The Yellow Brick Road #1

Beautiful, brave community of Best Life, welcome to the first in a series of columns by myself, Sam Hughes. I have been sober for two and a half years and believe the journey feels much like that of walking the Yellow Brick Road. The start is daunting, scary and overwhelming, and by the time we reach our Wizard, the road is bright and beautiful, and our courage, heart and head have been restored in the journey itself.

I hope you enjoy these columns and keep being brave; you deserve it!

Love you,

Photo by mzacha

My journey with sobriety started on the 16th of May, 2021.

It has been one of the greatest journeys of my little life thus far.

In preparing to write this piece, I couldn’t think of how to begin. I started at the beginning of the road, and it made me think of the light that comes with sobriety, leading me to the Yellow Brick Road.
In reading aspects of the book, I am struck by the similarities in the pursuit of sobriety and the characters in the story. The Serenity Prayer says:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

On her journey, Dorothy met the Scarecrow, who was looking for a brain; the Tin Man, who was looking for a heart; and the Lion, who was looking for courage.

Photo by Pixabay

I started drinking with my dad at the age of 13. Attach that he was a functioning alcoholic whose love language was a long, boozy lunch; you get a masterpiece, Moi.

My Dad didn’t get loud or angry or violent; he got stupid. Just drunk. Brainless, much like our pal there, the Scarecrow. His deep attraction to alcohol scared my siblings off, but not me; I had the courage to carry the baton he charged me with. Go forth, my daughter and drink.

My Mother died unexpectedly in my matric year. My Father wanted me to come home and care for my baby sisters, who were 3 and 5. In my self-absorbed adolescence, I very kindly said, “No thanks!” and went back to boarding school.

“You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away, you have no courage; you’re confusing courage with wisdom.”

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

I was mean, angry and sad. University wasn’t much better and freely flowed the booze and the parties, and I was a pro. I accomplished going out everywhere every night of the week for weeks. But that’s what we all did? Right? Right.

Pietermaritzburg University. People will remember with fondness. Me, it’s a little more sombre. I woke up in people’s beds, not knowing how I got there. I still don’t know their names. My brain and my memory were wholly shot.

“A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth, the more experience you are sure to get.”

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ cast in 1939: Bert Lahr (left), Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, Judy Garland, and Margaret Hamilton | Silver Screen Collection

Alcohol was my friend; it followed me on the road all the way to Cape Town and led to its other friends: cocaine, ecstasy, mushrooms, weed—years, jols, parties, house parties, kids, 30ths, 40ths. The road was murky, and the brain got a little more abused; the children came and grew in that space. All through the corners of these roads, there was booze. Red wine. My best friend. It created a better me and made my friends appreciate me more. I was funny, I was truthful. The aftermath was hideous, the hangovers were beyond awful, and the only way to fix them was to start again. Right? Right.

The anxiety was the worst, and then there was the planning. I worked out all week how much wine, when and where I could drink, and how much before I needed to drive. Would I have enough at home alone? I would feel melancholy when I drank. I would wallow like a lovely little piggy in my red mud. Feel sorry. Cry, but never DO. Never get to the bottom of it. I loved being fucked. Drunk. Much like my dad did. He did it successfully for over 40 years until it killed him. I could never find the courage or the wisdom. But hey, I was fun. At every party, the last one to leave, ‘One-last-glass Sam’.

“The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

In getting divorced, I had to think and work out why. Why did it not work? Why could I not take him anymore? Why now? Would the kids be ok? The indecision and lack of conviction for all the change I wanted lay in one simple thing. Alcohol. I would reach a Friday and feel amazing. Steadfast and courageous, bound by my trajectory- the right direction. I had found wisdom. Monday would slither in with me on my belly after a three-day bender-binge, and I would be kissing my own tail, running and hiding again. Indecisive. Lost.

I used to say the Serenity Prayer to myself in Yoga as my intention and always wished I could find one thing: courage—the courage to stop. I knew the road; I saw it. But I was so afraid. Terrified. Let’s be honest: being on the other side of society’s stream is never easy.

The courage found me in starting with One Hundred Days. The boundary was a deadline. That felt safer, right? I can do a hundred days because then I can return to the river, and all will be right in the world. Right.

Photo by Vi Tran

“You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

Glinda the Good Witch – The Wizard of Oz.

And here I am. Eight hundred ninety-three days, no drinking. The road is yellow and bright. There are no demons because I have seen them in the light. I have gathered my heart from my friends, my courage from my kids and my brain (still no memory); I have got the community to remind me, I am Sam. The wisdom was there all the time; I just needed clarity.

I don’t need to booze to be the best version of myself. The best version was hiding, the little girl trying to please her dad. Being the product she thought she needed to be. To make sense of her world and how insecure she was. We needed to follow the path because it was said to be right, right?

The Serenity Prayer led me to the knowledge that I needed a change. My heart and my courage led me to where we met the Wizard, along the Yellow Brick Road.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

Marianne Williamson says it best with these lines. That is my fear. That is where alcohol held me. Kept me trapped.

Love you,

6 Responses

  1. You are unbelievable Sammy… someone I look up to and inspires me to be a better person. I love you ❤️

  2. Awesome analogy Sam. It’s such a cool journey getting to know yourself. As they say wisdom comes from experience and experience comes from making stupid decisions. Know we know the difference. Much love and blessings 🌱💚🙏

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