Learning To Laugh At It All

Finally – I’m home from a vacation that I don’t need a vacation from.

I managed to wrap up so much work (that I mindfully neglected all week while away) this morning, I’m left feeling accomplished and sort of unsure of what to do with myself. Since getting rid of alcohol (because I got rid of it…I didn’t give it up) I’m finding I have so much more time on my hands.

Ugh…it’s so sad how much time I used to give to drinking. It’s sad, because it’s true. I didn’t just spend waste my time drinking, I spent wasted it thinking about drinking, going to get the actual wine (and more wine, when I’d inevitably run out), then hours spent wasted wallowing in self loathing the more drunk I would get. Plus, let’s not forget the hours of nursing the hangover the next day until the cycle would start again. It’s fair to say I was working 2 full-time jobs: Professional Photographer on one hand, Accredited Alcoholic on the other.

The only problem is I was just the middleman between both, stuck in limbo, passing along what I earned from 1 to pay for the other. It’s sad and unfortunate – but it’s also laughable.

Hubs and I were chatting at the airport yesterday while we waited for our flight. I brought up how being able to laugh at the whole situation is so important. Nothing good ever comes from self loathing or regret, no matter how dire things are. You have to be able to laugh at that stuff, or it’ll weigh you down faster than a tonne of bricks.

When you’re in the thick of it – knee deep in the quicksand of What-Is-Wrong-With-Me’s, laughing at your situation seems impossible. When all you’re armed with are good intentions of escaping the cycle, but you’re still shackled to the bottle – laughing is the last thing on your mind.

How can you possibly laugh at your situation when you’re sinking faster than you can clamber out? Don’t you realize how serious this is? I have a disease! I’m trapped! I’m stuck!

I didn’t laugh once while I was in it. Looking back, I wish I had. I certainly cried enough to overflow the Grand Canyon. Learning to laugh at yourself and your situation takes the terrifying seriousness away from it. It creates a lightness that makes everything seem possible.

Laughter pulls the drawstring of your parachute after you’ve jumped and you’re free-falling fast.

Suddenly you aren’t falling anymore.

You’re flying.

I had built alcohol up to be this gilded demigod – a grandiose and glorious superior being to be worshipped, that provided me my daily bread, sent down from the heavens in a bottle. I was stuck in the Secret Cult of Addiction. I wanted out, but everything just felt so very much bigger than me. I had gone from toe-dipping curiosity (my early days of drinking, 20 years ago) to fully committed member, locked into the ritual whether I wanted to be or not. At some point (I’m not 100% sure when this happened) but I had signed on the dotted line and was officially admitted, signing up for a lifetime membership.

Cults can be sneaky like that.

All that was missing were some black cloaks and naked virgins dancing around a fire.

I gave more power to what I thought drinking gave me, than to my own ability to choose. 

Looking back, I can see how ridiculous my situation was. I felt as though I was locked in a cage – I could see the rolling hills, I could see the blue skies, I could see freedom – but I couldn’t ever reach them. I felt trapped. I couldn’t not drink. I had walked into the cage and it slammed shut once I was inside.

I can see now though that the door never locked behind me.

I could have walked out at any time I wanted, exactly the same way I walked in in the first place.

Sort of.

The thing is – it had been so long since I entered the cage, the path I took was now overgrown with all sorts of thorns and vines, a veritable forest of thatch and brush to machete my way out of a la Indiana Jones.

Just like joining some whack-job cult, or signing up for online subscriptions: cancelling is never, ever as easy as signing up. Sometimes trying to cancel your subscription feels like jumping through moving, flaming hoops while wearing a blindfold and shoes made of cement.

But, when you finally get through to the accounting department – it’s worth it. When they stop withdrawing your payment every month for something you never got anything out of, you can look back at the heavy-footed-hoop-jumping – and laugh.

Remember that time I was on hold for 18 years with <insert your bad commitment here> trying to cancel my subscription? Oh my, what a time that was!

Remember when I joined that crazy cult that one time? What was I thinking!

Remember how I used to spend 120% of my monthly income on wine? How silly!

Remember when I went to rehab, had 3 months without a drink, then had that 8 month bender? That wasn’t my smartest move, but oh well! Won’t make that slip-up again! (this one is from my very own relapse adventure last year).

And then, you carry on. You carry on without the guilt and without the regret. Being able to laugh at your situation unlocks the iron shackles of shame and swings opens the door for you to walk out into wild, limitless freedom, arms wide open with the wind in your hair and at your back.

It’s a hell of a lot nicer than sitting in the dark with your sorrows, reliving them in circles.

Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive anyhow.”
– Elbert Hubbard

I know I’ve spent more than my fair share of time hating on myself for things I’ve done, and things I didn’t do. I’ve eaten regret for breakfast, tallied up my losses for lunch, and dined with all the people I’ve ever hurt for dinner.

All I’ve ever gained from eating my mistakes like that is more hunger. There is no satisfaction to be found by breaking bread with your heartache.

Where I’ve been able to find real satisfaction is being able to laugh at the ridiculousness of some of the situations I’ve put myself in. I committed myself more fully to an inanimate bottle of wine (over and over again, every day for two decades) than I ever did to pretty much any other relationship, project or goal.

I basically married an inanimate object. And not just any inanimate object.

A bottle of rotten juice.

What was I thinking?

*Shakes head and chuckles*

Time to laugh, learn from it, leave it behind, and walk out of that cage.

*Grabs machete and Indiana Jones hat.

Leave your front door and your back door open.
Allow your thoughts to come and go.
Just don’t serve them tea.
– Shunry Suzuki

Written by SJ VanDee

Recovery Blogger. Sober AF. Photographer. Storyteller. Writer.

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