For the New Year I decided I was going to give up drinking, smoking and carrying on, a term affectionately used by my bandmates. And, I thought, why wait until New Years? Why not get a head start?
I had hit my version of rock bottom recently, which I've been told is "lucky." That night, I got to having a few drinks with some girlfriends and the next thing I knew two of the girls I was with broke out into a fist fight. Yes, it was pretty violent and aggressive. Then at 4am, I woke up to find I had lost all my keys. Losing my keys was terrible. It took me days to recover all the keys. This was my rock bottom.
Rock bottom, in the end is a wake up call. For many it can mean something more dramatic such as a loss of friends, family, jobs, livelihood, homes, or even lives. You name it, rock bottom can be anything for anyone, but typically rock bottom is the point where one can no longer go any further down the rabbit hole.
I go to my own therapy weekly to see how I can go about changing all these other things in my life, but by hanging out, smoking, drinking and carrying on, something else was going on. I didn't know consciously or off the top of my head but I knew it was time to figure it out.
Alcohol and parties, late nights and carrying on is a great and acceptable way to be social in our culture, but it may also be a way to avoid or distract oneself from what is really going on. For me, I knew I was dealing with the residual relationship stuff. Being single for almost a year after having been in relationships for 20 years was both liberating and at times lonely, and very eye opening. I was grappling with my last two relationships and basking in the fact that I had taken my life back, and that I could stay out all hours of the night and not have to think about someone else. I was aware of that. I was also aware of my feelings, what they were every waking hour when it came to being single. Sadness, loneliness, exhilaration. You name it I was feeling it. I felt so in touch, and so alive in many ways. But, what else was going on? Then it hit me, on day 5 of sobriety. There was an ongoing situation with a friend, that was causing me a lot of confusion. Sometimes the most obvious thing is not what is causing us to run and hide. Hanging out with friends was one way of "letting go," of trying to be the person who says, "It's all going to be okay." When you are drinking, then possibly hungover, and then you have to deal with work and the day-to-day stuff, you don't have time to deal with the things that are painful and difficult. It's important to know the things which drive you to drink, or go to the excesses that you go to. That excess may be alcohol, it could be drugs, it could be sex, it could be associating with certain friends or a relationship, and it could be gambling or porn. The list of things we become addicted to is endless.
Once we start to peel away the shell of our addictions, we are forced to address the core issues which are plaguing us. It's a question of whether or not you really do want to change.
I knew that if I really wanted some of these things to change in my life, I was going to have to change my life. Change starts from within. Why as a society do we expect change to start outward? I personally think it's a fear of change. If we change, then other things will change and this may mean loss. People are afraid of loss, and often forget that this could also mean growth.
We as a society also have an obsession with the last hoorah, like the bachelor party, or New Years Eve, "This is the last time I ________ before ______ " attitude. This suggests no fun and perpetuates an idea that you are doing something for someone else, or for some greater good, doing something you don't really want to be doing for yourself.
Please note, the change doesn't have to mean quitting something cold turkey either. I'm a fan of realistic goals, and also moderation. But knowing your limits and your triggers is something you have to be aware of and then make the judgmental call, based on what is good for you. While abstinence works for many, it's not for everyone. And some people's issues are completely unrelated to the concept of addiction.
This year, do something for yourself, and why not do it before New Years eve? Do it before you hit rock bottom, do it for Winter's solstice! Why not start the change you want to see in yourself and in the world, today?
Moushumi Ghose, MFT is a Sex Therapist based in Los Angeles. Visit her at www.LASexTherapist.com