Nothing Normal About Being Normal…Normally


Anyone live there?
This on a map anywhere?

Not an original topic, grant you, this thing about what “normal” is and what it isn’t.  Go to any blog or teen diary (they still have those?  Maybe one with a Hello Kitty theme?  Or a Hulk Hogan hardcover version for tough softies?) and you will no doubt find all sort of words about (not) fitting in, being cast aside, feeling apart from, etc.  Every philosopher, arts grad student, sociologist, teen angst poet, TV spiritual guru and Revenge of the Nerds fan has got this topic covered.  The idea is that being normal is just an ideal, borne of the innate feeling of wanting to fit in; that “normal” doesn’t exists, except in statistics and on washing machine settings.  Normal really doesn’t exist, except in the minds of those who don’t feel they are a part of anything, which covers pretty much most people on this planet.  And the ones who claim they are normal are usually covering up some uncomfortable or “abnormal” thoughts that really are normal compared to what everyone else is thinking.  Fear, when you get down to brass tacks.  But fret not, we are consoled with the overriding self-help cheer of “Who wants to be normal anyway?!  Be your crafty, wonderful and weird self!”.  All tied up in a neat bundle – a normal way in dealing with emotional peril and social awkwardness, eh?

Sure.

Many will talk about finding a “new normal” – sort of like refreshing your home page on the Weather Network website and taking your cue from that new outlook and approach.  The new normal is like your old normal, but with a shot of fabric softener or glitter.  If I get a raise at work, I guess that’s my new financial normal.  I don’t mind that.  If another child or animal joins the family, that’s the new normal too.  The new normal is pitched as a positive thing.  It’s uplifting, it’s a way of gaining a foothold in Peace and Contentment.  It’s urged as a way of progress, of setting the bar up yet another level and waiting for the next event to ratchet things up once again.   I know it reads like I am a apprehensive about this normal business.  I am not…at all.  If it was a “meh” thing for me, I wouldn’t be exploring this very much.  I am not sure why I am behooved to scrawl away about this, but there is some psychic and spiritual poking around going on in the shed of my mind and soul about this.  And so I heed the invisible impetus.

"There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them."
“There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them.”

In the context of normality and the alcoholic, the topic can branch off in so many, many directions.  We could spend ages discussing and relating how we felt different than others growing up, how we felt different from others in our drinking, how  we felt different from others when we had the drink in hand, how we felt different from others when we first sobered up, how we can still feel different when we walk in a room full of people.  A cursory glance through all the wonderful recovery blogs out there talk about this at some point or another.  Memoirs, short stories, documentaries, articles, etc. from alcoholics or about alcoholics often hinge on this one aspect of alcoholism.   I didn’t pick up a drink because all was groovy in the world for me.  I didn’t pick up that first beer because I was Mr. Popular or because I was on a winning streak.  I certainly didn’t get into AA because my life was a portrait of “normal”.  (Or perhaps it was – normal for an active alcoholic).  I picked up because I wanted to be transported out of “not normal”.

We often discuss the “normal” drinker – often the one we wish we could be, but we never were.  You know, the person who can have a few drinks, enjoy them, enjoy the setting they are having those drinks in, and either finish or not finish said drinks.  The type that can leave half a glass of wine at the dinner table and walk away from. They get drunk occasionally, but that’s because they choose to get drunk.  Or just get carried away.  I never had Door #2 or #3 options there like they did.   Door #1 was the only one available, and I opened it over and over again – it was normal for me to drink into oblivion.  It was normal for me to not have any control over my drinking.  Once I put the first one in me, the physical craving hit me and it was game over.  Done.  But that was normal for me.  And frankly, I didn’t care if it was anyone else’s normal.  I was too wrapped up in mine.

'The Addams Family'

It didn’t take long for me to realize my relationship with alcohol wasn’t normal, in the normal sense.  And that is when it went underground.  I didn’t want to seem abnormal, and yet it played out in my life over and over again like a silent movie reel in my head, with ten times the annoying tinkly piano accompaniments.  So I guess I did have a new normal.  Except that instead of it moving upward into positive outcomes, it spiraled downwards into a self-perpetuating cycle of drink /remorse /guilt / shame /drink.  And when I didn’t think I could find a new level of new normal, I hit ground with shovel and dug deep again.  Ta da!  New normal.

But that’s an easy story to tell, isn’t it?  The whole progression-of-the-illness story, where we share the details of our “normal” way of drinking – usually something outrageous to any normal person out there.  Near lethal amounts of alcoholic in our blood, dustups and donnybrooks, hospital visits, relationship slashing and dashing, detoxes, bankruptcies…all the stuff of normal drunkalogues and tales from the podium or written work, all of which are useful to catching the attention of another alcoholic.

