The word just rolls of the tongue, gliding effortlessly in a deep growl, gladdening the dark heart and appeasing all senses. It’s a word to wallow in. It conjures up images of scorned women on daytime soaps, of karate apprentices honouring murdered masters and countless character assassinations in school cafeterias. Drama and anger, in other words. Justified anger, at that. And for an alcoholic of my kind, dangerous grounds.
I had always viewed myself as a laid back guy. It would seem that nothing bothered me. I was like The Dude in The Big Lebowski – just minding my own business, chilling and letting everything slip off of me. But of course, it was all a facade. I may have been Joe Cool or The Fonz on the outside, but inside I was shredded up with insecurities, fears….and anger. Lots of anger. But I denied that I was an angry person. I’d never ever gotten into a fist fight, so how could I be angry?
Many people have calming thoughts before falling asleep. I don’t imagine anyone really counts sheep, but there is a semblance of peaceful waves of bliss that precedes slumber -perhaps a run down of fun things from the day, or a memory or just a rolling lull that passes through them. For me, I had fantasies in my head. Revenge fantasies. There were disembowelments, beheadings, torture chambers, and much more. My thoughts before the onset of sleep resembled a Youtube compendium of slasher flick violence. I felt comfort in it – it was like a blood-soaked security blanket. It was the only way I could get to sleep. I didn’t slash people up in real life, but I certainly cut them down with my words. I impaled them with my sarcasm and superiority. I carved them up with passive-aggressive actions.
And I wasn’t angry?
Here’s the thing about alcoholics of my kind – our emotions or reactions to emotions are ramped up a level or two. So, what I call “anger”, a normal person would call rage. “Dislike” to me is what a normie would describe as pure hate. My “like” is your obsession or lusting after. When I talk about fear, for you, it’s abject terror. So when I had the feeling of getting back at someone or exacting some degree of revenge, to a normal person, it would describe complete and utter obliteration of that person off the face of the planet. And that was how I felt most times.
At least I was laid back and cool, eh?
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves” – Confucius
Digging two graves is what I did on a daily, almost hourly basis. I was tired of picking up that shovel, but I couldn’t put it down. Just like booze. My days were spent like Madam Defarge, knitting her hit list and cultivating her hate slowly but surely. There was no end.
The problem was, of course, that I didn’t exact revenge at all. But, I did drink at people – me ingesting the poison, hoping they would die. Needless to say, a poor tactic, but made sense to me at the time. But it chewed me up from the inside out. My heart was being eaten alive with hatred, my mind saturated with animosity and hostility, my soul weighed down with resentment. I dripped venom from all pores.
It was in recovery that I started to see and understand where all this stemmed from – expectations of myself and others, lack of self-love and self-worth, the seeking of validation from externals, shortage of forgiveness towards myself and others, and the overall lack of connection to the Creator. I was angry at myself for being weak, for being useless, for being less than a man. I couldn’t see that I was who I was created to be, and that loving myself and accepting myself could bring me to a place of peace. I couldn’t see that I was a child of God and not one His rejects in the runt pile. I couldn’t see what others saw in me – I only saw what I wasn’t.
Today I don’t have those revenge fantasies. I don’t have the need to get back at anyone because I leave any anger at the door. I look at why I am angered, acknowledge it and move on. I don’t give anger room to breathe or breed. I don’t have that need to hurt others back choking my spirit any more. Years ago, I could have told you how many bullets in the chamber I needed to get my revenge on everyone. I would have also added a bullet for my self. But those days are over. There is peace where there wasn’t before.
I’ve put the shovel down.