About 14 days after I quit drinking I left a comment on someone else's blog (can't remember which one!).
I was thrilled when the author replied. She said something along the lines of 'you're doing really well! Now you need to find something spiritual to fill the gap.'
I confess that I snorted with derision.
I was far more worried about whether I was going to lose all my friends, and why I was sleeping for twelve hours a day, than filling some hole I didn't think I had.
As with so many things, I was wrong.
Way back in my early twenties, and following several months travelling through Thailand, I became fascinated by Buddhism.
However, my brief flirtation with Buddha was quickly set aside and forgotten, as I got on with the important business of burning the candle at both ends.
But, recently I've found myself being drawn towards Buddhism again. It turns out quitting the booze did leave a hole after all.
Then I read a post by the fabulous Hapless Homesteader (find her blog here), where she talks about the Five Precepts of Buddhism, and I was reminded of the fact that the fifth precept is refraining from intoxicating substances.
Hurrah! I'm already one fifth of the way to enlightment!
I did some more research on the precepts.
Number one is doing no harm to other living things. Two: not taking what is not freely given. Three: no sexual misconduct, and four: no lying or gossiping.
The reason the fifth precept exists is that taking intoxicating substances leads to 'heedlessness', or 'carelessness' - the exact opposite of mindfulness.
Plus, becoming intoxicated is very likely to lead to you breaking one or more of the other four precepts.
I found this parable which explains it beautifully:
A Buddhist monk is told that he must either sleep with someone else's wife, kill a goat or drink a bottle of wine. He chooses the wine, believing that it would do less harm than the other actions.
Several hours later the monk wakes up naked, having drunk the wine, shagged the wife and eaten the goat.
And ain't that the truth?
I may be past the days of 'sexual misconduct', but I certainly caused 'careless' harm left, right and centre. Secrets spilled, promises broken, good deeds not done.
And alcohol, as Hapless Homesteader points out, turns us all into liars.
We lie about how much we drink to others (friends, husbands, doctors), but mostly to ourselves. We lie to give ourselves excuses to keep on drinking (I've had a super stressful day), and we lie about the harm it's doing (a glass of red wine is good for you! It's Mediterranean!).
Plus I was the most terrible gossip.
I've been trying to work out why. I think that when our own life is less than perfect we revel in the imperfections of others. And, when you're a few drinks down, idle gossip is easy, non-demanding, conversation.
Funnily enough, I've started to find gossiping (which I confess I still do from time to time) increasingly distasteful. It feels bitter and mean spirited. It leaves me feeling depleted.
So, I'm trying to ditch the gossip. I'm taking it slowly, starting with only gossiping about strangers. For example, I'll happily dissect the state of David Beckham's marriage, but not those of my friends. Baby steps....
Gossiping, thinking badly of people and being mean about them is just bad karma.
In the words of Buddha:
We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.
That's what I'm working on. Now, I'm off to kill a goat and flirt with my gym instructor ;-)
Love SM x