Colin Farrell has been sober since 2006 and i was surprised to see he and i have something in common other than our devilishly good looks and top model sex life. We were both binge drinkers and both love sobriety unabashedly.
Note: i have not censored his responses and he loves using the ‘F’ word, so if this offends you, you may want to move on.
What It Was Like
I had a predisposition for certain addictions. I was addicted to Rice Krispies when I was seven. And I’m not even fucking joking with you. Ask my mother.
It was already in me. My family were trying to get me into rehab. And I’d get angry with them and say, “Go get the men in the white coats and see if I don’t stab ’em to death.”
Desperation will allow you to do incredible things in the name of survival…I had created an environment for myself, a way of living for myself which, on the outside, seemed incredibly gregarious and vivacious.
When I had James [his son], I made a decision not to change. I literally said, “I’m not changing! I’m gonna be his friend!” Like a fucking 28-year-old drug-addicted drunk friend is exactly what my 6-week-old son needs.
I used to go bananas for five months then take the foot off the gas for two months and clean up a bit. I was sad. I was drinking loads. When I ever drank with my mates, we’d go to a pub on Wednesday night and have six pints, everyone would go home. I’d get a bag of powder, four joints and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and drank until five in the morning.
I could easily go through a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label. I always had a massive constitution. It’s a genetic thing. I could polish off two, but then I’d be in bad shape. I loved it a lot of the time, but in the end it proved to be a charade and a delusion. I always ended up facing loneliness again. And therein is my life.
I don’t believe I have any chemical predisposition towards depression, but let’s just call it…I was suffering from a spiritual malady for years and I indulged it. You can feel very alive when you’re in pain.
I gravitated to the romantic notion that if one was pursuing the endeavour of art, one couldn’t do anything better than create a world of darkness and shadow. A bit of pain.
I wouldn’t have been able to maintain my life. The inside of rehab was a must-see for me at that stage. I was in a bad place. I’m sure I was becoming somewhat unhireable.
Obviously I’m not a doctor but you don’t have to have a degree in medicine to know when your body’s shutting down. I genuinely didn’t think I had much longer. I’d reached the point where the only voices that had any clarity in the room were the voices of destruction and obliteration.
I’d begun to feel my body break down and weaken in a fairly aggressive way. I felt ill all over. I’d stay in bed for two days at a time; I was really pushing it. It was a very profound chapter in my life, a very aggressive one, and it’s one I’ve now put behind me.
The last year I was drinking, a lot of people turned up in my life who’d gone through rehab. They exposed me to an alternative way of living just before I was ready to engage in it myself. Also, we’d just celebrated my son Jimmy’s second birthday, and I think I just decided to live.
For the first time ever, I lost the ability to be confident that I could make a change myself. I knew I was fucked.
It was great fun – until it stopped being fun. The simplest way to put it is that I started drinking on my own aged 14, then there were several years when I was drinking with a load of people, and at the end I was in a hotel room drinking on my own.
I was terrified [of being sober] because, I’m not saying I was a great actor before or a great actor since, but I was terrified that whatever my capacity was as an actor beforehand, however little or large — it would completely disappear.
For people who drink too much, the problem isn’t really about booze. It’s about an inability to deal with life. I don’t want to get into an armchair analysis, but what giving up booze does is allow you to look at yourself through an untainted mirror for the first time.
I [subscribed] to the notion that to be able to express yourself in an artistic form in life, you have to live in perpetual pain, and it’s nonsense. There’s enough pain in the world.
[I had] a good old session in rehab. A few tears and a couple of hugs with strangers.
What It’s Like Now
When I got sober, it was the right time for me to get sober. I could have done it earlier, for sure, and I would have saved a lot of money and a good deal of heartbreak, but I’m lucky enough to have made it anyway and I’m grateful for that. So better late than ever.
Quitting booze was hard initially. Drinking was all I had known in my adult life. One day you’re living a certain way and then suddenly the next day that whole system you’ve built around yourself is completely gone. But it gets easier over time; you get used to not having that crutch.
All the madness and all the chaos and all the people around me got so tiring after a while that I had to find another way, and while I don’t live a monk-like existence, I have a new appreciation for solitude that would have terrified me years ago. And I’m glad the madness is over. It was interesting to experience, but I’m glad it’s passed.
Honestly, I’ve got eight hours a day now that I didn’t have before, when I was drinking every day for 18 years.
I remember being asked by somebody in America, “Do you think it’s harder for celebrities to get sober than normal people?” And I was just like, are you joking? I didn’t come out unemployed, hadn’t lost my family, my home, had all my teeth in my head. Could I have had it any easier?
I don’t take it for granted and I don’t undermine how difficult my journey to getting sober was, but now I’m in a really different life and I don’t miss it. I’m very lucky in that respect because I know people who have had a longer period of sobriety than me and they still miss it every day and it’s a struggle for them.
