Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Getting Rid of Your 'Stuff'
I used to drink. I used to drink a lot. I used to drink because I couldn't stand facing the reality of things. Didn't want to deal with past hurts. Didn't want to face hurtful things I had done. Instead I'd rationalize, make excuses for myself, resent others, and then try to drink away the unnerving feeling I'd get, every now and then, that something was wrong.
Drinking lifted my spirits. And if it wasn't drinking, it was dopamine from something else: a sexual encounter, somebody falling madly in love with me (or with whom they THOUGHT I was ... lord, how often is "love" simply projection?), adoration from students, publishing a story, you name it.
All this "feel good" stuff defined me. Feelings became facts and if something didn't go my way, I'd crash ... into deep depression, days of feeling devastated, drinking even more to feel better and only feeling desperate and needy as a result.
Here was the problem: I looked for happiness OUT THERE.
Happiness is NOT out there. Sorry. It just isn't. Happiness is all internal.
The good stuff that happens to you when you're happy is just icing on the cake. But if bad stuff happens, it's just something that is not great--and it doesn't mess with your happiness. Happiness is a state of mind, a contentment with yourself.
You will forever be chasing after happiness if it depends on a person, a job, money in the bank, a nice house adorned with things you like, or whatever the hell you're so sure floats your boat. Because... the second one of those things lets you down, you are gonna crash. Yet, those are just things that are "out there."
But how does one reach that inner state of mind, or true happiness?
You deal with your stuff. You do NOT ignore it, or shove it off to the side with your salad fork, like a bad walnut that sneaked its way onto your plate. It will keep biting you in the ass until you face it, accost it, deal with it. Process it. Talk it out. Beat it to death if you must. But it does NOT go away until you deal with it.
No amount of ignoring it or of trying to get rid of it by focusing instead on those things outside of you that give you happiness will make it go away. As Aimee Mann sang in Magnolia: "It's not going to stop until you wise up."
That film was all about people unsuccessfully doing everything in the world to deal with their shit by NOT actually dealing with it.
Is it FUN? No. Hell, I don't want to revisit Mr. Cipriani's groping me as a child or remember my stepmother's beatings. I don't want to face that I have cheated on my partners in numerous relationships. I don't want to look at my crap and have to admit where I was wrong or acting out of fear or selfishness.
I would much rather believe I was a perfect little angel and the victim of everybody else. I would much rather believe I am an extraordinary and superior human being--oh, I can admit to dumb mistakes I may have made here and there--but it was always because I was fooled, or somebody lied to me, or because I had no power over something, or blah blah blah.
But THAT attitude made me drink.
Real serenity, truly letting things go, means processing our "stuff." It means looking at it all honestly and owning your part of things. We are so afraid of doing that. Sometimes people can't face it, and go back out rather than complete their Fourth Step. But I have learned it is way more valuable to just deal with my crap, face that pain, and work it out with others where I can (some people are dead or are no longer in my life, so I can't, but at least I can get my side of the street clean in those instances.) There is still some peace and complacency in that.
By far the biggest simple truth I have learned is this: my actions from here on out need to completely square with my values. When they don't, I am doomed. The drink is on the horizon. It's just a matter of time.
So, people in AA talk and talk and talk. Some find it annoying.
I find it utterly necessary.