Where I have found the idea of normal intriguing is when I compare where I am now in recovery as to when I was active.  What is normal for me now – being present, being awake to thing spiritually and emotionally, being available in all ways, being level, having access to myself, being open to new ideas, asking for help when needed, being uncomfortable when I need to be, sitting with things…these were the things that were abnormal for me for all those years.  My entire life was bereft of those things that I saw as being hardwired into others.  I was often dumbstruck in how my wife or sister-in-law could go shopping or on a trip and come back with wonderful, perfect gifts for people. (Thinking of others?  How do you do that?).  I was amazed at how my brother-in-law or my neighbour could start and continue a conversation with a stranger and enjoy it.  (And not want something from that person?  Just talk? Wow)

Is it possible to spell "commonplace" with an "F" and "U" as well?
Ever play Angry Scrabble?  I tried to spell words with an additional “F” and “U” in there.  I never had FUN.
.

So what’s normal to others (boring, dull, run of the mill) is fine by me.  I like this abnormal normality I have.  I’ve been to hell and back and being in the middle of pack suits me fine now.  And yet, we are all far from normal in our ways.  There’s that rah-rah cheer again – “Be yourself! Who cares what others think!”.  And I am myself.  Or getting there, at least.  Still figuring out the “myself” part…but moving closer to it.  I can feel the warmth of it as I get nearer to it.  I might not have had a normal way of getting to this place in my life, but I am here.  Many don’t get here.  I am grateful for the New Paul Normal.  It’s certainly something that will shift, that will be fluid and allow room for growth, like a new pair of shoes on a kid.  Next year I could be singing a different aria, which would be a possible sign of building upon ones self and change.  A sign that being static is not beneficial to where I need to be.  I was static for way too long in my search for normal.  I also eluded normal, because my ego would tell me that I was better…or less than the rest of the pack.  Ugly circles and pathways, littered with bottles.

In the final analysis, what normal means to me is that I am no better nor worse than anyone.  That’s it.  I am right-sized.  I am worthy of helping anyone out.  I am also worthy of having what has been given to me.  There are no mistakes in this Play.  The acts are there in sequence for a reason, and the Playwright knows the script.  I don’t.  I just play the part.  And that is what I do now.  Normal everyday stuff.  Live life.  Chop wood. Fetch water. Love. Inspire. Play.

Peace.

Ugh.  Can't even pose normally.
Normally not viewed.

36 Comments Add yours

  1. lifecorked says:

    Great post, Paul! I love my normal, boring life now! Before, it was always the what ifs or the if onlys – it was never enough. I love the idea of just being content in the here and now. It’s so much easier. Is that you?! Great pic!

    1. I’m with you, Chenoa. Had one of those content here and now days, and it was pretty good. Can’t complain. A few mistakes here and there, but overall, wouldn’t trade it for what I had before. Ever. Thanks for the comments 🙂

      And yeah, that’s me in some weird pose. Best I could do for a selfie 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  2. Amy says:

    I love this boring normal life. It has it’s ups and downs, but is loads better than the constant crazy swing of drinking.

    That’s a great picture. Glad to “see” you!

    Cheers!

    1. Nice to be “seen”, Amy! I too love this over the crazy swing of boozing.
      Glad you swung by!

      Paul

  3. losedabooze says:

    Always nice to put a face to the words. Love the post… reading them is like reading my own thoughts at times but there in black and white. Thank you for sharing with us.

    1. Thanks for the kind words – it’s nice to know that what I am thinking is also thought by others…helps me realize that I am not alone.

      Love and light,
      Paul

  4. I love this because I yearned my whole young adulthood to be “normal”. What I know now is that I yearned to belong. I surrounded myself with like minded people whether or not they were healthy for me. Now belonging means something different for me. The people I surround myself with aren’t all alike but they have one thing in common: respect for themselves and others. We create our “normal”.

    1. ” What I know now is that I yearned to belong.” That is it dead on. I loved your comments – wow. You encapsulated what I wanted to say in one paragraph. That was brilliant. And the message is deeper too – I liked the part of everyone having one common thing – respect for self and others. That’s such a thing we used to crave and yet searched high and low in the wrong spots. Wonderful comments – so blessed to have you here.

      Paul

      1. Thanks Paul! I really love your posts. They give me a lot to think about.

  5. SAM says:

    “The new normal is like your old normal, but with a shot of fabric softener or glitter.”

    I chuckled out loud in my living room on that one. The new S*P*A*R*K*L*Y normal. : )

    We just talked about this in a meeting last week. I stated how “Feeling emotions was like a rollercoaster and how I keep waiting, now I don’t drink, to feel normal.” Everyone with long-term sobriety laughed.

    “That never happens, honey. There is no such thing as going back to normal for us but there will be a new life, a new normal for you.”

