How does one experience their growth? Thinking back to being a teenager I feel no specific sense of growth. That just feels like time. However at this point in my life I’m wary of conflating maturity with growth. The two are siblings, however the former couples closer to the passing of time, to the ebbing of testosterone, and the decline in unbridled ambition. Growth is a far more subtle measure, it’s the combination of maturity, empathy, sympathy, and the ability to evaluate decisions across an extended time horizon.

This past week I was given the opportunity to return to Santa Monica for a few days. This locale offered up a unique opportunity for me to retrace steps taken 18 months earlier by a very different me. 18 months ago an overly emotional me, desperate for a drink stormed away from his friends, he jogged along 2nd street toward the pier avoiding the pleas of his friends to stop and wait. He ran from the opportunity to confront his emotions and to acknowledge his pride.

Yesterday, fresh from 14 hours of sleep I got dressed, smoked a joint and then walked that same route. It was about 9pm, I’d picked up a Philz Coffee and a San Pellegrino and walked down to 2nd St and retraced my steps to the pier. My head was held high the whole way.

To merely chalk this up to removing alcohol from my life sells short my growth. Without question emotional control is a key factor here, but it’s more than that, I’ve “grown into my emotions”. I still feel the same level, but now my initial reaction isn’t to gorge myself on them. I measure them. I ask “why do I feel this way?”, and I follow that up with “why do I feel this way?”, and so goes the loop until I identify the core answer. Then building from there I seek help, I solicit feedback, I allow myself to be openly vulnerable. The mike of 18 months ago felt he needed to have the answers, now I seek the right answers — some from within, many more from without.

Abstinence from alcohol definitely plays its part. It’s a crime in my mind that this destructive drug is so freely available when others, such as pot, are not. Surely a nanny state should treat all intoxicants as illegal? In my case I cannot control my emotions when alcohol is at play. Everything is exaggerated. I love more violently, and I anger more violently, the controls are lifted and you get everything I’ve to offer: good and bad. As with many dichotomies of this structure the bad outweighs the good every time.

Abstinence has given me a compelling platform to evaluate this form of dichotomy. From here I’m able to see my anxiety more objectively; I appreciate it as a warning signal that something needs my attention, but I also acknowledge that it pulls strongly toward the proverbial spinal-tap-11. From this vantage point I’ve learned to breathe through the tight gut, the shortness of breath, the fingers of silent panic no longer find purchase.

Growth is permitting me to uncover me, it affords me a level of creativity to craft the as yet fully formed parts of my future. I’m choosing to be the change I want to see in the world, one part of me at a time.


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