Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 360: are we there yet?

Last night, while hanging out listening to music with my big brother Nic and my friend Kate, I had a thought. This is what it was: when we humans drink alcohol or take drugs, we do it to take a little holiday from ourselves. We do it to quieten down a nagging list of to-dos, or to soften our abrasive social edges, or to forget about some trouble or stress, or to release ourselves from shyness/boredom/anything we happen not to like; basically to escape from the uncompromising realities that are our unadorned, indelible selves and the brutal little lives we lead. When we are sober, we are forced to face up to the real stuff again; the facts. But often we don't like the facts, and so after a short while of living with them, we feel the need to take another little break. Which makes us feel better - while we're on the break. The trouble though with taking these little alcoholidays, is that they don't do anything to make the real life any better. In fact, they do the opposite - in a kind of double whammy. First, they distract you from doing anything to improve your real life by drugging and debilitating you. Second, they tend to make you feel even worse about your real life when you come crashing back down into it. So you start to hate your real life more and more, which makes you want to escape it more and more. And on it goes. I think they call it "a rut". Now if you're me, eventually you get so sick of life-hating and rut-dwelling, that one magical day you decide to bust yourself out. No more fuzzing out the bad bits anymore with whatever medicating substance, just hanging with the hard bastard that is real life, every minute of every freakin day. And hard bastards tend to punch you in the face from time to time. But once you've taken a few punches, you kind of learn to handle them. Okay so enough with the extended (kind of lame) metaphors. What I've realised is, not drinking forces you to face up to yourself. It forces you to look clearly at the things in yourself and your life that you don't like. And that can be a bit foul. But the beautiful reward that comes with the ugliness, is that by not drinking you also give yourself the chance to do something about it. You are not stuck in some stupor. You can pull your shit together and work on getting yourself somewhere better. And once you realise this, and start to feel the amazing satisfaction that is seeing your life actually improve because of action you have taken, you start wanting to be present in your real life all the time. Why take a break when you've got so much cool shit to get done? Why waste time getting wasted (getting wasted? It's no coincidence we use these words.) when you could be getting somewhere? It's a complete cliche, but at this point in my year off the piss, I feel like I've looked my demons square in the face and, believe it or not, I've made friends with the little fuckers. I know they're there, and I don't need to run away from them anymore. So that leaves me free to get on with doing the things I really want and need to do. Why on earth would I fuck with my own shit at this point, when I have finally freed myself enough to get somewhere, by throwing benders and hangovers in my own way? Okay, now wait a minute, don't freak out. I'm not saying I will never touch another drop of alcohol. But here's how it works: everyone needs a holiday once in a while - a little letting off steam. But you don't get holidays without earning them first. So this coming Friday, I will indeed raise a glass, or two, or as many as is fun and feels good. I'll do it as a celebration of a year of pretty bloody hard work (so much typing!) and the achievement of a goal. And once that's done, I will get the fuck back to work. Because no, my friends, we are not there yet. This part of the journey has only just begun.


  1. Hi Claire, you are so right in your analysis - holidays from oneself tend to distract from the real issues and convince us that in those moments of elevation actually everything is ok - when it is clearly not! Nothing beats the satisfaction of taking action and watching it snowball. I have continued to watch your year from afar and have been so impressed with your resolve and indeed take on life. Good luck with the music career. Midnightson.

  2. Thanks Midnightson! Thanks for sticking with me the whole way. It's been quite a ride.

  3. This was your best post of the year. It is absolutely correct. I have found the same thing 6 months in. Rather than just stumbling from escape to escape (ie being pissed looking forward to being pissed next weekend or whatever) I'm actually trying to better myself as a person, to deal with my own deamons (we all have them) and take positive steps to do it. That does sound trite. It sounds ridiculous. But is actually happening to me. I'm slowly improving my life, day by day, week by week off the piss. I'm getting healthier. I'm working on reversing 15+ years of bad behaviour. And I'm getting better at my job. I take my escapes now through nature, walking in the bush, going overseas somewhere pretty to walk there. That's a positive escape for me now, while I use my new perspective and time to move in the right direction, rather than in drunken circles.