When I quit alcohol back in 2013, I believed that all my many character faults, in particular, mood swings, anger bursts and irrational irritations – character faults that I was quick to attribute to my newly lost alcohol dependency – would melt away to reveal a calm, content version of the old cantankerous me.
It was therefore with some disappointment that I discovered one morning on my way, ironically, to an AA meeting that my levels of irrational irritation were sky high. Fellow pedestrians seemed to have the audacity to walk straight into me without looking where they were going; narrow streets would suddenly fill with people all wanting to use my space at precisely the same time.
Looking all around me in a seething, barley disguised rage, I observed the clearness of the path everywhere else, except the immediate area around me, and found myself baffled at how sod’s law had once again contrived to put a pedestrian right in my way.
The same incendiary rage could, and still does, occasionally, blow up in some other predictable places. Losing objects, like keys, is guaranteed to bring it on, or putting them in the wrong pocket so that I have to check every other pocket to find them; dropping things on the floor; fetching items that I have mislaid, then instantly leaving them behind again.
When I am tired, hungry, or in a hurry, things only get worse.
Before I quit alcohol, I never felt the need to address my short fuse and irritation. Bad moods were corrected soon enough with a drink or two inside me. Life’s troubles usually faded (others appeared quickly enough with alcohol, but that’s a different matter!) and I was even able to laugh at myself once I had a glass in my hand.
It was all part of a general philosophy of: life is tricky, full of difficult people and awkward things, demon moods and occasional dark despair. But alcohol is there to help me along the way, make it feel better.
When I quit alcohol, I was dazed by the new world I found myself in. It felt as if I was inhabiting a new body, one that I really didn’t know very much about. The feeling was mostly very exciting. So, I was quite surprised to find this new person was just as irritable as the old one.
In a very small way this demonstrates the point that if you quit alcohol, it won’t take away all those personal flaws that make you draw solace from it in the first place.
Kicking away a crutch doesn’t help you to walk. For many people, the biggest problems are still very present even after you quit alcohol for good. That’s why AA is so wonderful. It will help you put your life back together, whatever your past, in addition to helping you quit alcohol.
What made the difference though, was that I was for the first time interested in finding out more about this person, rather than running away from him – to a bar.
Actually, the reality was, I had no choice but to find out more about myself, because booze was now no longer an option to hide behind.
And I have found out some good things too, like I don’t need a drink in social situations in order to talk to people and enjoy myself. I get off on the fact that I can do it all sober, leaving the function at a sensible time and driving home. I have had to learn all this since I quit alcohol, but the journey has been both challenging and exhilarating.
However, I have still not properly addressed my irritability.
I find that forcing myself to smile and laugh when I’m actually angry and cross, is a good way to break the bad mood, even if it doesn’t go all the way of making me happy.
Also, I find that slowing things down and concentrating on the now is helpful. Is that mindfulness? It seems to make me less cross.
But I’m lazy; sometimes too lazy to make the effort to stay calm instead of shouting (when I’m alone, that is!) which is what I really want to do. It’s much more instantly gratifying to have a good loud swear. I’d prefer to blame my glasses or pen or phone for hiding from me, rather than acknowledge my own mistake, force myself to smile and stay positive.
I’m thinking of exploring meditation classes for this. I wonder if that would help me relax in social circumstances, as well as make me less irritable with fellow pedestrians and with my loathsome keys when I mislay them!? I guess I need to give it a try.
There’s more of this sort of observation my my drinking memoir