Reconnecting the Dots

A friend of mine, who is also in recovery, and I have recently engaged in some candid conversations about what we’re both experiencing in our separate journeys of sobriety.  It’s a fantastic friendship, we get honest and to the point with each other.  I value the relationship greatly.

Recently we discussed some of the wreckage of our past and the things we are doing to repair those relationships.  After she shared her story with me I began to take inventory on some of the relationships in my life that were strained because of my issues with alcohol.

I have lost friendships because of being an alcoholic.  In fact, I recently found out that one friend in particular had distanced herself from me not because of my actions, but because of the fact that  her family was stricken with the disease of alcoholism.  Therefore, having nothing to do with me, this person decided that she did not want me in her life any longer.  That pissed me off for a while but now I understand that is her shit, not mine.  Unfortunately there is nothing I can do about that one.

There are other relationships that have ceased to exist simply because I don’t associate myself with going out to bars and being social in an alcohol induced environment.  For me it’s just not a good idea at this point to find myself in those situations.  Off the top of my head I can list 20-30 people in my life that I used to have relationships with based solely on getting fucked up and causing trouble.  Perhaps those relationships ended because they we doing more harm than good.  Still, it’s sad to me that it has to be that way.

On the flip-side I have been able to reconnect with several people that I used to run hard with, in a different light, while I’m sober.  I find that these folks in particular have a good understanding of where I was and where I am now.  I enjoy hearing their perspective on what I used to be like.  We can laugh at the past and chuckle about how stupid and dumb we used to be.  Some of these folks still drink, and that’s completely fine, for it’s clear to me that not everyone has the same issue with alcohol as I do.

Recently there is one person in particular that I am very grateful to have reconnected with.  The two of us did not speak for almost a full year. Because of a miscommunication that we had had over something trivial we had completely stopped speaking to each other.  We had shared a connection that, to me, was extremely important.  It was  honest, fun, silly, candid, and personal.  This person saw me at my worst, unbeknownst to her.  I am happy to say that we were able to put aside our differences and get back in touch to resume what we used to have in a friendship.  Today, it’s all good.

Reconnecting with people, that I had lost touch with during my first several months of sobriety, is a gratifying experience.  I feel like I had to retreat for a while so that I could come to understand myself in a different light.  I was accused by some folks of isolating and that is okay.  Perhaps I was isolating. Whatever it was it seemed to work as I’m now able to be more confident in myself, and my level of sobriety, to actually seek out social situations with people that I trust and who know where I’m coming from.

Don’t get me wrong, the thought of being in a large group of people is very scary.  However, it’s progress, not perfection.  I’ll take it for now.





My Own Scarlet Letter

A couple of weeks ago I was running in Mac Forest and I had another mini-epiphany.  I swear… the onion that is my life never stops peeling away its layers to reveal new things about me that I never knew existed. While I was running that day it, I realized, as if someone had hit the back of my head with a shovel, I am obsessed and consumed by what other people think about me.

Later that day, I thought about that idea more.

Listing all of the “activities” of the previous day, including simply sending a text or an email, I decided to examine the motivation behind each “activity.”  I discovered that the majority of my actions were strongly directed towards enhancing my image, my identity, the way in which other people might think of me.  This resounding revelation further explained yet another layer in the fabric of my life.

Over the last month, I have felt extremely vulnerable, especially since I have public discussions concerning my struggles with alcoholism.  I feel like everyone is judging me in a negative light for being an alcoholic.  In fact, I had an experience a couple of weeks ago where I felt that I was under attack for breaking the seal of anonymity of AA when it came to being so open in effort to support others.  I felt as though I was walking around with my own Scarlett A tattooed to my forehead.  I felt and perceived that the only thing people saw in me was that I was an alcoholic.   After thinking about it though, I realized that this “attack” was simply an illusion.

This illusionary thinking was literally tearing me down and zapping my energy.  I couldn’t be in a social or public setting without obsessing over the fact that I am only an alcoholic. The narrative scrolling in my head said that I was unlikable, stigmatized, damaged goods and unavailable to the public as normal.

When I finally began expressing my state of mind to friends and family, it was apparent that the narrative had nothing to do with reality.  My friends and family repeatedly told me:  1) when people think of me, they think of my being a friend, a hard worker, passionate, dedicated, disciplined, funny and athletic, long before they see me as an alcoholic; 2) the chances are 99% that these people are not thinking about you…they are thinking about themselves.  That being said, why can’t I get out of my own head and see the truthful situation?  Because my pride and ego are blocking the way.

I’m left asking myself the questions: How did it get to this point?  Why am I consumed with what other people think of me?  Am I really that important in the grand scheme of things to everyone else?  What factors and characteristics drive me to believe my own imaginary story?

Here’s an example of how my self-confidence, or lack thereof, manifests itself.  Just the other day I was on campus at Dutch Bros Coffee waiting for a meeting that I had scheduled with a former colleague.  As I was waiting for this person to arrive, a gentleman whom I did not know or recognize walked in to the coffee shop.  He was dressed to the nines, attractive, great posture, seemingly full of self-confidence.  I sat there admiring everything about this guy, thinking that he must have everything that I’m “looking” for:  success, wealth, an equally attractive wife, confidence, persona…

It is important to emphasize here that I had ZERO idea who this guy actually was.  The interaction, if you want to call it that, lasted for just a few minutes and it ended up ruining my day.  Later that morning, I left the coffee shop full of self-doubt and unworthiness.  In fact, as I was walking back to my car I kept looking at my reflection in the adjacent windows to try to emulate the posture and physical confidence that this unknown guy had displayed as I was observing him. I was telling myself: “Maybe if I look like that guy, then I will be attractive.”  Also, I was consumed with the fact that this person probably wasn’t an alcoholic because he appeared to be “confident.”   I obsessed over the idea that this person had everything I wanted and displayed everything I did not have.  Now, looking back at the situation, I can laugh at how ridiculous my thought pattern was.

However, a situation like this helps explain a few things for me:

  1. my self-confidence is still low;
  2. my self-worth is severely lacking;
  3. my ego is inflated;
  4. the only thing I see in my reflection is that I am an alcoholic.

Certainly, the illusions of who I am are based on the stories that I cook up in my own mind.  I understand that I can be my own worst enemy.  Perhaps, acknowledging my flaws are the first step to freedom and blossoming as a human being, relieving myself of “bondage-of-self.”

Recovery to me is becoming less about not drinking and more about finding out who I am at the core.

Of course, staying sober is a huge part of this, I’m not under the illusion that once I “understand myself,” whatever that means, I can go back to drinking.  There is a bigger issue here: I am firmly on the journey of self-realization.  And I’m constantly reminded that there is no final destination.  Self-realization is a process and now that I’m sober I can finally get on with it.  However painful the process is, I know that I will be happier in the long run if I do the work now instead of waiting. I’m 36 years old, still relatively young.   I look around at other folks that are in recovery, some twice my age, male and female, and am grateful that I’m going through this process now, without a wife and family, mortgage, etc.  I might have a family and a house when the time is right. But I have to remember that I need to respect where I am today.

Overall, I continue to feel that I am wearing my own Scarlett A.  But I don’t dwell on it.

Today I will try to just be and not worry about what other people think of me.     Self-acknowledgement and self-acceptance seem to be the first steps to understanding that I might actually be pretty likable from the outside.  The difficulty lies on the inside: I need to love myself.

Edited by Lyn Horton