The world is a big place and full of people, amongst other things. I like travelling, it’s something I was introduced to as a kid by my parents. I’ve always loved witnessing new scenes, sampling different cultures and climates, seeing first-hand how other nationalities go about their everyday lives. It’s fascinating stuff.
It’s something I’ve always done, even towards the end of my drinking when things were pretty dark and depressing there was still time for one last mad session in Magaluf with the lads. Not much culture witnessing going on there but a more favourable climate and change of scenery was always appreciated whilst hurtling full speed to oblivion.
When this challenge landed via email (using a map as your muse #day 14 everydayinspiration) it got me thinking about how far I’ve roamed and more importantly my constant travel companion – Me! Wherever I go I take me with me!! There lies the problem, my ever present dilemma. Geographic solutions always seemed extremely inviting, after all… the Sun is always brighter and the grass is always greener isn’t it? Well… No! Looking back it was a case of the drink was always cheaper, everybody was always drunker and situations were always more forgiving. Sounds like a perfect combination until you realise it’s just another recipe for advanced insanity that always wears me down until I’m left with no other option other than to withdraw back into isolation with the bottle as my only company.
I can’t remember exactly when I had my first drink but I can remember drinking wine in Spain around the age of 9years old. It was at a traditional Spanish evening with some matador looking guy going round with a spouted decanter, pouring wine into everybody’s mouth as they held their heads back. I have this overwhelming feeling I drank twice as much as the adult’s around my table. Somewhere my Mother has an old photo of that night, in it I’m wearing a Sombrero and looking obviously intoxicated.
This was a trend set to continue at home or abroad for the rest of my life until I first got sober at the age of 41. I’ve made a list of countries I’ve visited… 14 in total and I’ve been drunk in everyone. Including Iraq ‘91 when serving in the Marine Corps and under orders to remain dry until we left for home.
The Royal Marines replaced battle honours with the globe in 1827 and that has kind of been my story. “Map as a Muse” seems like way too much description of a story that’s followed a similar path from A to B leaving minor train wrecks to massive tsunami type behaviours and consequences in my wake. A gentleman in an apartment close to mine in St Lucia would shout across the road “It’s all bullshit” in his Texas accent every time he saw me. He looked like Elma Fudd and I never once saw him with a drink, looking back I think I finally know what he was trying to say. Back then I couldn’t see shit for stink I was too busy trying to drown my travel companion to take notice of an elderly cartoon looking former oil man somewhere in the Caribbean sea.
Cold winters in North Norway above the Artic Circle were bearable by the fact that every time we returned to camp we got beer so cheap it was as good as free. Even though the local bars were expensive we were heavily compensated with “Local Overseas Living Allowanced” which we treat as nothing more than beer tokens – Some of us more than others! The Viking women were very attractive and attentive, on nights when this wasn’t so then the Norwegian men were good for fighting and insanity reigned supreme.
Enough of drinking memoirs… How’s it been travelling sober? Incredible is the Mount Everest of understatements! The road opened up to Rome, USA and Malta as well as various locations across the UK. One thing all these places, and I’m sure the places I’m yet to visit have in common, is that the Fellowship is alive, well and healthily strong. Before I leave home to go anywhere outside my home town I check out, using the internet, where the nearest meetings are and all there details. I have been welcomed through the door by and made friends with amazing human beings that I otherwise would never have known existed. Friends who wanted nothing from me other than to hear my story and offer me fellowship and support. The way AA operates in New Orleans is nothing short of amazing, and they say NYC is a great city to get fucked up in and an even better one to get sober in. I’ve done both and I have to agree!
Traveling both home and abroad with my constant travel companion I realise I no longer feel the need to drown him. There’s nowhere to run to and that’s ok with me. I get a feeling of excitement and manageable expectations wherever I find myself. I’m able to take in all those sights, sounds and experiences I described earlier without a hurrying need to call time early and get drunk. I enjoy massively the experience of been away from home and also the satisfaction of returning to my own bed afterwards and laying a sober, contented and freshly educated head on my pillow. A recent excursion to Malta with a good friend was such a unique trip. It was my first AA Convention and it was truly wonderful. Full of inspirational people, a great hotel, sunny weather on the back of a shit damp winter in the U.K and loads to do. We both had a blast!
We all go through shit, both home and abroad and we somehow survive. Whenever any of us overcomes a struggle, either a life time’s worth like an addiction or a short term pain like a divorce, we tend to label ourselves survivors. I don’t quite buy into that and prefer to see myself as a Warrior. From my earliest memory of fighting on the streets, through school, on the football terraces and in bars and clubs across the land I saw myself as a fighter. Compounded by my time in the military and endeavours with contact sports, I saw the enemy or my opponent as an objective to overcome. However I now realise this to be horseshit! The battle was always within, and it was always with my travel companion. Learning to accept him, laugh at him and love him even at his most vulnerable and weakest moments has shifted my perspective from fighter/ survivor to one of Warrior.
I have journeyed the world far and wide, but the most challenging and frightening battle I have engaged in was the one that was constantly raging inside myself regardless of external locations. One in which I had to face myself… Honestly and completely, without secrets. That started sometime ago at point A, I then arrived at point B in the City this blog is named after, where I finally stared myself down. It is also the most rewarding journey of my travel, one which continues today and hopefully for some time yet. One day at a time. Its a big world with lots of people… amongst other things!
“Adversity introduces a man to himself” ~ Anonymous.
“Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other” ~ M.C. Richards.
D&O in Fresno