Drinking to escape became a habit almost as soon as I was legally allowed to buy alcohol. I would come home at the end of a long day, sit down, crack a beer, and let the day slip away as the alcohol did its thing. The longer I drank and the more I drank, the more I craved that escape. Eventually I got to the point where I was “escaping” my entire life. I certainly wasn’t participating in it anymore. And of course, constantly escaping reality only served to make reality that much more difficult to come back to. After a while, I got to the point where I wasn’t even sure which way to go to get back.
The other day I was driving along and that old song ‘The Way’ by Fastball came on the radio. I hadn’t heard it for a long time, but it was one of those songs that I played on repeat when I was a teenager. It’s a song about leaving it all behind, about escaping into the fantasy of the great unknown. With lyrics like,
Anyone can see the road that they walk on is paved in gold
And it’s always summer
They’ll never get cold
They’ll never get hungry
They’ll never get old and gray
You can see their shadows wandering off somewhere
They won’t make it home but they really don’t care
They wanted the highway
They’re happier there today
It’s hard not to participate in that fantasy.
I think it’s safe to say that we all have fantasies like that. I think it’s very normal to look around at all the stress and crap you have to put up with on a daily basis and want to run away from it all. I also think that many of us use or used alcohol to do just that. I know I did.
Since I stopped drinking, it has been very important to be mindful of my desire to escape reality. That has been especially true recently, when work has been both busy and stressful pretty much 24/7 and the state of the world is increasingly troubling. Snidely ( the devil on my shoulder) is always there, always happy to remind me that a few drinks would “take care” of all that stress. With my emotional bandwidth down to almost nothing, he knows that all he has to do is get his foot in the door. Unfortunately for him, I’ve gotten really good at playing the tape forward. I know that yes, a couple – literally TWO – drinks would probably take the edge off. I also know that I am totally and completely incapable of stopping at two. Never could, never will. So then, where does that leave me? What do I do when I need to escape but drinking isn’t an option?
I don’t want to sound preachy here, but I strongly suggest that you ask yourselves that question, especially if you’re new to this alcohol-free journey. Not only do I suggest that you ask, I suggest that you do your level best to come up with a list of three to five things you can do that will provide you with that sense of escape without looking for it at the bottom of a bottle. Make an escape plan, because you never know when you’re going to need it.
My escape plan depends on what I feel like I need to escape from. If the noise and stress of the world is bothering me, I lock the bathroom door, put on a facemask, sink into a hot Epsom-salt bath, put some soothing new-agey music on in the background, and close my eyes. If I’ve just plain had enough of today but I’m not tired and my mind wants to stay focused on something, I either work a puzzle or read. There is nothing like reading to take me right out of my own world and into another one. If I’m tired and just don’t feel like doing much of anything, I typically play video games or watch a favorite movie or TV show. Then of course, there’s sleep. Sleep is a wonderful way to escape from reality. It’s not my number one go to by any means, but sometimes, there’s nothing else for it. I suppose you could say I have a key ring equipped with all the keys I need to open whatever lock happens to be in front of me. None of those keys is alcohol.
The best thing about my escape plan is that when it’s time to come back to reality, not only am I able to, but I actually feel like I got what I needed while I was away. Instead of being tired, hung over, and foggy, I feel rested and recharged. I don’t struggle with feelings of shame and regret on top of all the stuff I was trying to escape from to begin with. I don’t feel guilty, I don’t have to worry that I did something stupid, and I don’t have to make excuses. In other words, I don’t feel like I have to escape from my escape. I like it that way.
More Ideas on How to Escape the Stress of Life Without Sabotaging You :
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