I liken driving (especially a long distance) with a dirty windshield to what its like to live a life under an unhealthy influence of alcohol.
Yeah, you can “see” out of your windshield. But during the day your view is through rounded streaks of dirt, smeared bugs, and fogged dust collected that just gets spread around when you try to spray your windshield cleaner. At night, lights bounce off of the streaks, creating a glow that won’t allow you to see clearly down a dark road. Ironically, at night – when your windshield is dirty – the more lights that pass by you or are around you – the less you can see!
How is this like problematic alcohol use? If the two were genetically related, they’d be fraternal twins. When you use alcohol to numb your feelings, to cure boredom, to qualm emotions, to feed cravings, to adapt socially, to escape – you are creating a shield over your eyes. It is a very subtle shield, and you can see through it – but it filters and skews your vision. Most people don’t realize this when they are in its grip, whether they be chained to it with heavy industrial steel links – or simply tied to it by a feather light, sterling silver jewelry chain – alcohol’s trophy wife or husband. This chain is deceptively binding, though it will convince you over time that not only is it easily breakable – but that you’re not even wearing it at all.
While under the spell of this “chain” – your eyes see things not as they are. Your perception views things through the lens of alcohol – even when you’re sober! This is a very hard thing to describe, and may be hard to believe – but once you’ve been back and forth on either side enough times, you begin to see. Your windshield is not clean. Why? Because you’re driving and you’ve collected gunk? No… Its because your wiper blades need to be replaced. (Ok, you can laugh at this last sentence, but it is true!).
Even borderline problematic alcohol use degrades your wiper blades, cuts them, depreciating them instantly so that no matter how many times you try to wipe – they simply will not clean the windshield. They swipe back and forth, creating further streaks and lack of visibility. But by that time, the alcohol has made you too lazy to get up, drive to the auto parts store – and buy a new, fresh pair. You’ve been stung – lightly paralyzed, complete with background audio telling you – “Oh no, its fine. You can see ok! Its dirty but…I don’t want to get up. I can’t get up. Its so far to the store. I’d rather sit here and use my old wiper blades.”
And so you stay. You stay where you are – too paralyzed to move, too anxiety filled or tired or whatever the alcohol has convinced you that you are to prevent you from getting up and changing the record. Its got you. And it doesn’t take much.
How are your decisions affected by this? Well, for one – in many cases you think that you want completely different things than you would if you did not drink alcohol. These can range from small life decisions, to relationship and friendship choices, to the activities you choose to fill your time with, to what you spend your money on, to making larger more big picture life goals take on a much more faraway, vague and less thought out version of themselves. Secondly, you are willing to put up with many stagnant and/or unhealthy things, behaviors, patterns and people than you would if there was no drinking. But the most dangerous one, in my opinion, are situations that we completely convince ourselves are ok over long periods of time through the numbing of our true gut feelings over and over with either small or large amounts of alcohol to the point where we actually start to believe the lies that we tell ourselves because we are scared.
I think that any situation eventually will untie itself that is not meant to be, no matter what we do to try and hold it together – but regardless of this – there is still all of that time that we wasted in that situation. Again – its all a lesson, and it can all absolutely be turned into good… But what if we could just take that giant leap and make the right choice? It will likely feel no less terrifying than solo base-jumping off of a cliff for the first time (with a parachute!) – the difference being our jump off of this mountain built by lies, self-medication and delusion will be by far less risky. In fact, it may be the thing that saves our life.
Stop. Get up. Be afraid. Stand up. Take that risk. Make that decision. Step off that cliff. Get in your car. Drive to the auto parts store. And buy yourself a new pair of wiper blades. And clean your windshield.
Ohh life is so much more authentic with a clear view. Imagine what you could do if you could really see! And how much differently you will enjoy the ride.
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