Saturday 24 January
Renmark, South Australian
Day One of my Adventures in Sobriety,
in which i renege on the first day of my resolution to not smoke marijuana
I am reluctant to say this, but i’m calling today Day One, the first day of dragging myself away from the pot-hazed fugue my life has been for the last month or more.
I was tempted to use Ground Zero, because i do feel i have a clean slate, though nothing explosive or catastrophic has happened.
We read all the time about people who cleaned up their act after some disastrous event, usually by doing something drastic and out of their league—right now i’m reading Wild, the story of a 26-year-old woman who walked the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother suddenly died and her family imploded.
I don’t really have that, the whole drastic-premise thing: my experience has been more of a slow-burn of ever-increasing disillusionment with what is typically offered us as a way to live, and a growing sense that i need to do something to drag myself back to life, to find the alternative way of living that is most conducive to my wellbeing, and therefore least conducive to relapse.
It’s a long road, but i’ve never been one to take short cuts.
For the last month or so i’ve been in Renmark (the main town of South Australia’s Riverland, a wine and agriculture region on the edge of the Australian Outback), getting my truck licence and smoking way too many bongs. I got my licence and that should feel like an achievement, but this most-recent prolonged binge (which has, again, robbed me of the will to pursue my amazing life) has been another disheartening chapter in my long history of addiction.
I’ve been addicted to something since i was fifteen (i’m now 31), if we don’t count the fact we’re all addicted to sugar, and probably have been since birth—we talk about heroin babies, but no one ever mentions the troubles of babies born with sugar addictions.
Anyway, i’m feeling pretty low—unemployed, homeless, a hundred bucks to my name, and the anxiety returning from wherever i had been displacing it to with hits from the bong. I’ve been here before, and i know i’ll pull myself out, but knowing is different from feeling, and when you’re in a sinkhole like this it’s hard to see what’s over the edge, up in the light of the world outside the sinkhole. The anxiety manifests physically in constant shortness of breath and that lurking fluttering feeling somewhere between your heart and lungs, a generalised sense of something being not quite right, without knowing at all what that thing is.
I’ve spent the day wandering around as much as it’s possible to wander between the air-conditioned lounge room and outside, where it’s in the mid-30s again and there’s not much wind to blow it around. I’ve been wandering around on the internet, reading about lifestyle design, financial freedom, adventure. And i’ve been wandering around with the idea of establishing a set of conditions according to which i will endeavour to live my life from today, Day One.
Of course the first condition of adventures in sobriety is to not get stoned, which is difficult in a house full of stoners. So it will be enough to get through Day One sober. Other conditions include things like eating vegetarian, drinking enough water, and committing one act of service/kindness per day, because i tend to get neurotic about this sort of lifestyle change, wanting to overhaul everything at once. I’m impatient.
But if i set that condition as the sole condition for Day One, maybe it will constitute a good place to start. I will eventually quit smoking, establish a habit of riding a minimum of 15km per day, lose 10kg, and execute a charity cycle tour along Goyder’s Line. But these i cannot do now—well, i could quit smoking, but i’ve decided to give myself that one thing to suck on for now.
I’d also like to cut sugar, wheat, dairy from my diet, finish an essay, publish a few poems and find a place i could imagine spending the next five years or so of my life.
And that’s just the beginning. I’ve got a lot i want to achieve in this life, and it starts with achieving mastery of myself—incidentally, the title of ‘Swami’ means ‘master of one self’.
Another condition of this project is that i will post something here every day (or at least write something each day—and post it when i have decent wifi), in the hope that might keep me accountable for what i’m doing.
So, let the games begin.
I “failed” already (i’m smoking a joint right now),
but i put the word in quote marks because:
- failure is not an option;
- i like to justify/qualify my indiscretions to make myself feel better.
So tomorrow is Day One, which is the way i like it—wow, listen to me go!—this way i’m not tied to temporal limitations.
(The above is how i sound to myself whenever i renege on a resolution such as this. But the moment i finished smoking the joint, my HabitSeed app was beeping—HabitSeed is a cute little app i use to help me develop new habits. Clock it here.
That beep was a blow, sending home to me that there was simply no way i could justify my way out of the fact i had reneged on my resolution within the first day.)
this indiscretion constitutes a segue—
no, not a segue,
(More and more these days i find myself writing in the style of these fractured paragraphs, and all the more when i’m stoned and can’t hold onto a thought long enough to fit it in a sentence.)
But here’s how i’m making myself feel better: i could look at this as a necessary element of adventure (in sobriety):
when you are exploring some unknown and it freaks you out,
naturally you want to retreat into territory where you feel comfortable and familiar.
That’s what this is like.
I could berate myself about it, or i could give myself a break.
I still don’t have any weed of my own, or any money to buy any, and the others are going to a party tonight, so i should have some space to myself without temptation.
But something i suspect i will be consoling myself with regularly over the next year is the idea ‘sobriety’ needn’t necessarily mean ‘tee-totalling’, that adventuring in sobriety might sometimes involve inebriation, which i can (lamely) justify right now by saying you can’t know the benefits of sobriety without knowing the downfalls of habitual inebriation.
Already the accountability is working: i told the guys here i’m quitting; someone gave me some weed to get me through, assuming the reason I’m not smoking is i’m broke; as i was considering accepting the gift, someone else piped up and said, “Do you want that, Ryan?” and i had to concede that yes i did, but i wouldn’t take it.
So maybe i went astray before, but now i feel back on track: one step backward, two steps forward; i smoked a small joint, but refused three big nuggets i could have made a dozen joints with and smoked all night,
according to my recent custom of smoking all my weed at once until it’s gone, so i don’t have any to smoke in the morning, with the ongoing intention to quit then, tomorrow morning.
Instead, i chose reality, sobriety and self-respect.
So i’m happy with Day One, all told—though that will pass
… oh, there it goes …
[still later still]
It’s late and i feel pretty shitty, adrift and sad again—
the pot hardly appeased anything, and i don’t have the supply that gives the warm assurance of staying high until i can get to sleep.
It’s just a feeling though—it will pass.
This is post #001 in a series called Adventures in Sobriety—i will try to post once a day as i try, again, to kick some drug habits that have plagued me for some fifteen years … half of my short life.
As i embark on this adventure i have been reading Wild, the story of a 26-year-old woman who walked the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother suddenly died and her family imploded—she was hooked on heroin for a while, so i can relate with my experience of once trying to walk off addictions on the Lycian Way, the long-distance trekking trail on Turkey’s south coast.