For the past few years, maybe because I am a writer at heart, I tend to adopt themes that represent my current mindset in my recovery. (Or maybe they adopt me. Wink.) For two or three months, it feels as if most everything I am feeling or thinking somehow revolves around one central idea. Last spring, I started tossing around the idea of character development, specifically the top of page 72 in the Twelve and Twelve. The end result of that period of exploration ultimately became this blog. I realized if I am to practice principles in all my affairs then I needed to practice courage by following my dreams.
Lately though, my mind keeps returning to the idea of denial. This has not only been reflected in the choices of those close to me in the program, but choices by my family members, and indeed with myself. The power of the human mind to forget, ignore, rationalize, justify, and delude is astonishing. One some level, I think it might be one of the most fascinatingly interesting aspects of the alcoholic mind. How do we not see? Or if we see, how do we ignore?
While speaking with a friend last week, I had one of those oddly random memory flashbacks to my drinking days. It occurred perhaps ten years ago, not long after I had moved from Boston to Houston. I was at a local sports bar. Neon lights reflected in sticky veneer. Country music blared a little too loudly from a jukebox as if at any moment a rousing crowd of patrons would suddenly appear to two-step around the scattered pool tables and “Golden Tee” machine. I remember both my hands clasping a Guinness as I sobbed and hic-upped a longing to be “normal.” I remember saying it over and over again, a mantra to my alcoholism. It is one of those memories, that while tragic and tragically depressing, actually brings a hint of a smile to my lips. How ridiculous was I?
I am of the variety of alcoholic that believes I was genetically predetermined to have an acute and profound reaction to chemical brain stimulation. In addition to my predilection for alcohol, I possess a plethora of emotional and psychological baggage that will tell me at any given moment that while I may exist in this world, I am not of this world. My whole life, I have felt that I am an oddity. A tomboy with a speech impediment. An awkward teenager with a pocket full of secrets. A disillusioned adult with a drive towards escapism and obscurity. I have always been too overweight, too liberal, too outspoken. I don’t wear makeup. I do wear glasses. I shop almost exclusively at Old Navy and thrift stores and the back of Teresa P.’s closet.
The last thing I wanted added onto my list was anything even remotely close to straight edge, pious, abstemious, holy, or self-righteous. I wanted to be funny and light and awesome.
Only when I sobered up, when I stopped singularly focusing on myself, did I realize everyone is a bit weird. We all carry around a knapsack of strange and questionable qualities that help define us and differentiate us from others. What makes me abnormal is not my differences, but that my alcoholic perception tells me these differences are a negative thing.
“The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed,” (Big Book, 30). See? It’s not just the delusion that I might be able to drink like other people, but the delusion that I act, feel, or look like other people, that has to be smashed too. I can’t live my life judging myself by the actions and appearance of other people, because I’m not other people.
Every day I stay sober, I love myself just a smidge more, for I have learned it is neither the clothes nor the make-up that determine my self-worth. No, what defines me today is not what is on the outside, but what lives in my soul: service, friendship, honesty, gratitude, and love. (And maybe, just maybe, a little bit of fun, light, and awesomeness too!)