Seven years sober. I’m really grateful. It’s really lovely to be present in my life.
Anytime I have a shit mood, now it’s some aspect of me that is present and is feeling whatever I’m feeling, and the same counts if I’m giddy or jocular. It’s honest, it’s real. That’s quite simply the coolest thing. Everything is real now.
When I was living a different way, I was probably profoundly bored. I had moments of elation. Now I never get fucking bored. I get excited about room service menus! I really do. Even though the french fries are soggy as fuckk and I still haven’t figured out an exact way to open up that Heinz mini jar — sometimes it’s my nails, sometimes it’s my teeth. I’m just grateful that I’m actually alive, to be honest.
I’ve never seen a moon in the sky that, if it didn’t take my breath away, at least misplaced it for a moment.
i think it’s cute how, at 0:18 into the video, he says “I went to AA” then changes it to “somewhere” for anonymity’s sake.
Sources for the quotes:
- The Telegraph
- The Telegraph (a different interview)
- OK Magazine
- Celebrity Yahoo
- E Online
- Daily Mail
- Irish Mirror
- Contact Music
The theme of my AA home group meeting is “Adventures in Sobriety”. Initially, i was kind of uncomfortable with this topic because i was afraid the meetings would only remind me of how my once adventurous drinking life had devolved into a tepid pool of boredom.
Speaking at the meeting the other night, however, i realized this is a pile of Schlitz. i did not have many adventures when i was drinking, i had drama. Getting in a drunk driving accident, receiving an eviction notice and attempting suicide are not adventures to be relished, they are enormous screw ups in my rearview mirror that are getting smaller all the time. Good riddance!
On the other hand, exploring my city, writing daily, trying things i’ve never done before (cooking, education, journalism…), remembering my vacations… these are the true adventures of my life, and they’ve only just begun.
There’s a parable in this one book called the Bible about two brothers. One of them is a good son and helps out his dad and is an all around hard worker, but his brother is a real asshole who only parties and and takes off when he’s still young, leaving his dad and his straight brother to do all the work.
Years later, the party brother decides he’s tired and comes back home and his dad is psyched. He’s all, “Hey, son!” and “It’s so great to have you back!” and all “Here’s half of all my stuff!”
So the other brother, the good one, is like, “WTF, dad!? I was here the whole time and working hard and shit, and you give this asshole who didn’t do anything the same share of your stuff that you gave me!? The hell!?”
Well, here’s “the hell”, in my completely uninformed opinion.
In the rooms the other day, there was a young woman, late twenties, who was talking about how she got sober young, before really hitting a hard bottom. She wondered aloud if she’d gotten in too early.
i got into recovery late in life. At 48 years old. After 30 years of drinking alcoholically. Do i wish i’d gotten sober sooner? Hell yes. Do i think about all the years i only half lived? Do i think about what i could’ve made of myself if i’d sobered up earlier? Do i wonder how rich my life would be at this moment if i’d entered recovery as soon as i knew i had a problem? You bet your ass i do.
My point is this. She has regret-free decades in front of her to make her life something beautiful, something amazing. As for me, i came into the program late, but like that brother who walked the wrong path, i have received all the rewards of sobriety. i have a joy in my life i never knew possible and i carry with me a profound gratitude that these years i have left promise to be happy ones.
Maybe the good brother is wrong to be jealous because, while the siblings may have the same share now, the bad brother sacrificed a lot of treasures in the past that the good son had been enjoying for decades.
It’s never too late to receive those rewards. And the earlier you start collecting them, the sooner you can start enjoying them.
Then it hit me: I can never have another drink for the rest of my life. What a depressing thought.
The other day in a meeting, a newcomer shared that sentiment. Anyone who’s been in recovery for any amount of time can certainly appreciate that moment when the realization hits you like a truck: You can never have a sip of alcohol again. Ever.
The panic associated with that thought is so prevalent, it is no doubt one of the inspirations for the famous saying, “One Day At A Time.” The expression cautions the alcoholic: Don’t worry about not drinking for the rest of your life, just worry about not drinking today.
Three years into sobriety, i had a different reaction this time when the speaker said, “Shit! I can never have another drink for the rest of my life!?”
My first thought? “I should be so lucky.” Quickly followed by, “God willing.”
The idea that the sadness i’d made of my life as an alcoholic was over forever, put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. That the debilitating pain i felt in my bones and spread to others in my life has been eradicated as long as i don’t pick up, reassured me. The concept that i can never have another drink for the rest of my life filled me with hope.
i’ve stopped drinking–not for good, but for better.
Don’t let life AA gives you, take you away from your AA life.
This expression could just as well be, “Don’t let the life recovery gives you take you away from your recovery life.”
i’ve been guilty of this of late, cutting my meetings down to 1 a week when i used to hit 4, reading the Big Book less, not talking to my sponsor… The biggest reason is i have 6 blogs under 3 personae and i love each of them too much to stop.
