This blog entry is based on something that I wrote last year, but as my feelings remain the same I thought that I might share it again here. It may surprise some people but I feel no shame about my former days as a hopeless drunk. This might sound strange alright; it might even cause some people to feel annoyed at my brazen attitude. After all, how could I not feel ashamed about living such a useless life for so many years? How could I not feel shame at allowing myself to sink so low that I would beg for money on the streets while sitting in my own urine? How could any person not feel great shame about sinking so low?
A couple of years ago I mentioned on a Thai web forum some of the story of my drunken former life. In this particular post I mentioned the fact that I felt proud of myself for escaping addiction. Someone responded with a comment that he could never respect somebody like me because those he admired wouldn’t allow themselves to fall into such a state in the first place. At the time what he said sort of played on my mind (it also hurt my feelings), but I decided that in the end that there was just no way I could agree with such a statement. This wasn’t just because my ego wouldn’t allow it, but also because there were too many people that I respected that had either died as drunks or had managed to escape addiction and lead wonderful lives. Being a drunk does not mean that you were born a failure or that you will die a failure; I just can’t believe that – sorry. People like Brendan Behan or Jackson Pollock were extremely talented people who lost their talent to the drink; their only failure was that they failed to escape an addiction.
While I feel no shame about my life as a drunk there are things that I regret. I do regret any hurt that I might have caused to other people during my drunken years. I don’t feel guilt about this though, because I don’t believe that guilt serves anyone. The reality though is that the person who suffered most during those years was me. For a lot of the time my mind was full of despair and revulsion at my own behaviour. The only way that I could escape my self-loathing was by staying drunk – a vicious circle. I entered my first treatment centre in Ireland when I was still in my teens; it was fifteen more years before I stopped for good. A lot of bad things happened to me during that time. I came close to suicide and insanity on a few occasions. I was in and out of treatment for years. It wasn’t fun. Still, I wouldn’t change one second of it.
I love the way my life has turned out. If things hadn’t occurred exactly like they did I wouldn’t be who I am today and where I am today. I wouldn’t have my beautiful wife and my greatest pride – my son. I probably wouldn’t be living in Thailand where I am happy most of the time. I really believe that my life has benefited in so many way from my years as a drunk. It changed me. It taught me compassion for fellow sufferers. It took away many of my fears. I don’t worry about losing my money or ending up on the streets because I know that I can survive it. In order to escape addiction I had to develop as a human. I have to continue developing if I want to stay sober. I am a better person because of what happened; I’m sure of it. Plenty of people never fell into the despair of addiction, but are full of hate and self-loathing. Many of these people go through life without any need for change. I had to change and for that I will always be grateful.
No matter how low a drunk or druggie has descended I do not feel any revulsion. I do not see them as a failed human being. I see them as a fellow traveller on a journey; it will be up to them where they end up. Those who manage to escape addiction can not only recover all that is lost, but they can use the experience to propel them into a life that most people can only dream about – a life free of fear and full of joy.