To Share or Not to Share

So here’s something that’s sometimes played on my mind: why is it so hard for other people to accept that you might be different?

Let me explain.

From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always preferred solitude. Whilst some people might think of that as being a loner, for me it’s just who I am – I’m just not a flock animal and it’s nothing to do with how I feel inside, which happens to be (and mostly has been throughout my life) really good. OK, I happen to be an alcoholic, but it’s not rooted in low self esteem, self loathing or pain of any kind. Even now, that I’m getting sober, it would seem that this is sometimes tricky for others to accept and in particular when someone’s getting to know me. I might see if I can get Sparks’ perspective on this next time we catch up. I don’t like being the centre of attention and I’d rather eat my own head than speak in front of people, but that’s just me and once we peel away the drinking, ME is someone I genuinely like and am happy being. Never in my life have I looked at those who do enjoy the limelight take centre stage and wished it was me, not once. There isn’t the tiniest part of me who secretly wishes I’d have the “confidence” or whatever you want to call it to get up and hold court.

I’m not shy – in fact I’m more open, honest and unfiltered than most people I know. There is nothing about myself I’m uncomfortable with. OK, I could lose a bit of weight, have my teeth whitened, not lose my temper so quickly and do more good deeds but I mean overall. I’m secure in who I am. Except of course that I’m an alcoholic but I don’t necessarily consider that to be a symptom of who I am. Where the drinking monster came from I couldn’t tell you beyond that it wasn’t from a place of pain or little self worth. I’ve never wanted to destroy myself or scupper my own chances of happiness and success. I just happen to be one of those people who cannot have a drink without a raging desire and obsession to drink to oblivion come alive. End of. The way I’m wired just happens to be that I cannot stop if I have a drink. And the only times I don’t like myself is when I wake up the next day, muddled and beaten by a horrific hangover – THAT is something I don’t just dislike, I hate it. I want to stress though that it’s my alcoholism and its consequences I hate – not myself. I truly believe that my alcoholism is a matter of wiring because I don’t think I’ve ever got into the bottle to numb anything – for me it’s almost always been an enhancer, an additional layer of shimmery buzz.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying in any way to distance myself from the fact that I’m a drunk, I am completely at peace with that and would even go as far as to say I embrace it. How could I not? Now that I do, I am free! I don’t have to drink! If I were to deny it, I’d still be on that runaway train with destination Waste of Life. I’m truly grateful to be at this point where I want to be sober and strive for a sober life at any cost. I just think it’s important to understand, and to be mindful of, that as with everything else we are all different and that comes to us alkies too. My belief, which I base on own experience and what others have shared with me via AA, is that some people just happen to get this reaction from alcohol and what made you reach for the bottle in the first place may just be secondary. Not unimportant – I want to be clear here – but whether you reached for it because you felt sad or because you felt happy is not the reason why you couldn’t stop once you started. Do you get me? I’m an alcoholic and it means I cannot stop drinking if I have the first drink, happy or sad.

Otherwise it would surely be the case that only those with little self regard, a destructive nature and depressed mind would end up here, right? And it’s not – I only have to look around me in the rooms to see that. No two people share the same story, yet we all have this one thing in common and it’s when it comes to how we drink that all our stories in essence are the same. It’s the stories before we raise that first glass to our lips that can differ wildly. In my case, it wasn’t an attempt to numb my feelings, it was almost always to enhance how good I already felt. That’s part of why this stage of my sobriety feels extremely risky – feeling clear headed and free of a hangover, I feel fucking awesome and that’s when I feel like drinking. So needless to say I probably need to be more vigilant now to what my alkie brain might try to make me do than further down the line when I’ve hopefully further cemented and secured my sobriety.

The thoughts around this – how we’re all different and how what’s right for one person might not sit well with the next – started to form the other day when Sparks encouraged me to share in meetings – even when I might not feel like it and let’s face it, I never do because it’s just not who I am. You know, the whole flock thing – I’m just not that way inclined, arguably I’m no more likely to enjoy public speaking than I’m capable of drinking in moderation. It’s how I’m wired. However, what I need to focus on is that sharing isn’t necessarily all for my own benefit. There could be another person JUST LIKE ME in a meeting, who feels JUST LIKE I DO and who might in that precise moment greatly benefit from hearing about my experiences of drinking, just like I have already – just a couple of weeks in – greatly benefited from listening to others share and in particular many of the women. I’ve truly rejoiced and felt oh my God, that’s just like me and it’s made a huge difference.

So for me it’s a tricky situation. I don’t want the meetings to be something I dread because that would be dangerous in itself, and unfortunately that’s what happens any time I feel under pressure to speak in front of people or hold a presentation or similar. Indeed that’s stopped me from going into situations in the past. OK, it’s not like you’re graded on your performance or there’s a vote on how well you said what you said, but it still isn’t something I’m comfortable with and certainly not when it’s “for the sake of it”. I did share last week – albeit spluttering and stuttering – but it was because I really had something to say. I suppose what I am learning is that it’s to help others as much as myself, that there will be other Sophies in those rooms and it might just be that something I say about my experiences could be the reason they come back again the next day. Just like me.

Yep, definitely one to pick Sparks’ brains on.

Meanwhile, I continue to be sober. I feel good and my mind is sharp and focused. My body is still tired, but as someone said the other day – when your body’s been battered in a bad accident, doctors sometimes put you in an induced coma because that’s how the body heals. I can only assume my body is now trying to heal after being ravaged by alcohol for so long and I will be kind to it – I’m indulging my chocolate cravings and I am taking it easy. I owe that to myself.

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