Carpe Diem

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Seize the day.

Usually attributed to Horace as part of the longer carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero, which can be translated as “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future)”. The ode says that the future is unforeseen and that one should not leave to chance future happenings, but rather one should do all one can today to make one’s future better.

It may be that I am just more aware of it, but since I stopped drinking – and its 4 months ago today that I started this latest and final sober journey – the ravages of alcohol, and the unpredictability of life seem brought into sharp focus.

The senseless brutal killings in Orlando and Dallas, the pointless waste of innocent lives – snuffed out because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – are just two examples of the haphazard nature of life. In one moment, everything changes, and nothing can ever be the same as it was. In a more intimate way, the intrinsic fickleness of existence is brought home to me by the terminal illness of one of our dearest friends. SoberMummy writes movingly of the loss, from a sudden heart attack , of an old, much loved compatriot.  One moment everything is normal; humdrum but safe and predictable, the next tragedy rips all comfort from under us and we are faced with a bleak reality.

The fear of this ‘moment’ stalked me when I was drinking. The fear that I would do something stupid and dangerous, put one of my children in danger, be caught DUI (never ever deliberately but perhaps the next afternoon); fall down the stairs, put myself in danger that would be realised… It wasn’t enough to stop me drinking, but it was very real, and a constant gnawing foreboding – sometimes I think I drank to dispel it.

And then around me I see lives ravaged by the effects of drinking and drug taking, families ripped  apart in the face of a loved ones addiction they can neither control nor cure. More than 21,500 deaths a year are directly attributable to alcohol – like my patient yesterday. Only a few years ago he had a successful career, a family, a home. He died alone in a dirty room, found by paid carers many hours later – all because he could not stop drinking.

And the deaths are only the tip of the iceberg – think of all the families, the children, living with alcohol misuse and the distress, anxiety, uncertainty and mental anguish they live with every day.

So yes, seize the day, be passionately grateful for every day we have alive and free from indiscriminate acts of of fate and the destructive power of addiction. Random events, illness and accidents are just that, and I don’t know of a way to be sure to avoid them; illness can strike any of us at any time – we cannot escape the inevitability of anno domini and the cruel fate that gave my friend terminal cancer when he has so much to live for and so many people who love him. But I am well, and should be celebrating every day, seizing the happiness and building positive loving memories, not drowning in a vat of wine, becoming incoherent, numb and allowing time, precious time, to pass me by. My ex husband sent me a photo yesterday of our children when they were about 11, 8 and 5 – it seems like yesterday- and yet, that time in their lives is gone forever.

It takes courage and determination and perseverance to live alcohol free but I’ve wasted enough time, allowed enough opportunities to pass me by. I don’t know how long is left to me, but I feel today that I have a duty (if that doesn’t sound too poncy) to make the most out of the opportunity I have to live today productively and positively (read sober) out of respect for the many, many people who do not have that chance.

Carpe Diem – “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow”



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