Day 113: I have always been somebody who lived life on the edge. Not so much in a thrill seeking and spontaneous sense – more so in a high stress, anxious and agitated way. Back in school I was a quiet, observant and a well behaved student but in my teenage years I was fed up of the dickheads invading my personal space with verbal or physical attacks. I was not bullied heavily by any means, but I would get the odd wet towel over the back of my legs in the changing room or a pencil flicked at my head in maths. I would get called names because of my hair colour or because of my surname. I would generally absorb all of this and not show I was bothered by it – it was rare that I would get much more attention than that.
As I reached about 14 there was a change in me which I hadn’t really expressed previously and it shocked the so called ‘bullies’. I started fighting back, reacting angrily and in most cases getting the upper hand. I punched one lad in the face on the football field and bust his nose. I pushed another kid into a stairwell window and he smashed it. I chased somebody out of the classroom mid-lesson because he threw a coin which hit my ear. I’d had enough of it. My friends and class mates loved me for it – Not many people will stand up to these so called hard men of the school year. They pretty much backed off and left me alone for the final 18 months of secondary school but I do remember on the last day of school in my final year – a real piece of work who had been nothing but a bully and nuisance to so many in the school told me if he saw me in the village he lived in he would stab me. I never did see him again but about 5 years after we left school he died after falling over high on drugs and cracking his head off a kerb.
In fact half a dozen lads from my year group have passed in the 18 years since we left secondary school. Alcoholism, drug overdoses, car accidents, etc. When I was younger I shrugged my shoulders at the news and in some cases would say something like “Good, they were an oxygen thief anyways” – thinking back to my interactions with them and the negativity they brought to me.
Even in my more ‘mature’ years throughout my 20s I would be a very reactive person to anything that I didn’t agree with or if I thought fairness had been compromised. I guess that from a young age I was a follower of routine, rules and process. If somebody breaks the rules it has a big reactive impact on me and the agitation and aggression it has brought out of me in the past is worrying. I could list so many examples – some when I was under the influence of alcohol (and more common as booze lowers your tolerance to things) BUT the amount of ‘sober’ incidents have been worrying. I had road rage once when a car overtook me and I followed them back to their home and stared at them as they parked up and went into their home. I reflected afterwards and asked myself what was the point? what was I looking to achieve?
I took exception to somebody calling me lazy and not pulling my weight within my section of Army training. The recruit didn’t appreciate I’d be cleaning all day in the block and I’d only popped outside to call my Mother because I was struggling emotionally. My reaction to be being called out led to a fight between us.
There was even an incident just last year where a group of teenagers were standing next to my car in a Supermarket car park. I got my little girls into the car and as I stepped into the driver’s door one of them made a comment or noise towards me. I got back out of the car and pinned one of them up against the wall. My wife was so angry with me but in my eyes they had crossed the line and they needed to be punished. Reflecting again, they were just immature kids.
Something I have been proud of in the last few months since my dark days and hospital admission is that I have been so much more aware of how I react to others and activity that is happening around me outside of my control. The not drinking alcohol aspect of things is no doubt helping with me controlling my agitation, irritation, depression and anxiety but I still have a duty within myself to make the right moral decisions day to day. I am less annoyed by other drivers, other pedestrians, other shoppers, other people’s comments on social media, etc. By no means am I saying that I am in a constant state of zen but the person I am today is a much more relaxed person than I have ever been during my time on this planet.
I could say its the fact I’m reading more, or because I am running. Maybe it is because I’m eating better and walking more each day. Maybe it is because I don’t have alcohol in my body and head?! I dunno. All I do know is that whilst not everyday is perfect I am finding that I have more better days than not – where the life on the edge feeling is less edgy. I’ve stepped further back from the edge and it is allowing me to look over the edge from a much safer distance. Today marks 113 days sober. Today marks my 113th day of recovery. Today is a good day.