Cannot Differentiate the True from the False

People Pleaser

It is pretty rare whenever I am in a meeting and the topic is not one I have already heard a hundred times. I am not disparaging the tried and true meeting topics; they’re classic for a reason, but whenever I hear a new one, my ears perk up just a little bit. I listen closer and think a little harder. Recently, I was in one of these meetings. The topic was, “Things people told you about yourself, things that were not true, that you believed.”

Many moons ago, when I lived in Boston, I had a friend who was studying criminal justice. This required her to take a variety of psychology and sociology classes, the kind of classes that makes one feel like they are experts in topics in which they really have zero understanding. One night we were talking, and in one of those moments of clarity, I said to her, “I think I am an alcoholic.”

My friend looked at me quizzically, paused, and in all earnestness said, “No, you are just a problem drinker.”

“Aha!” I thought, “I am a problem drinker!” And although deep down I knew it was not true, I clung to that idea for the next several years of my life.

Problem drinker… I don’t even know what that means.

The absurdity of the thing is, I always believed other people’s interpretations of me, good and bad. When I was told I didn’t have standards, when I was told that a degree in English was a waste of money, when I was told I wasn’t pretty because I weighed too much… all that. I believed all that. And a part of me still does.

“… [Alcoholics] cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false,” (Big Book xxviii).

I do not know why we are so bound to believe other people’s interpretations of ourselves, even over our own instinctual understanding of our own natures.

I have another memory, and that is the memory of when I first started this blog. I did not know what I was going to write about or how the blog would manifest. I just knew I needed to do it. I began to trust my own instinct rather than the words of others. For the first time in my life, I felt I was walking down the right path. I felt aligned and good. I felt like I was doing exactly what I was always meant to be doing.

The steps and recovery, the honesty I have with the women in my life, the ability to process, to meditate, to think, and to slow down have given me the ability to begin the process of knowing my true self- not the self that other people would like to believe I am, nor the person I wish I was, but my actual self.

And as awkward as it may be to admit… it’s been a real pleasure getting to know her.

3 thoughts on “Cannot Differentiate the True from the False

  1. Ann, I love this post of yours. By the end it put a couple of tears in my eyes.
    (terrific cartoon, too!)

    Maybe it’s because of all the drinking, or perhaps it was there even before. But some of us have a weak belief in ourselves, and we readily believe what outsiders say. Turns out, most of ’em didn’t have a clue.

    Stopping drinking is the essential beginning, but it’s all this other stuff that stands in the way of being happy sober, and takes a lifetime to heal.

    M. Anon
    Shenandoah Valley, Virginia


  2. Really needed to read that perspective! Thank you. Whether I’m being constantly reminded that I’m selfish and self centered or that I’m not “pleasing” this other person, I feel in my gut that I’m trying my very best to not be those things. It’s tough sometimes, cuz like is said in the big book, it is hard to differentiate the true from the false. Especially when it pertains to me and the way I feel about myself. For so long I lived off what others told me about myself. And today, that still happens but I only truly try to seek validation from my higher power! A process in itself but finally coming to a point where I can trust my instincts, regardless of how other people feel about them.


    • I cannot believe it has taken me so long to return your comment. I loved that you did comment, and I hope my delinquency will not discourage you from posting again.

      I think it really is a huge realization that other people’s words, thoughts, and opinions can be wrong. I always thought they knew something about me that I couldn’t see- that I was in denial about or something. But that’s not it at all.

      On another note, will you write a post for me on getting sober at a young age and what that feels like? I always hear that young people say they are so lucky to get sober young or else discount their sobriety. This could be an opportunity to address all that stuff. Let me know. And don’t do that yadda yadda psych yourself out thing. It will be great.


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