I first moved to Melbourne in November 2011. I came down here on tour with the Whipped Cream Chargers, found out my friend Tim had died, so I made the decision and never left. Following a series of dreams (after a long period of half-assed meditation practice and occult training) I was convinced to go to a ten-day Vipassana course at the Dhamma Aloka and I came back sober for the first time in six years.
Between January 2012 and February 2013 I stayed sober. I hardly knew anyone down here at the time and I relished in it. I had the time and space to be my self relatively uninterrupted and, after years of really wanting to see where this spiritual path would lead me, after trying in so many tremendous ways to find the answers in others and in the world around me, I began the process of trying to find them within. I barely left my room, spending five hours a day doing meditation and yoga, eating only healthy vegetarian foods, performing deeper studies of the tarot and symbolism, living like a monk.
It was a good time, if not quite boring. Some part of my mind was still yearning for that other life. I was doing all this with the hope that after three, six, nine, twelve months I would have found enlightenment and then been able to go back to what I was doing. I played in the Chargers, a party band, but I didnt party. I didn't really record my own music then, my only outlet was my writing which was bogged down in details, but once I set my mind to a thing it takes alot for me to give up on it. To jump off the wagon again I'd have to find a way to trick myself into thinking that I'd made the wrong choice somehow and that doing something different was the actual way to enlightenment. Or that enlightenment is actually a myth and that I should just have a good time while I'm here, which is the easiest trick by far but hard to do when you are stubborn and you have tasted some of meditations fruits.
Somehow in this time I made some amazing friends. Talented crazy people who continue to blow my mind. At the time they were all wild party animals. I regretted that I'd performed my transformation before I'd met them. The path I had taken was a very lonely one. We hung out, but they got to do crazy stuff that it is so fucking hard for an anxiety-ridden sober person to do. Break things, and run around naked and laugh at nothing together like it was the best joke they ever heard. Most of the time when I talked to them it wasnt light-hearted - when we spoke it was about clarity and health, self development, growth. My dark side never got a swim, and I loved my dark side. Mostly I just felt like a stick in the mud, like I had nothing interesting to say that wasnt some deep (stick in the mud) shit. People seemed to come to me for good things, and I loved that, but I wanted to get all fucked up with them. They never encouraged it, but after a few months the part of me that relishes in chaos and wishes to belong overcame me and I started getting wasted again.
Almost four years passed. Some good years, but years of uncertainty, years of being hung over, mental issues and anxiety, proper deep dark chaos. But don't get me wrong, it was amazing too. I got messy with these people and with so many more. So many fun days and nights. Had countless beautiful fucked up adventures that I half remember too because my tolerance got so high that I'd have to drink a whole bottle of whiskey just to be a proper mess. My tolerance got high enough that in the last year or so I've got drunk at least three times a week and before I'd start a night I'd drink a whole bottle of wine by myself on the half-hour tram to anywhere from Preston and that'd just get me tipsy. I'd come home and spend at least two days unable to do anything of worth, depressed and just waiting to go out and get fucked again and even though I could see a pretty silly pattern emerging of spending all my money, not getting all that much out of it chemically, and not getting much done as a result nothing was stopping me. I wouldnt say I was an alcoholic in the proper sense - I never had a physical addiction, but once you get into a cycle it is super weird to break it, and why would you anyway? Its the fun bit, right?
Thats ten years out of the last eleven.
So recently I got a vitamin deficiency. A vitamin that booze specifically kills. I hadn't been looking after myself and it had got so far that my nerves started acting up. I found out that a great deal of my anxiety and depression had been coming from this as well. I had been having dreams for a while where I'd be in a cage with the devil and outside there was all this cool shit but to get out I'd have to destroy a bottle of booze, or I'd be being followed by someone I couldn't get away from who was telling me I didn't have the strength to get rid of the drink or I'd be telling people I was fine and thinking about going and getting a beer only to have all these demons pull me down (dark stuff is personified like this in my mind due to judeo-christian programming). It was all pretty obvious, but it was only when my body started to flip out like this that I decided to stop drinking again.
My first realisation was that drinking is boring. At least for me. I've done it so much that it doesnt really hold a kick anymore. It definitely does something, but that thing just isn't that fun. Maybe it will be again one day, but I've taken it too far for now. It doesnt serve me. I knew this for ages, but it is hard to give something up which everyone around you is doing and which is the way that you experience community. Like so many people, I used booze to get over my social anxieties. Currently I'm buzzing off the challenge of being good company even when I'm straight. I'm getting to realise that I don't always have to be smooth, I can be what I am and if people dont like it then thats ok. I'm beaming because I've realised once again that though I really want community I actually enjoy solitude so much. Being around wasted people doesnt bother me, but if people don't want to be around me because I'm not drunk then I'm actually going to be fine. Regardless I am hoping that I can still maintain a community even though right now it is going to be challenging because rather than being the self which has knocked down its boundaries with booze I have to be the self who develops the ability to fly over them naturally. I have to find and be my own self, awkward as that is sometimes, instead of being that dude who just doesnt give a fuck. I actually just have to not give a fuck without having booze to give me permission to not to give a fuck.
Second realisation: The drugs that make booze fun are already in my head. Booze gives me a kick (when its working properly). When I work really hard on something and I reach a milestone or get it done I also get a kick. It's a reward system that is set up inside of me to facilitate the achievement of goals. After I've done something of value I get to feel good, relax, and then it goes away and I have to do something of value again. This isn't just as simple as a drive to breed or whatever. After years of emptying my mind I have found that all that is left is compassion, writing, music, and what I might call spirituality for lack of a better word. So whereas before I was confused and unfocused this time I do have things to fill my time with which I am fulfilled by. There is the odd neurosis, but I have become adept at deconstructing them and realising that it is best to keep working towards what is good rather than dwelling on what is bad. And I'm happy with that. Every day I chip away at one or more of these four things and each one of them gets me high and makes me feel blissful. The rewards are tangible at times, but I get so much out of just doing these things for the sake of it that often I am elevated to tears. I realised that when I am drinking I am short-circuiting that reward system which makes it less urgent for me to achieve my goals. It is tricking me into thinking that the same high I can get from an internal source actually only comes from an external source. And because my goals are just to chip away at these things what abusing alcohol does is actually just hinder me from doing what I love, holding me back from highs that I actually earned by being and expressing myself fully. And then I wake up after four years like I just did and realise that while I have done some rad things I am not even close to the goals that I have set for myself. Can I achieve those goals? Of course. Im getting older but who gives a fuck? It just takes working on them, and if I am doing what I love then work itself is rewarding. And I'm sure that after a while my addiction to the highs of actualising myself is gonna turn me into a fucking mad person who is craving a hit so hard that they are forced to turn on their own brand of genius just to get it. And its exciting.
I've abused alcohol for a long time. I'm not against it, I'm not down on drinkers or drinking, I am not trying to make anyone feel bad or unhappy or anything. Basically every good friend I have I made while fucked up, a great deal of my best ever times have been had while fucked up, and I assume that when I'm feeling a bit stronger I'll get fucked up at some point once again. I'm not saying any of this out of regret. I just went too far and came to some realisations for myself and I want to share them. My drinking is gone for the moment, and if I do ever do it again it'll need to be with more awareness of what it has the capacity to give and what it has the capacity to take - the fact is I got tricked into thinking I was getting more out of the bargain than I was and it stopped me from putting my full energy into the deal that actually pays real dividends. When it got to the level of cyclical abuse it was like I was buying my pleasures and my abilities to be an active part of a community on credit rather than actually earning them.