Friday, October 22, 2010
Sitting in the Hornet's Nest
Here's the thing that drew me up short. She confessed it got to the point that she simply knew better than to call me after a certain time of day. "Because," she said, "I knew it wouldn't be YOU anymore."
Amazing to think that the Drunk Joyce is so drastically different from the Sober Joyce.
I've also blogged before about how, even during those periods when an actively using alcoholic is briefly sober (ie, between benders), they're still not themselves. That has everything to do with altered brain chemistry, stinking thinking, delusional thinking, reactive and distorted thinking, and constantly being in chaos & crisis mode. An alcoholic has to be sober for some months, and maybe even longer, before they start returning to the person they really are.
The realization doesn't come without some cringing. For instance, the knowledge that anybody I met or dealt with solely during, say, my return to the Bay Area to when I stopped drinking, never really met me. All they met was a shell of me: a suffering, sick person who acted out a lot and did stupid things. Maybe they saw glimpses into me. But they saw, mostly, the uglier side of me: the selfish, acting out child who wasn't dealing with life's challenges in any productive way. I was stuck in a mire of griping, feeling sorry for myself, pinning blame for everything on persons or situations outside of myself, and doing nothing about those things that so frustrated me.
And then, the longer I was sober, I came to realize yet another layer: the things that made me gripe were largely things my own drunk brain had invented.
I wonder how many more layers there are.
Yet there is beauty in simplicity. When I look back on things, when I was drinking, my tendency was to not just look at the facts of a matter but to get all tangled up and lost in the "but I didn't know this" or "I didn't know that" or "but it was different in this case because of blah blah blah" or "they told me this or that." What was my intention, what were my motives, what I was getting out of it, why did I involve myself, who was I serving, etc.? I'd get lost in that stuff. Ultimately, none of these things matter, not one bit. They're all excuses; they're all the rationalizations people use to justify their behavior. All of it amounts to nothing but a red herring.
You want the TRUTH? Just look at a person's actions. Screw their explanations. To hell with all the talk. Look at what they DO.
Do they do distasteful things? Are they cruel? Are they malicious? Do they make fun of people? Do they gossip? Do they lie? Cheat? Steal? Do they break laws? Agreements? Do they cross boundaries? Not just once every now and again, but all the time?
Let THAT be your answer. (Even serial killers can offer you "good reasons" for why they murder.)
When I was drinking, I did a lot of things I'm not so proud of because I let myself be driven by two things: selfish, rationalizing self-talk and bullshit I was fed by others. Some of the others were people who were enablers or who were in denial themselves about my own alcoholism; or people who had some of their own self-interest served by conspiring with me in bullshit. (I'm not thinking of a single person here; I'm thinking of a handful of people who did some of these things, sometimes quite unintentionally.) I am not pointing fingers of blame. Really this is more of a good-natured commiseration. But inevitably, when you realize you've been sitting in a hornet's nest with your pals, you'll learn that all of you got stung. And it is a FACT that all of us are responsible, because ALL of us were the idiots sitting in the hornet's nest, now, weren't we?
The difference between Drunk Joyce and Sober Joyce is this: Drunk Joyce would've felt victimized for being stung while offering up a million excuses and reasons for being in that hornet's nest. Sober Joyce will just say, "Ouch! I got stung! What the fuck! I shouldn't have been in that hornet's nest to begin with."
And you won't find me in it again.