My wife and I went out for dinner the other night, and decided to try a new restaurant in our neighbourhood. It was a brew pub. Pubs don't deter nor determine my choice in dining. I happen to like pub grub, and this place served some elevated fare. But I have to admit, that for the first time in awhile, I felt a little apprehensive going in.
I used to brew my own beer when I was in my late teens and early 20's. I wasn't out for a cheap high-I really did enjoy following recipes and trying out new flavours. This was around the time I was finding my way into being a chef, which also involved playing around with recipes, so there was something about experimenting and playing around. I really took to the craft of brewing. I enjoyed the crispness of a proper lager, the butterscotch overtones of a brown ale, the effervescence of a wheat beer, the sweet-and-sourness of a Belgian ale. I played with fruit, herbs and different hops in my drinks. I took pride in creating something that was my own.
And yes, it was booze. I got to enjoy the final product with some of my friends.
As my need for alcohol increased, my willingness to take the time and effort in creating beer waned. I wanted what I wanted, and I wanted it now. The escalation of alcoholism upped the urgency of my poor decision making and created a vacuum of worthlessness and self-loathing.
Alcohol wasn't the only thing that I thirsted for.
I thirsted for self-flagellation.
I thirsted for isolation.
I thirsted for validation.
I thirsted for grandiosity.
I thirsted for an altered state.
I thirsted to be someone else.
I thirsted to not be alive.
I thirsted for complete oblivion.
I could not slake my thirst for any of these. My need to drink tied into all these other thirsts. I tried to fill the need for connection, meaning and self-esteem with alcohol. I tried to wash away the riveting pain in a river of red wine and 40-pounders of vodka. I wanted to put a gun to my head and finally rid myself of me. But alcohol was all I had.
A shot is a shot is a shot, after all.
My thirst finally broke me down. I was parched, my tongue and soul stripped down and raw.
I realized that what I sought was already in me. I had to be willing to see it, to find it, to give myself permission to understand that I no longer needed to live the way I used to live. Men and women who had already been down that path lifted me up and showed me how to really quench my thirst. I prayed, I meditated, I worked with others, I was given a new way of holding life up and examining it. I held aloft my spirit, like a chalice to the heavens, and could replenish as much as I wanted and needed. As long as I remained humble and centered, there was plenty to hold in my hands.
When I am not centered, when I am feeling dry, when I am drifting away from the tributaries which recharge and revitalize me, then The Thirst comes on. Carl Jung once observed that the alcoholic's thirst for alcohol is, "the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God."
So when I sat in that brew pub and listened to the server talk about their latest beers and I started to drift off into "what if" land, I realized that my thirst was manifesting back to an old way. Even though it was brief, and my cranberry soda did the trick just nicely thank you very much, I had to sit with the fact that at times like that, I need to turn my attention to drinking from other cups. I need to change the course of my thirst and direct it to where I know I will always have a full glass. I need to see that I of myself am enough. I sometimes require a nudge in that direction, but I am glad for the cues the Universe gives me to put me back on the path I was meant to walk.
The thirst for a whole and complete life will always be there, and gratitude is something that I can always brew up. In double batches. Because for guys like me, it's always more festive with doubles.