One of the biggest challenges I have been having in sobriety is the age old question – “who am I?” When I was drinking, there was a focus on who or what I wasn’t – I wasn’t the funny guy, the smart guy, the cool guy (for sure not the cool guy), nor the sexy one. I wasn’t grounded in anything, believed in anything or cared for anything. I was whatever you wanted me to be. Or needed me to be. Authenticity need not apply. I was a chameleon – not only to please you and to have you like me (oh please like me!!), but to avoid standing for something. For to stand for something meant I had to oppose something, and that meant confrontation. I hated confrontation. I mean, why can’t we all just get along? The price of that was, of course, my entire self.
It’s easy to say that it was the easy way out. And in many ways it was – didn’t have to confront or challenge anyone, or not have anyone confront or challenge me. But in the grand scheme of things, it took everything out of me. To go against the grain of my own being, to constantly pimp my soul out to the lowest bidder so that I could be liked, was draining. It drained my spirit…and to replace that, I drank spirits. To continually suppress and repress my true self was torture. But I knew no other way. I didn’t care to learn any other way. And drinking made it a bit easier.
So fast forward to now. The big book talks about being the “hole in the donut”. Once stripped of many of our character defects, of letting go of resentments and fears, of making amends for past harms and putting right was wronged…it leaves a lot of open space. I feared that space too. What would I be like? As one AA speaker says, he answers that with “better”. Where else could you go, other than “better”? So that brings me to my challenge. Now that I am getting free of all this, where is the real Paul? Is it something that I have to construct? Are there instructions for that, like an IKEA bed frame? Am I to just wait it out and see what happens? Do I parrot and mine someone else’s personality for my own use? How do I become me?
I don’t have that answer right now. I am still waiting for me to show up at the doorstep. But I get glimpses of who I am meant to be. When I do or say something that feels right, that feels that it comes from a place of authenticity, that doesn’t come from struggle, then I get the feeling that is the real me. To say or do something because I think that is what I am supposed to do, usually doesn’t feel the same. Back in the day, if you asked me the smallest question, like “what’s your favourite colour?” I used to freeze. I didn’t really know! I wanted to ask what other people’s favourite colour was first, and get a feel for the room, so to speak. I was afraid of being a “yellow” in a “red” room. I didn’t want to stand out, and upset the “yellow” haters. So I was always muted…unremarkable…grey.
I am trying to be the guy that I would like to hang out with. It’s a difficult thing to do, but I am getting there. I just have to align myself with what God wants me to do and to act, and go with that. Where it leads me, I don’t know, but I know I won’t be lead down a blind alley.
I lived my life in blind alleys.