In a couple of weeks I’ll celebrate eight years of being clean and sober. It’s been a good run, hopefully one that will continue for many, many more years until the day I die. Giving up drink and drugs felt like a big sacrifice at first but, quite quickly, I realised it was the opposite. Sobriety introduced a bunch of brilliant new stuff. Energy, curiosity, fitness, focus, a reinvigorated imagination, a deeper appreciation of the love and beauty that surrounds us and – perhaps best of all – deep, peaceful, sumptuous rest.
Being pissed, high or hungover all the time created a chaotic and stressful life. I was always running late, feeling sick, embarrassed, anxious, paranoid and unable to relax or feel fulfilled without some sort of stimulant inside of me. It was a very narrow life in which I found pretty much everything boring apart from booze and drugs. Ugh.
Once sobriety helped me learn to draw pleasure from real life, I was so much more comfortable with myself. I lost the sense that I was missing out on stuff, or not having enough fun. I learned to be happy. I found peace. I became able to sit and do nothing much without being consumed by feelings of anxiety, boredom or self-loathing. I was, at last, comfortable with the person I was.
- David Graeber: ‘To save the world, we’re going to have to stop working’
- When Sam Delaney needed to sort his mental health, the solution was unexpected – sincerity
- Sam Delaney’s guide to surviving a family party
Peace and sobriety was all I craved. But for many years I lived in a world where peace was impossible to find: society seemed to bombard me with goals to chase, ambitions to set, aspirations to fulfil. Career, money, love, family, home, health… every aspect of life was contaminated by a culture that made things feel like a brutal gladiatorial contest. Feelings of failure haunted me. Drink and drugs provided an escape.
Through sobriety I eventually managed to get some sensible perspective on life. But the ugly world of hyper-intense ambition still exists – and seems to be getting worse. The podcast charts are increasingly dominated by batshit shows presented by American Psycho-type narcissists preaching ‘high performance culture,’ encouraging people to adopt ‘world-class’ habits and ‘optimise protocols’ in every last aspect of their lives.
This sort of thinking is rooted in a fundamentally right-wing worldview: the idea that everyone can succeed if they are just willing to work hard enough. It ignores all context: the myriad socioeconomic, racial and other cultural obstacles to success, and works on an assumption that we all share one aim in life which is to be the absolute best at everything. This is the warped thinking of uptight psychopaths, not happy, content, relaxed people.