I used to have this picture in my head of someone with a drinking “problem” as falling down in an alley. And they were dirty; perhaps with torn and disheveled clothing. And most likely it was raining. Yes, it was absolutely wet and dark. And as I said, there was that alley. Therefore, during eleventh hour moments of concern regarding my drinking, reassurance would come from the fact that I had never been falling down drunk in a dark alley, so no, most certainly no way could I have a drinking “problem”. And sure, my wardrobe may have been questionable due to an ingrained lack of fashion sense we can blame on indifference rather than alcohol, but disheveled and dirty? Certainly not. And as a middle aged adult, I might’ve drank, but not daily. I couldn’t tolerate large amounts, and more often than not, I rarely drank past 6:00 p.m. because nothing- and I mean nothing- kept me from rising at 4 a.m. most weekdays (slightly later on weekends) to sweat it out with an ass-busting workout, a prideful little tidbit I was more than happy to serve up for anybody who was interested, and more than likely- more who were not! 🙂 I was disciplined and that settled it: I didn’t drink too much. Except that it turned out I did.
But who is to decide what’s too much? I came to be shown that I was. And you are. Not me about you or you about me, but as with everything else, it’s YOU about YOU. You are the only one who can truly make this assessment, but the simplicity of that is actually what makes it complicated. There’s a degree of difficulty in thinking for ourselves without the influence that comes from imitating or comparing ourselves to others. Regardless of whether we’re referring to alcohol use, what constitutes “healthy” eating, or something as seemingly trivial as the optimal amount of times per day to brush your teeth, the “what” of the matter doesn’t matter. The fact is that difficulties arise when we attempt to devise a template for our own action plan based largely on the behaviors and opinions of others, due to the reality that we are, in essence, traveling to different places- at different speeds- in different vehicles. Therefore, clearing your mind of comparison clutter not relevant to your individual journey is necessary in order to receive guidance and direction that have been individualized to you and your personal journey. Think of it as tuning into directions from the divine. Instead of punching the destination in on your phone and waiting for directions, you’re simply clearing your mind, asking for guidance, and being led by the messages, guides, and information that will flow to you upon opening yourself to it.
What’s funny about the alley illustration is that I was reminded of a scenario that had occurred on January 31, 1984, while celebrating my legal-NY-drinking-age 19th birthday (which was later changed to 21) in one of our small town bars on what was a blustery, extremely frigid winter’s night, the kind that sensible folk were staying in at home for. “Hey, I’m here for a good time, not a long time!” I’d have shouted, had I known that line then… Having already partaken in the bar’s complimentary birthday bottle of pink champagne with my buddy Jan, I became even more ecstatic upon trying the snowshoe shots (Rumple Minze up to the line of the shot glass, Jack Daniels to the top) that were generously donated to me by the birthday enthusiast fellow bar patrons. We drank! We danced! We sang! If I was lucky, Foreigner’s ‘Urgent’ played and I got a chance to showcase my whistling skills by whistling in on the sax solo, which I had come to find that fellow drunk people often found highly entertaining. It was the best time ever! Until it wasn’t. And I remember how things turned on a dime and I was outside in the below zero cold, in what I must admit was a bit of an alley between the bar and the next building over, bent over, throwing up, and out of necessity due to my lack of kleenex, blowing my nose into my mittens, which I would then attempt to clean in the snow and in my drunkness, stare at in wonder afterward, thinking, wow! they really ARE clean! I always remember those mittens. They were white with pastel blue and pink and VERY fluffy. As I stood outside throwing up in the cold, and later the next day, when I would be feeling the not so festive after-effects of my night of festivity, a magnitude of “why” questions would invade my thoughts. But the “why” question I never thought to ask myself until much later in my life, was “why do I want to hurt myself so much?” It would be many years before I was ready to do so.
What I could finally acknowledge as too much (in this case alcohol) for me was not illustrated by it actually landing me in an alley- practically from the start, as it were, though it appears I chose not to recognize that little truth. It was not because of one particular thing I did, situation I caused, or a hardship I could pinpoint. It was a culmination of many experiences, many messages, and the many moments it would take to ease me awake into the awareness that I’d spent years placating myself with something that would pacify me in the short-term to ease the pain of going without the thing (s) that I truly longed for. Things not attained without enduring the discomfort of feeling the pain of what is missing, so that I could finally grasp what that was and set about getting it for myself- one second, one minute, one day at a time. It would turn out that it was not about giving something up as much as it was a willingness to let something go in order to allow space for awareness of something else. Something elusive, often without name, that beckoned to me quietly from within. I let go of the half-filled glass of duplicitous liquid that would ease me into the satiety of nothingness, and instead jumped into a magical sea of possibility, where though I understood the unpredictability of its powerful waters, I could fully appreciate my empowered capacity to withstand its whims. I would then learn that I could feel without it killing me, love without it consuming me, and forgive without it negating me. And I would love myself- first and fully. AS IS.