Lately I’ve been having this feeling. Like my life is really small. I said this to my partner the other day and he didn’t quite get it. I guess his life doesn’t feel that small. Lucky guy.
As a result of my drinking career, I think my life shrank. It just feels sometimes like I could take everything in my life and fit it in a shoebox. That the ins and outs of my day feel so little and inconsequential.
I just move through the routines of life, the minutia of everyday being. A couple of years ago I started to realize that somewhere along the way I had stopped dreaming. I used to have plans, man. Dreams! Life was an expanding range of possibilities. I used to feel that there were WIDE OPEN SPACES IN WHICH TO GROW. Life was a mystery waiting to unfold. I did not know where it was going to take me. I travelled in my early twenties, like many people do, and I lived in other countries, fell in love a billion times, and made decisions that took me on great adventures.
I think I thought that life would always be like this.
I didn’t really imagine myself in a marriage like relationship- although I’ve always been in relationships- and I didn’t really know the kind of commitment and compromise that comes with building a life with someone. I didn’t imagine that I would want children. And when I did start to want them, this felt like a dream too. I dreamt of building a family and living in love every day, nestled in a home in the woods, on an island, close to the rest of our extended family.
I went to some goal setting workshops, about 6 years ago, and my writings and drawings from that are full of things like family, love, nature, knowledge, yoga, friends, fun, travel… Even though through all of this time I was drinking, and I was concerned about my drinking, it hadn’t taken over my life. I thought about many other things, I made plans, I got excited.
Somewhere along the way this all stopped. What happened? What happened to the dreams and the plans and the feeling that life was an exciting adventure?
Well, a few things… My focus of having children and building a family shifted when we struggled to conceive. After a couple of years of this, I just gave up. And then when I was ready again, my partner decided he was done. I decided to go back to school, which was always a dream of mine too. I started a master’s program and found it incredibly difficult and isolating. In this shift of trying to conceive, and going back to school, I started to pull away from friends who were partying, in the attempt to become more healthy and grounded or focussed or something. But really, what I did was I just drank alone at home. I couldn’t go out with friends much anymore because when I did I’d get home at 5am. I had papers to write so I would prefer to stay home and get drunk so I could go to bed by midnight.
And, the more I tried to control alcohol, the more controlled I became by it. I constantly thought about alcohol. I searched for ways to stop. I cried in the morning when I woke up hungover and unable to cope with my day, and I cried at night feeling desperate and alone.
You might wonder where my partner was through all of this. Mostly, he was at work.
In many ways, I drank myself into a corner. Even though it may have not made my life appear any worse on the outside, it has, in the last year or two, progressively deteriorated the quality of my life. I haven’t been able to stop drinking yet I haven’t been able to enjoy it either. I’ve been obsessed with it. I drank for many reasons, but most of all to escape myself and my feelings. I went through years of knowing I probably had a problem, but because drinking excessively was so normalized in my social circle, and because I was able to achieve things and reach goals, I always thought it was something I would be able to control. I was able to take some “breaks” sometimes which convinced me that I had a handle on it.
But it got to the point where I was drinking a lot every night, mostly by myself, that I would feel so sick and exhausted and be calling in sick to work, and then I would try to quit and white knuckle it through everyday. I remember one day I actually hit myself in the head the cravings were so strong. As if harming myself would make it go away. The thinking about drinking was non-stop. The cycle was relentless.
I guess all that thinking about drinking has filled my head so much that there hasn’t been a lot of space for other thoughts to develop and grow. I’m done school now- have been since last December. I’m in a new phase of my career. We don’t have children (my partner has a son but he lives in a different city) and likely are not going to. I’ve kind of isolated myself from my friends- my drinking circle anyways. And, my partner is still at work.
Saying that I don’t know what to do with myself is an understatement.
But I still do DO things, like go to yoga sometimes, go for hikes or walks with my girlfriends, visit my family (they all live in a different city too), go to my book club, etc. So is it my life that is small… or is it just… me? Is it my thinking and my attitude?
I have a lot to be grateful for. Yes, my life shrank thoughout the course of my drinking and going back to school and giving up the dream of children. Those were real pains and struggles. But my life is good. I don’t want to focus on what I have lost anymore. And I want to start dreaming again. I want to connect to that expanse of life. That wilderness, the unknown, the possibility of it all. And what I’m realizing is that it’s all inside of me. My life shrank inside my head, and so it did in my surroundings. Getting sober, I’m realizing, there’s so much I can explore. I can explore not only the vastness of the external world, but of my internal world as well. I don’t have to be trapped in that nauseating cycle of drinking and hangovers that utterly consumed my mental capacity! I can think about other stuff. I can do other stuff.
I have been concerned at my life is small. But today I realized, if my life feels small, it is only because I make it so. I have the power to expand and grow it. Getting sober is making this possible. I can think again about what my dreams are, what they will be now.