Finding sobriety

I am through with drinking. Well, not water, but alcohol. I keep saying this to myself, and in fact, I’ve been saying it to myself for a couple of years now. And each time in the past I’ve stopped for a couple of weeks, or a month, only to return to the fog. That’s what I call it. The fog you feel when you wake up in the morning after enjoying a few too many bevvies the evening before.

Well, I was sick of it. I am sick of it. A month ago I woke up and told myself that was it. I was done. I wouldn’t have called myself an addict, but I was definitely engaging in a bad habit. It wasn’t even fun anymore, just something I did out of boredom. I resisted the urge to be too hard on myself. After all, I eat well. I make my own food, rarely dine out, I exercise, run over 20 km a week and weight train. I walk every where; my carbon footprint is minimal as I don’t drive. I’m 40 and I weigh within my BMI, always have. I’m fit.

But emotionally the alcohol was taking its toll. Everyone is different, and we all experience the effects of drinking in a myriad of different ways. For me though, I was hitting the depths of despair. I was drinking because I had become incurious about the world around me. Instead of a hobby to engage with, I saw a beer. I wouldn’t even say I was drinking to forget, or to cope. I was drinking because I was bored.

At 40 all of my friends have children. Fatherhood has never interested me. You tend to do activities alone when you’re the only person in your group of friends who doesn’t have kids. Which is fine, I don’t have a problem being by myself. I may be alone but I’m not lonely, that sort of thing. I would rather sit around a bar drinking a couple of beers than spend an evening hanging out with toddlers, no offence to those who like that very thing.

I felt there was only so much I could do in a day. I wake early, I am active. I spend 90 minutes in the gym four days a week. I can do the laundry, clean the dishes, vacuum, mop, clean the tub, the toilets, feed the cat and dog, take the dog out for a walk, read the newspaper (yes, I still read newspapers), write, go for a coffee run that leads to a long walk, photograph my neighbourhood and still by 11:00 a.m., I have an entire day ahead of me. So what would happen is I would end up at a pub.

None of it I regret. It was a learning experience and I’m happy I saw myself out of it. But I did notice something disturbing about Toronto, and now that I’m sober, it is more glaringly obvious. Addiction is widespread in this city. Whether it’s alcohol, or drugs, porn, gambling, food, whatever, people here are addicted to one or more of these crutches. And it’s staring all of us right smack dab in the face.

When you give up a habit, you’re told to take up another one. I’ve had more than one person recommend to me over the years that I should try and smoke pot. I’ve never done a drug in my life, except for pot, once in Amsterdam, back in 2004. I did not like it. First, I do not want to inhale smoke; second, I didn’t see what the big deal was. I don’t like lounging around all that much. I appreciate that people enjoy it, I simply didn’t.

More than once I’ve been told by a pot smoker that they need it in the morning to wake up. Or that they need it to get their day started. This always perplexes me. For one thing — and really the only point I want to make — if I told anyone that the first thing I need to do in the morning to get my day started was to take a shot of tequila, or drink a glass of red wine, everyone and their mother would be whispering about my alcoholic tendencies, and rightfully so. We’ve normalized this now: to begin one’s day, we need to be intoxicated! Either through alcohol, pot or drugs.

I get it, life is hard. We’re working our asses off, our salaries aren’t increasing, while rents go up; the cost to buy a home is unreachable. The middle and upper middle class are struggling, so why not forget our troubles by drowning in an addiction? I knew this when I was drinking and I know it more now that I’m not.

There was one incident that shook me and made this decision a lot easier. My eyes were wide open after it happened.

At the end of July this year I was roofied. If you can believe that people still do that sort of thing. Rohypnol. As I lie motionless in a parking lot, the ambulance brought me to the hospital until I was well enough to leave. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t well for over a week. It took eight days for me to recover. The strangest part about the whole episode, besides being drugged, was how casually it was dealt with by those I spoke to about it. When I returned to work two days later I was surprised to learn how many people had similar experiences. I was also surprised with how the establishments I frequented that night behaved when I told them what had occurred. They basically shrugged their shoulders as though it was no big deal. A colleague said something wise to me about it. She explained, and I’m ashamed about how naive I was at the time, that those who work in the industry don’t have a sense of normal the way the rest of us do because they see the worst in people on a daily basis. I didn’t want to see the worst in people. But when I look back at those days sitting at the bar, I definitely did not see healthy people. Including myself.

Without booze I feel great. I never want to wake up in the fog again. I can’t even imagine it. There were times when I was in the shower getting ready for work and my mind was outside of my body. I sometimes felt like my skin was numb. I was irritable, angry, upset at myself. I would go to work probably sweating and smelling of alcohol, and wouldn’t be somewhat functional until at least noon.

It was no way for me to live my life. Again, I knew it then and I know it now. The last night I drank alcohol I was looking around the bar, at all the regulars I saw daily and I felt sad. Every one of us was avoiding our lives. We were here, not for the best of reasons. I felt embarrassed to be fair. Staring at the bartenders, some in the throes of addiction themselves, as they gossiped about their colleagues and every regular whose tips they depend on, I observed immediately that these were not friends. These were not happy individuals. It was time to reset my priorities.

And so here I am sober and loving it. I wake up refreshed. I don’t smell or sweat. I’m more clearly focused. I’ve lost weight. The alcohol I was drinking was impeding my fitness goals. You can’t put on muscle and drink alcohol. It’s impossible, so though the gym was still a healthy choice for me when I was drinking, it wasn’t going to do a lot for me aesthetically.

Today I feel more fit. I can see my body changing, my skin improving. I feel energized and happier. I don’t wake up in the morning worried about what I may have done the night before to offend someone.

I really like my life without alcohol. I’m never going back. I’m only going forward.

Thanks for reading.

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