You can't control your life so stop trying so damn hard

You can’t control life so stop trying so damn hard!

You are not in control of your life

How do you feel about the above statement? Fearful? Resigned? Confused? I had to go through a 4 month long major depression episode in order to discover something that might be glaringly obvious to many people. This simple realisation has helped me overcome depression, quit alcohol and stay quit. Let me explain.

Do any of the following statements feel true for you?

  • Happiness is pleasure
  • I will get on with living once I have achieved x, y or z
  • Feeling happy is the most important thing in life
  • I am in charge of my own destiny
  • Achievement in life is vital
  • I am in control

I used to think that all of the above statements were facts. But now? I know that every single one of them is false. I am not in control and I never have been. Thank FUCK for that!

Since this massive, huge, ginormous realisation I have gone from being alcohol dependent to alcohol free, not just for Stoptober or Dry January but forever.

The truth was so much easier than I feared:

  • Pleasure is short-lived, fickle and a poor substitute for real joy
  • Life is happening now, not at the end of a to-do list
  • Happiness is not the most important thing in life and believing it is will make you into an addict
  • Unless it is my destiny to sit alone in a void with no outside human influence, then I can have no control over it
  • Achievement is subjective and means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of universal time
  • I am not in control

Life was like a crazy horse I somehow needed to tame

Before I quit alcohol my life was like riding a wild horse. I was struggling to stay on, clinging tightly to imaginary reigns in an attempt to tame the beast. If only it would calm down and just do what I wanted it to do then life would be wonderful. It would be easy and I could finally ride along and enjoy the view. But the bastard would gallop when I wanted it to trot and race when all I wanted was stillness.

The only time I allowed myself to get off the crazy horse was when I was having a drink. Then I could just be myself. I could breath. A glass of wine was my surrender and good god did I deserve it.

What are we all trying so desperately to control?

Career: I wanted the perfect career but it has been bumpy and unpredictable. My successes have been few and far between and when things have gone particularly well I have always been able to attribute my ascendency to something outside of my control. Like, I only engineered that record, I didn’t write it so it doesn’t count. Or that song did well but their song did better.

Family: I wanted to be the perfect mother but I lose my temper and shout at my kids. Despite my best efforts they are not perfect and constantly undermine my authority. Oh damn, I gave birth to humans!

Looks: I wanted the perfect body and the perfect face but my eyes are droopy and so are other parts of me since I hit 40. Cake is my favourite thing, along with chocolate and biscuits and although I do love my yoga some days I fail to do it. Huge failure, right here!

Home: My house is a reflection of me. It must be tidy, well decorated and smell gorgeous. But my dogs smell like farts when they are wet and children leave their goddam sweet wrappers everywhere!

Friends: Don’t sit there, sit here. Don’t think that about me, think this about me. Why can’t you be everything I need whenever I need it!?

Traffic: How dare you cut me up, I am driving here! You are in my way and I need to get somewhere. Me! My journey! My road!

Daily routine: I wake at 7am and go for a run then I get the kids to school before checking my emails and going into the studio. And if you mess with my routine, I will FUCK YOU UP!

It’s all in the mind and that’s the only thing you can control

The truth is that by trying to keep all these balls in the air I was completely exhausting myself and I finally hit a deep depression, which lead me to re-evaluate my whole life. What do you think I needed to change? My career? Family? My body? No. I changed my perspective and I then I quit drinking.

Addicted people are often obsessive controllers. Whether it’s an eating disorder, drug addiction, gambling, shopping, social media or alcoholism it’s very often the need to control life which is at the heart of the matter. When each day we set out to make everything exactly as we want it to be, we inevitably fail. We crash and give up. The sense of futility is like a hoof in the head and our addiction is the anaesthetic.

So how do I deal with my need to control?

I start everyday with a meditation but you could call it a prayer or a promise. It’s something along these lines…

Here I am, life. Do with me what you will. With all my heart I give myself over. Let’s see what today brings.

And that’s it really. It’s so simple. Be a vehicle for life to travel around in. Don’t see yourself as being in control, see yourself as along for the ride, taking your cues from the things that life throws at you, good and bad.

You don’t have to be your most fucking awesome self. Just be and do. It’s so straight forward that once you grasp this truth you can let go of your addictions and embrace the great uncertainty that is life. It’s completely unknown and there’s nothing you can do about it. Isn’t that a relief?

You don’t need alcohol when you let go of control

When life throws shit at you, just take a shower and move on. Look after the people around you and listen to their needs rather than imposing your version of happiness on them. When life is good, remember that there will be shit around the corner and that it is absolutely doable. You are stronger than you know.

Open yourself up to the idea that you have no control over anything and you will discover that a huge lightness fills you. Not the lightness of wine or vodka but real relief that lasts. It’s the knowledge that life is up and then it’s down. It’s full of success but also failure. Yes life is amazing but also crushing. Knowing all this and embracing every minute of it? That’s called happiness.