Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Monsters of My Mind


I've blogged, many times, about the blessings of recovery. They definitely outnumber any drawbacks. But I haven't said very much about the hard stuff. One of the worst things about getting sober is having to face the consequences of choices I made when I was using. In the past, I used to just drink my bad feelings away (although they never really went away; they were just put on hold or I justified them by rationalizing them away--which is the same as putting them on hold). I can't do that anymore, and I don't WANT to do that anymore. But how, then, am I to cope with facing the fact that sometimes I acted in terrible ways?

By far the worst consequence has been facing people I've lied to or whose trust I have betrayed. It is difficult, and sometimes (depending on the person and the type of betrayal) to repair damaged trust. Sometimes, it seems, the damage done is so bad that it can't be healed. I can admit to what I did; I can apologize for it; I can refrain from repeating the same mistakes. I'm finding that for some, that's just not enough.

Please don't misread me: that is not a statement of blame or a glib "get over it already!" It is a statement made in grief.

I've lost some friends, people I care about. (I've also had to cut a few people who are simply bad for me--either because they can't, or won't, respect that I'm in recovery and want me to be Old Joyce; or because they feel like they have to walk on eggshells around me or else be accused of "creating drama" that may lead to my drinking again.) But the bottom line is, I'm finding that pretty much anything can be worked out as long as both parties in a situation are scrupulously honest. It's the relationships in my past that were based on some kind of dishonesty (mine, theirs, both of us) that are proving to be the most challenging.

Sometimes the "dishonesty" part isn't actual lying--it is, simply, not speaking anything at all when things need to be said for healing to occur. Anger, for instance. I'll just use Chelle as an example (hi, sweetheart). There is no way in hell she could have ever gotten to a place of forgiving and trusting me again without first having let me have it with a good dose of rightful anger. "You did this, Joyce; you said this; and those things hurt me in this and that way." She needed to hear me acknowledge that yes, I did those things; here are the reasons I justified those things to myself (the whys are merely explanatory and are NOT excuses--an act is an act, period); and she needed to hear me and see me be upset over it and apologize for it. She needed to also see that I "got" it--that I understood what I did wrong and that, understanding it, I owned it and learned from it. As more time has passed and she's seen me applying the same principles to other things that come up in my life--and she's also seen me call my sponsor when I get the nagging feeling that something isn't right and I need to do a reality and a self-agenda check--she has regained her trust in me.

She's also owned her part of things and now checks in with me, often, to make sure we're on the same page about stuff. We don't always agree about everything, but at least we understand where the other person is coming from and we each respect and honor the agreements we are making with each other.

So I've been turning all of this over in my head, and really I think it comes down to this: as Marianne Moore said, "Omissions are not accidents." And, everything is a choice. Once I've owned my part of something and done everything I can to fix it (ie, I've got my side of the street clean), the ball is in the other guy's court. That person has the choice to either want to forgive me and work on it with me, or to NOT forgive me and just toss it all aside. Sometimes people decide it's not worth it. Fair enough. Sometimes people decide to play the part of the victim, or take on the role of a self-righteous contemptuous person. Sometimes people choose to stay, for the time being, in a state of pain. (None of these statements is a judgment on my part; I'm just making an observation about human nature that applies to all of us.) And it's not because we ENJOY taking on whichever role we pick, but--and here's the part that is most interesting to me--it's because whatever role it is seems easier to take on than to face some truth we don't want to look at, or just aren't ready to bother with.

When it's a breach of trust, that "truth" might be something like this: You cared more about YOU than you did about me, didn't you?

And the answer is: Yes. Yes, I did. And I'm really sorry I did that. It was self-serving and flew in the face of everything I like to believe about myself. The realization made me feel like shit. Believe me. It did.

Or that "truth" might be something like this: Your real opinion of me is that I'm a scumbucket ugly horrible little troll, isn't it?

And the answer is: Nope. You're a smart, funny person with a huge heart and you didn't deserve the crap I dished out to you. I don't think you're a bad person. Not. At. All.

This brings us to the very last thing I've learned in this whole process of facing truths, forgiveness, and healing. The things I have feared the most are never as big or as bad as I have been afraid they would be. A lot of the monsters I've been afraid to face are very much like the ones I've been slaying in Castle Age or Haven on Facebook: they're not awfully big. In fact, they are cartoons. They are figments of the imagination. The monsters exist only in my mind.

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