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.

Seventh Tradition: Part Deux

Hobo CurrencyI am getting married next winter. With this marriage comes this feeling of quiet exhaling, of a tremendous weight off my shoulders as I no longer have to traverse this scary world alone. Now, finally, there is someone who can help shoulder my burdens and my dreams. He can support me.

At least, that is what I tell myself. But that is not the whole truth. The reality is what I want, what I truly want, is to lay it all on him: our wedding, my going to graduate school, my aspirations of becoming a writer. Everything. All of it. I want to say, “Make this happen for me, please. Buy me a house and pay for my school. I love you. Kisses.” And with a wave of my hand, as with a fairy Godmother, I send my love out into the world to do for me what I should be doing for myself.

If you had asked me at any previous time in my life if I thought it was the husband’s obligation to financially support his wife, I would have adamantly said, “No.” I would have continued on to say that marriage is a partnership and that both people need to contribute to its success, financial or otherwise. And then, for good measure, I would probably bring out some statistic about the benefits of Sweden’s liberal paternity leave laws.

But the truth is, the thing I did not know about myself, is that another contrary answer secretly laid dormant in my soul. It’s the societal message that I possess, a desire for my man to be the bread earner and the bacon bringer homer. I’m additionally learning that my Cold War Era ideology plays directly into my alcoholism, my need to be coddled. I am ashamed to admit it, but I did not know. With eight years of sobriety I am still learning about myself. And in fact the only way I know it at all is because when I stomp my foot and demand like Veruca Salt, it does not sound like this… “I want to earn the money to buy us a house!”

It is here, at this point, a few weeks ago that I started pondering the seventh tradition. “Self-supporting alcoholics? Who ever heard of such a thing? … Everyone knows that active alcoholics scream that they have no troubles money can’t cure. Always, we’ve had our hand out. Time out of mind we’ve been dependent upon somebody, usually money-wise,” (Twelve and Twelve 160).

When I read it, I started laughing. How true it was! My whole life I have been financially dependent on others even as I claimed independence. I’ve never been fiscally responsible a day in my life. And if I cannot afford a house or graduate school, then I have no one to blame but myself. My dreams and aspirations should not be the financial obligation of anyone else, not even my soon-to-be husband, because it is not good for me. Additionally, I don’t want the easier gift of dreams attained under character defects, without having to work for them. That’s not who I want to be.

Much of my life in sobriety has been learning to “differentiate the true from the false,” the person I  am versus the person I have told myself I am (Big Book xxviii). Then, armed with that knowledge, deciding who I wish to become.

Who I want to be is strong and assured and self-supporting.

So, one by one, I take my dreams and my burdens back from my love, and carry them myself, to build them or do with them as I please. And then, maybe, without his having to work to fulfill my dreams, maybe he can fulfill his own.