass of red. Who vehemently looked down on people who didn’t drink – where were their balls? Their joy de vive? Being ‘tea total’ was truly incomprehensible to me. The necessary omni presence of booze in my life was build on a solid belief structure made up of all the movies, books and music I ever liked, all the people I grew up with and surrounded myself with, and a general feedback loop of constant cultural reinforcement.

I thought the boozing persona was me. I didn’t realise there was any other way to be (not a cool or enjoyable way anyhow).  

So when the tightrope stress increased and the tipping point loomed, I had to face the realisation that maybe my belief system was a croque of shit. The booze was causing more problems than it was solving and I had better readjust my framework.

I had to start looking at all those mental gremlins that were well hidden under thick carpets in my brain. Peeling back the layers of justification, rationalising and ego defence. Trying to level out the imbalance of cognitive dissonance between the Jekyll me and the drinker Hyde.

I realised it’s actually about “what you are like”. It doesn’t matter one jot if you like Bros or The Beasty Boys. It matters that you are present, that you say what you mean and mean what you say. It matters if you wake up despising yourself for doing shit that doesn’t sit right.

Who are you without the drink?

You are you without the crap, without the bullshit. Without the anxiety. You work out what you’re not… Then gradually over time you realise what authenticity is. (And that you like organising things and netball – who knew?).

You can still be a lover of fine foods and sensual pleasures. You can still consume beauty, be up for it and go wild. You can still squeeze all the juice out of life. You just do with clear eyes and an open heart. Instead of being numb and dumb with conspicuous bruises.

As you grow you must change. It used to work, now it doesn’t. So you must have the courage to change. Who wants to be 55 with the same haircut you had at 20?

Published by Free Spirits Recovery

FREE SPIRITS is a coaching and counselling service for people seeking accessible help with grey area problem drinking, compulsive behaviours and mental health issues.

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