What will I be?
Sometimes I dream I am a Parisian fashionista. A total air kissing arsehole. With myriad food neuroses and no interior walls in my apartment. I live expansively in the northern heart of the 6th arrondissement, subsist on nothing but treacly espresso and the odd Virginia Slim, and scowl a lot while saying things like, ‘See you in Milan!’ with no hint of irony whatsoever. I only want to do it if I can have a thick foreign accent though – French obviously, or Italian, although I would settle for Russian at a push.
Or a professor. An earnest and bespectacled academic, sitting hunched amongst piles of dusty books in a small, windowless office somewhere in the prestigious bowels of an ancient university. Trembling students piss in their pants as they knock softly at my door, wide eyed on pro-plus, the terms work in their other hand ready and waiting for the famous red pen. I am brisk of course, but always gracious.
Or maybe I am a foreign war correspondent. With nothing but a dog-eared notebook and a ballistic vest. I fly home and cannot sleep for the smell of death.
People often assume that getting sober means simply putting down the bottle. You just stop drinking, life immediately gets better, and on you go much the same as before. But in fact stopping is just the beginning; the very first step in a forever evolving process. Addicted people are seriously ill – physically, mentally, and spiritually. We also continue to be more or less vulnerable to relapse for the rest of our days. And so of course we must put down the bottle or the substance in order to make any sort of recovery possible, but simply being dry does not equal real recovery, and real recovery does not equal simply being dry.
Because addiction is not merely a pesky add-on to an otherwise normal existence. We become it. All encompassing, it seeps into every corner of our lives and corrodes all it touches. It distorts ones world view and changes our entire perception of reality. In order to continue, we addicts must learn to justify the unjustifiable, rationalize the irrational, and in doing so mould, bend, and force lies into becoming the truth.
And so what real recovery becomes is a truth revealing process – one of learning to see the world as it really is, and ourselves for who we really are. One in which we realise that we were never as ugly and stupid, nor as beautiful and clever as we may have thought. With the help of others we take thorough personal inventory and the truth gets revealed, piece by piece. It is this truth that has the power to really set us free.
I know that I am unlikely ever to be a revered academic or a war correspondent. A Parisian dwelling fashionista seems improbable also. But I can write. In fact all my life I have wanted to be a writer and yet I have never once submitted a thing. My own distorted world view told me I was useless, that I could never stick with anything, that I was feckless and not to be counted on, had no idea what an Oxford comma was, and that anyone I showed my work to would immediately be able to sense all this so there was no point in even trying.
And whilst some of those things may once have been the case, the real truth is slowly being revealed to me, piece by piece. This truth sets me free. I am not my addiction, and no longer defined by my addictive behaviour I can change my perception of reality. I can recover – I am recovering – and through this process I am finally growing up.
I have wasted much time already. Now is the time to try for my dreams.