It was when we were at 3000 feet that I overheard the man next to me talking to his wife about the celebratory glass of champagne that would be waiting for us upon landing. He was really looking forward to his despite it only being 9.00 a.m. and I realised that naturally I hadn’t given the drink any thought at all.
It made me reflect back to what I would have been like when I was still drinking. I know I would have been thinking about that champagne as much as the flight itself. I would have been concerned that it would only be one glass. I would have worried that others would get more than me. I would have probably brought some of my own so I could have more than that one glass. I would have worried that we would have to wait for the champagne until we were back at the launch site instead as soon as we landed. I would even have been wishing we could have it to drink whilst we were aloft. In fact, the bloody champagne and the thought of the champagne would have ruined the whole experience for me just by being dangled as a temptation.
What a relief it is to be free of all that and to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this magical experience purely for what it was and not for what it could be. A truly wonderful experience and the silence and freedom of gently floated with the clouds is something I will always treasure.
That evening my wife and I attended a talk at the British Museum given by a Buddhist nun. She was a French lady who had turned her back on a promising career and married life to find the ‘something missing’ in her life some forty years ago when she was in her thirties. She talked about the freedom she now felt having turned her back on the trappings of her previous existence, how the voice in her head that had provided so much anguish had been quelled, and that she now felt she had a purpose in life. Quite dramatic really, and no one dared ask her what had happened to her husband.
As she spoke and we then meditated (she made the whole audience meditate for a while which was a novel experience), I thought of the direct parallel between the freedom she had found and the freedom I have found having quit drinking. It really is like having found a new purpose in life, a reason to explore myself on a level I have never thought to do so before, and all that without the trappings of a drug cluttering my mind with irrelevant cravings and desires, all of which are completely without foundation and benefit.
Life is far too short and precious to have it ruined by alcohol. I really do wish I had never started drinking all those years ago. At least I have finally escaped and I really do feel as free from alcohol as the freedom I felt in the balloon that morning. Drink is the only thing I will be turning my back on however.