How do i do it? Thanks to sobriety, i have so much more physical and creative energy. The ideas come on their own and the desire and willingness to sit down and craft them hasn’t come this easily in decades. The only thing i don’t have more of is time!
Thankfully, AA has also taught me to recognize the symptoms of my disease, and i know that i’ve been waking up a little less serene lately and finding myself more impatient in the last few days because i haven’t been going to enough meetings. Thank my Higher Power, these symptoms are easy to cure and i’ve started resuming my regular meeting schedule this week.
As for my blogs? Yes, i know i have to let at least one of them die so i can give more attention to the rest, so i’m leaving it up to my HP and to my life to decide, because i can’t!
Be careful that the good life sobriety brings doesn’t take you away from the sobriety that delivers it!
Country music musician Keith Urban and i have one thing in common: we both think Nicole Kidman is hot. Other than that, our taste in music and approaches to sobriety are pretty divergent. While his sobriety is linked very closely to his wife (after 4 months of marriage to Kidman, Urban relapsed in alcoholism and checked himself into rehab–some say at her insistence), i tend to think you have to be sober for yourself first. Here, then, are some alternate takes on sobriety, because there’s no right and wrong when it comes to recovery, as long as it works.
What it was like
[After I first got to Nashville in 1992] it was how I dealt with a lot of loneliness. I wasn’t used to rejection. I wasn’t used to loneliness. It just seemed like nothing [my band and I] did was connecting or happening and it was very frustrating.
It [alcohol] was my diversion, my way of numbing myself to the rejection and the loneliness and the confusion.
The truth is that I wasn’t even aware of where it was at in my life and how it was just going to come down and take me down like it did. I was probably in such a state of denial that I consciously wasn’t aware of it.
I was going to lose it all. It was like, “If I don’t choose this moment to do the right thing and do something that’s going to give me life, all of the things I’m scared of losing, I’m going to lose anyway.”
I deeply regret the hurt this has caused Nicole and the ones who love and support me. One can never let one’s guard down on recovery, and I’m afraid that I have. [From his official statement upon entering rehab after 4 months of marriage.]
I had to make a decision which road I was going to take, once and for all. I’d been at that crossroads before and always taken the wrong road.
Life’s about crossroads. You can choose life or you can go the other way…. It’s not a matter of all the intricate stuff in between. It’s just life or no life.
I knew very well right then that this is actually going to be the best, strongest road to get me back to the two things I love, which are my home life and my career, and finding the balance in those two. I need them both.
What it’s like now
[On life post rehab:] Definitely some adjustment. I don’t remember exactly the feeling of it other than, just, it was just a bit unfamiliar at first, and then it came back really fast. Because there’s such a gratitude to be doing this again…. Music is just the great savior for me. The road for any artist can be a place where they run away and hide. Or where they can work through their issues. For me, it’s an opportunity to express things that I just don’t know how else to express.
Sources for the quotes:
Overheard in the an AA meeting tonight:
When I was drinking, I had a lot of adventures only I wasn’t there to enjoy them.
What cracked me up was that no one in the room batted an eye. That phrase made perfect sense to everyone there.
Now, try saying that exact same sentence to someone who is not an alcoholic. Walk up to a friend / coworker and tell them, “I had quite an adventure last night but I wasn’t there to enjoy it.” I bet their reaction will be a little more surprised.
One of the many things I love about us drunks—and one of the reasons the program works so well for me—is how we automatically ‘get’ each other because we’re all turning the same page.
So many of the advantages to being sober are the free things. The things you don’t have to work for or struggle to achieve.
For example, while reading Bye Bye Beer’s marvelous post about Robins, i realized that less and less of my life feels like a routine. Not that my day-to-day is dramatically different (excepting, of course, the absence of hangovers and the time spent in AA meetings), but the longer i’m sober, the more each day is different, which means unique.
Which means special.
Part of the bonus plan of long-run sobriety and one more thing to add to my Gratitude List.
EDIT: After a comment received from a lovely reader who goes by an intriguing moniker, i’ve noticed the following post is unusually depressing, especially for me. Before you read on, i’d like to go record as saying that i’ve beensober for 3+ years now, and have re-found a natural optimism i’d lost in the bottle. Every day i wake up sober is a great day and each day is better than the previous. One of the reasons i’ve been able to stay sober so easily is that my life has become immeasurably better, and my drunken past looks horrible in comparison. Stay with it, it’s worth it! Now, i return you to your regularly scheduled depressing post…
Heard in the rooms
If I drink, guaranteed I will be unhappy.
If I don’t drink, maybe I won’t be unhappy.
It’s not a lot, but it’s the only choice we’ve got.
Choose wisely, one day at a time.