There was a conversation I had a couple days ago in which I was describing the worries I had about missing out on things when alcohol wasn’t going to be a part of my life anymore. Looming uneasiness that there would be a great disconnect from the world I was so addicted to, as if I’d spend the rest of my life in that dream where you’re screaming for people not to forget you. Right in front of them as they walk through your ghost, while you plead for them not to walk away.
It boils down to the fear of missing out. That if I didn’t show up to that party, bar or event, I’d miss some life changing moment that everybody else got to experience. It’d be impossible to recount the amount of times I’d knowingly make an irresponsible decision to slam back a shot, call a ride, and head out. I wanted to be part of the crowd, to know what was happening, not to “miss” a thing. Appeasing my constant longing for excitement and attention was easy at the bar or wherever else, at least that was the impression I was under.
I’m beginning to realize that it’s been pretty much the opposite. I was always the most anxious, sad and frustrated not when I thought about my own life and what I was doing, but what was going on in others. Chasing the idea of being relevant in a socially brainwashed world where in reality, nobody really gives a shit. Society does a fantastic job instilling this, and for people like me, it worked (more on that some other time). I was and still am a slave to the idea that if I didn’t drink or go out, my fun level was well below everybody else. I could not have this, and it’s incredibly selfish, but the thought of another individual having a better, more “lively” experience bothered me. My life had to be just as fulfilling and great, but it was like a competition with a thousand ghosts, because I was contending with myself. I was justifying my addiction to booze with the excuse that I’d grow old with nothing to talk about.
Side note: Social media plays a monumental part in this. I was constantly checking it, seeing things happening and feeling like I was always missing something. As those platforms became more and more popular, it was easier and easier to be reminded that maybe I was being left out, but just as simple to gain access them. There are also hundreds of studies on this, and it’s incredibly eye-opening.
That moved me into another school of thought last night, as I wondered what all my social friends were up to. How many meaningful things have I missed because I chose to take the quick route and booze it up? Have I really experienced things like concerts and sporting events? When you went to that mountain cabin, how much of it did you realistically take in? How many plans have you talked about over a beer, and it just ended there? There were many, many more, but I can give a few examples.
Hockey. At age four, my Dad took me to my first professional game. The Capitals played in Maryland at the Capital Centre, and it seemed like it took a century to arrive, but when we got there, the feeling was almost indescribable. I can’t remember the first time I attended a game, but I do have vague memories of the experiences, and I fell absolutely in love. My parents picked up on this, and we made it a habit of heading to a game when their busy schedules allowed. The infatuation for the game only grew stronger, until it was enough to let me play. I’ve always been a natural born athlete, so my parents agreed to let me try it. Throughout childhood and adolescence, my appreciation for the game continued to grow. Moving along to my late 20’s, I began playing with a group of adults in, funny enough, what’s called a “beer league.” A bunch of guys (most older than me), playing ice hockey late into weeknights when ice time wasn’t that expensive, a filler for the facility if you will. When I first started playing again, it was almost euphoric to be back on the ice, even if it was just a bunch of out-of-their-prime working class dudes reliving their younger years. About a year into it, I started missing games, and eventually stopped going all together. Drinking and being at the bar became more of a priority than doing something I really, really love. I always regretted missing the games the next day, but the grip of the drink was tighter than ever. To add, going to Capitals games is one of my favorite things to do, but now that I look back, I was getting toasted by the end of the first period and following the game took a back seat to drinking and yelling at players who were stinkin’ it up. I used to write for a Caps blog and had a pretty decent following too. All of that was no more.
Same with baseball and softball. To save time, it was the same type of ordeal. I simply stopped going because I felt that I’d miss more by ditching the bar scene than I would spending time playing sports I love with NEW people I had met, and enjoyed being around. Looking back, it couldn’t have been more polar.
I was dating a girl (bless her soul for putting up for me for as long as she did) and I had planned an AirBnB trip for her birthday. It was a gorgeous little cabin in West Virginia slotted atop a mountain with spectacular views. Views I never really took the time to gaze at for the entire weekend. I still remember, I had way too much the night before and she actually had to drive there because I felt so terrible. I couldn’t even tone it down 24 hours beforehand to ensure that she had a great, memorable weekend. We argued the entire way, and as soon as we arrived, I started drinking. I never stopped. When her friends arrived it was easy for me to just keep slugging them back, as I was just “playing along.” She wasn’t shortsighted though, and just hid the fact that she was upset, and I’ll always be somewhat thankful for that. It saved me from embarrassment. There wasn’t a span of more than about 20 or 30 minutes over 48 hours that I just stopped to take in the environment, and how naturally gorgeous it was. Now, I feel as if it were a waste. We didn’t last much longer after that. I don’t blame her.
Throughout my life, I’ve been to my fair share of concerts. As a musician myself, and a former student of the beautiful privilege we all have, attending live shows has always been a favorite activity of mine. However, thinking back, how much of those did I actually experience in full? I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, or preaching that people shouldn’t drink when they’re out enjoying music but for me, I now firmly believe that it inhibited my ability to wholly enjoy those moments. Actually, it seems almost insulting to the artists, whether many of them being blasted themselves or not. Now, instead of slamming back 18 dollar light beer cans, I bet I’d appreciate it a bunch more. While I was worried that I wasn’t part of the pack by not getting sloshed, I was missing out on the real thing. I hardly remember any of the recent ones. Phooey.
I’ve missed a lot of time with friends and family as well, but I’ve chosen to refrain from mentioning them, for personal reasons.
As in just about all of these blogs, it seems as if I could go on forever, which is a dark reminder of just how much I actually missed out on. Although glad I’m making these new choices to shape a new life, it does make me a little sad and disappointed in myself. On the bright side, it allows me to be excited to experience life in a new light, with a concise and genuine appreciation for things without the brain buzz of booze. I’m enthusiastic to see what so many people have spoken of, and to absorb every little detail I can, and remember them. I’m looking forward to trying new things, and rediscovering those that I loved before.