I’ve always considered myself a pretty spiritual person. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a strange desire to learn the meaning of life. Existential questions kept me up at night, as early as age 12.
“What is forever, and how can we live forever after we die?” I remember asking my parents one night when I was a kid. They took their eyes off the tv for a second and waved me off, advising me to not think about such things at my age. I tried to listen to their advice.
Growing up in a devoutly Catholic household, I figured I would eventually find my answers within my religion. But by my late-30s, I still felt confused about who I was and where I was going. I was spiritually stuck. My religion wasn’t doing it for me anymore and despite my best efforts to stay with the church I grew up in, I strayed.
I began to dabble in other pursuits to help me find a new way, experimenting in meditation and yoga, reiki and (more casually) Buddhism. By my early 40s, my spiritual diet was a crockpot of ideas, practices and beliefs ranging from New Testament to new age. I had a fondness for all of them, but my confusion hadn’t really abetted much.
I was seeking, seeking, seeking for a breakthrough. It finally came, but not through any of the practices I’d so mindfully pursued. It surprisingly happened when I quit drinking alcohol.
It was almost a year into my sober journey that I realized my drinking habit had been the biggest impediment to the personal growth I desired.
Meditation and yoga aren’t enough
While meditation, yoga and self-improvement books helped me evolve, all of those practices together didn’t have the impact that my commitment to sobriety did. That being said, I drank for 30 years, so my identity with alcohol was quite embedded in my psyche. Although I was not what anyone would consider an alcoholic, I had become reliant on alcohol to alleviate many discomforts and struggles. (check out this post on my triggers)
But, here’s the thing.
I hadn’t realized how much drinking negatively affected my life. Until I quit. That’s when the discomforts and ugly truths surfaced. And, for the first time in many years, I didn’t allow myself to drown them in a drink. What did I do? I had to dig deep to get through each and every struggle that was, previously, medicated, at least partially, with a drink.
And you know what I found out?
I have some serious hard knocks strength deep inside of me. It’s the same strength you have, by the way. It’s what Eckhart Tolle refers to as the light, or the consciousness. As the cocktail compulsion dissolved, practices like meditation, yoga and breathwork really worked their magic. It was like going from reading by candle light to a 120V light bulb that keeps getting brighter. So much clarity.
Middle age ain’t all that
Being “middle aged”, myself, I feel this is a particularly important time to reconsider one’s relationship with alcohol. It can be a tough time for some of us. Our roles are transitioning from the busy-ness of juggling parenting, work and relationships (aka: marriage) to more alone time and the question, what now? Our kids don’t need us like they used to and we’ve hit all the milestones we set when we were in our 20s. Marriages can be strained, or end up broken. It’s all too easy to fill the voids with an extra drink here or there.
By the time I had reached my 40s, life felt overwhelming in many ways. I found parenting very rewarding but extremely challenging. My oldest son, by then a teen, was a handful, my marriage had disintegrated, and I was rebuilding a career from scratch since I’d given it up when my kids were young. I believed I deserved my drink. I needed that glass of wine. How else would I cope? How else would I reward myself for working through my tough days?
It had become a coping mechanism without me even realizing it. My motivation to quit drinking was, most notably, to have more clarity (and, certainly, no more hangovers). What I ended up with was far greater than I’d ever imagined. Almost two years in, I’m more connected to my true nature, and to nature itself. I see more clearly how much my sons still need me, albeit in different ways than when they were young. And, now that the buzz has cleared and physical detox utterly complete, I better understand what brings meaning to my life. While I hear many people my age lament getting older, I’m excited about the path in front of me as I embark on the “second half”.
A note here about alcohol… I don’t believe alcohol, in itself, is a bad thing. It’s the addiction or a reliance on alcohol that, I believe, is where the problem lies. A drink or two with the odd dinner or out with friends does not constitute an addiction or reliance. As I’ve written about in past posts, I tried to moderate my drinking, but failed time and again. That’s why I had to quit completely.
Curious about what alcohol does to your body? Check this post out.
Are you drinking about a bottle of wine per night? This post shares some interesting info on that.