Happy, Joyous, and Free
On February 29th, 2004 I gave up alcohol. The world in general, and the people around me especially, are far better off because of that decision. I don’t often talk about my sobriety. I allude to it. I support others who post stories of their own journeys and I cleverly (or so I thought) dedicated my first novel to Bill and Bob, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. But, here, online, in the world where I make my living I don’t mention it very much.
I was interviewed by a reporter from the Globe and Mail newspaper a few years back. The Globe and Mail is a big deal. It’s Canada’s second largest newspaper and it’s a national paper. They were doing a feature on my self-publishing journey and wanted to dedicate a whole page in their weekend edition to my story. It was a proud moment. The reporter interviewed me by phone and Skype and email too. She asked lots of questions as she attempted to find the right angle for her piece. A few days before her deadline, she left a message on my phone saying that she needed to talk to me right away. In her message she said that something wasn’t making sense. “You hit your forties and made all these changes, wrote a book, sold a ton of copies, hit #1 on Amazon but something must have precipitated it. People don’t just do that. Something must have happened.”
The gig was up. I guess I could have evaded it but I didn’t. So, I told the incredibly intuitive reporter a little bit of my story. I explained that six weeks before my fortieth birthday my life became a country music song (and I never have enjoyed country music). The girl left, I was losing my house, and I was going to a job every day that I didn’t enjoy. Oh, and the girl left her cat behind, and I did not like cats. It wasn’t the first time this had happened. My life had been playing the same tune over and over for years. The participants changed but there were two constants each time a personal tragedy happened – me and alcohol. I wish I could say that I just decided to stop but it’s not as simple as that. I got help, lots of help. I told the reporter my tale but I also told her that I didn’t want to dwell on it in the article. I didn’t want to be a poster-boy for recovering alcoholics. I wanted readers to find my work based on its merit and not because they wanted to see what an alkie, like me could do once he dried out.
She handled it delicately. She slid into her description that I “turned forty, went through a divorce, quit drinking and decided to write a book…” I was quite happy with her prose. There were a few readers and authors who contacted me afterward and told me the story of their journey from the dark side. And, from time to time someone recognizes the dedication in my first book and sends me a nice message. I’ve been very happy with the private camaraderie and reflection that I’ve shared with these few special souls. In 2014 it was ten years though, and in the interest of perhaps helping someone who’s struggling to get sober I thought I’d poke my head out into the world for a moment and mention how good it feels to have made it here.
Any mayhem or hurt that happened in my life was caused by me. I have no illusions that it was not. I am prone to a deadly disease but there were opportunities that I can see now where I might have come in out of the rain and tried things differently. I didn’t and I got here when it was my turn to get here. If I could bottle the feeling that I have now and show you, the person who may be doing what I was doing ten years ago, how it feels you’d contact me and ask me how to get here. I know you would. You’d do it because what I have now is a life – a full-on, twenty-four hours in a day life. And, before I made the change I did not. I had a hazy existence fuelled by Crown Royal and self-made promises. Hope was just over the next hilltop and every day was about surviving until the next.
One of the things that people often say to me when I do share my story with them is that they don’t drink very much. My reaction is disappointment and I tell them that if they don’t have a problem then they should enjoy alcohol. I’m not anti-alcohol. I’m only anti-alcohol for me.
Part of the happy ending to my personal story is that I got to love the cat. In fact, if you’re interested you can scroll down after clicking this link to Wendy Isn’t Coming Home, and read the story about my relationship with him. The girl who left moved on and started a happy new life for herself, and I was fortunate enough to find the freckle-faced girl that I’m still with today. She and I have a personal philosophy that we try and live by. We attempt to have fun every day. Neither of us believes in waiting for good things to happen. We aren’t waiting for lottery winnings or time off from work or a day when we’re going to feel better. We try to have fun and laugh every day no matter what’s happening. Last year, at ten years sober I turned fifty and the freckle-faced girl is in the same age range (he says carefully), but you’d never know it. If you listened to us from afar or read a transcript of our silly conversations you’d swear we were ten year old children. I’m so thankful that I got here and I intend to enjoy as much of it as I can. And, if you’d like to know more just ask me. I’d be glad to tell you what I did to reach this place. Now I shall retire back to my cave and not mention this again unless I make it for another ten years. Then, I might talk about it once more. Maybe.
Happy New Year and blessings to you all for 2015!