Of all the terrible things in my life, most of them never happened. I was bullied a couple of times as a child. Nothing physically violent, but the imaginings these events inspired sure were. If you could calculate the amount of time spent in my head, ruminating over what had happened and/or worse, planning my response to scenarios that would never happen was certainly more than the situation warranted. Someone said, “Worry is not preparation…” boy, I feel that.
I was a scared kid, still am, to a lesser degree. What was I scared of? Not getting enough or getting too much. Looking stupid or getting hurt. Being embarrassed. The Roman philosopher Lucius Seneca said, “We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” Just up in my head, dreaming about things that will probably never happen, wasting my mind’s time, and mine. Seneca also spoke of time as being invisible, so it’s easily wasted. Recklessly, shamefully wasted. How often do I waste time due to fear avoidance? We all have only so much time, and none of us know how much we have… we need to make it count. If doing nothing is the choice that’s fine, but doing nothing to avoid something? That’s a shame.
I drank to escape my fear, my addiction to myself, and my worry (which are all fear, btw.)
Just not drinking wasn’t the solution for me, it made it worse. The fear became palpable when I didn’t drink, overwhelming. The thought that this uncomfortable, boring, painful existence was all there is? Oof, just awful. It reminds me of brussels sprouts. I hate brussels sprouts. This hatred “sprouted” (sorry) from when I was a kid having to clean my plate. Trying to swallow cold (because I let them get cold) brussels sprouts whole with my warm (because I let it get warm) powdered milk. Trying to choke them down my little kid throat like a terrible giant pill. I’ll never get over it. That was exactly how I felt about being sober and sober people. I mean, there is no way that not drinking isn’t terrible for you, right? Like skin-crawlingly awkward and distasteful? Enforcing my belief that I could not live without alcohol. I tried to use alcohol like a Swiss army knife for all my fears, real or imagined, but it didn’t work. It didn’t work at all. Alcohol as a solution was an illusion. A mirage of relief.
The good news is it isn’t like that, now. Now I cherish my sobriety and can’t imagine living under the lash of alcohol. Now, I surround myself with people working on getting better, being better. Now I try to enjoy the calm, enjoy the moment. What I was told early on, (and now tell others) is “Don’t mistake boredom for serenity.” The quiet is to be cherished, not feared. Excitement is better in small doses, this calm is earned. In this moment, you can be happy. And this moment is all there is.
Besides, if I stay in the now I won’t waste time planning all the things I’ll never say.