    1. I love old timers. Such off-handed comments, but full of truth. And they got that one right too, didn’t they? I can’t wait to get to old timer level. ha ha. Thanks for sharing that – I loved it…I laughed out loud too!

      Paul

  6. SAM says:

    Thanks again for the great post, the perspective and for the reminder that we may not emerge normal but we emerge amazingly ourselves. May we let our freak flags fly brightly.

    1. Freak flags…lol.

      Raise them high indeed 🙂

  7. sherryd32148 says:

    Dude…you’re a hottie!!!

    😉

    I like the idea of “right-sized”. I feel like I finally fit in because I no longer care if I do (if that makes any sense). I’m beginning to like what makes me unique and to appreciate what is unique about others. It feels pretty dang good too.

    Sherry

    1. Oh lordy Sherry… lol.

      I am with you on the unique thing. I am not quite as far as you are in that path, but I get it. I am getting there slowly. But I certainly could see you make that shift…and it’s been like you’ve been lifted into something else, some other stratosphere. I love watching that in you and others. Awesome.

      Give Bill a good hug tonight! 😉

      Paul

  8. Alright, on the one hand, I LOVE being able to put a face with the fabulous message, but there is also a little sadness… do you remember when I asked you if that random pic of the 70’s guy was you? Even though you told me no, I still pictured that face every time I read your blog, and now I can’t!

    I could write on and on about the lifelong goal to be “normal,” but, like yourself, I’ll just head to a meeting for that. I’ll note one thing, which I have written about in my own blog, but it was such a revelation that it bears repeating:

    For years all I wanted to do was “drink like a normal person.” I even had a therapist say to me once, years ago, “you know, for some, normal drinking is not drinking at all.” At which point I promptly wrote that therapist off as a complete nut.

    But once I really and truly wrapped my head around the idea that I didn’t really want to drink like a normal person; that, in fact, I wanted to drink because of the effect it produced in my body, I felt free. Because if my end goal is to drink like a normal person, then I will forever and always be banging my head against a wall. But if I truly accept that what I really want is to get completely and totally altered, and I also accept that when I get completely and totally altered that my life turns to crap, then the answer is clear: simply do not pick up the first drink. I will never want just one, and more than one will always have negative consequences. So beautifully simple!

    1. Sorry to have burst your bubble on the random 70’s dude…lol.

      I love what the therapist said – very true for our kind, isn’t it? I think we trick ourselves into the drink by using “normal” as a benchmark, when really out thoughts are already abnormal and skewed. No normal can come from that.

      No first drink = no more other drinks. You’re right…beautifully simple!

      Thanks for the awesome comments, as usual 🙂

      Paul

  9. Al K Hall says:

    Reminds me that for so long i was afraid of being normal and so i was able to rebel in my disease as proof of my uniqueness. Now i realize i’m special even without the glass and if ‘normal’ means not suffering or being suicidal, then i’m all for it.

    Thanks for the post, you good looking somebeach, you. 😉

    1. I agree Al – wholeheartedly. I too saw myself as “terminally unique” and sunk deeper into it to prove that I was something special alright. And I certainly was..until I realized that I was just a garden variety drunk like everyone else. And in that commonality, we find our true selves and our true uniqueness. Love what you said, brother.

      somebeach? I can’t compete with that little one gawking at the bottle there in your avvie…lol.

      Paul

  10. Great post and lovely picture!

    1. Thanks! Nice to see you here 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  11. jrstover says:

    Great post. (wanted to write something brilliant and wordy…went with normal…)

    1. Thank you very much, kind sir.

      I am not sure what rhymes with Normal – perhaps it’s like “orange”?

      🙂

  12. risingwoman says:

    There you are!! It was so great to meet you in person when I was in Canada recently… I liked spending time with you.

    Love the new layout, BTW. And this post is beautifully-written. Now if I can just find the time to update my own blog. Gah.

    Hugs,
    M

    1. Yes, there I am! Yes – it was awesome meeting you too! Great chats, and could have easily had more 🙂

      And yes, I did a bit of repainting around here…was getting a bit stale. Get on that blog of yours! We miss the updates!!!

      Hugs back,
      Paul

      1. risingwoman says:

        UPDATED!!

        Drop by and see….

  13. Lilly says:

    Oh I’m jealous you and Michelle have met. If I suddenly won a million dollars I think I’d have to fly you all to some fabulous sober spa retreat where we could all meet and talk for hours and drink mocktails and eat lots of great food and revel in our not-normal, more-than-normal, new normal.

    I loved seeing the pic and being able to put a face to the voice. Perhaps selfishly of me, since I’m unlikely to put up my own, I love it when I get to see what some of you look like. Look – there IS an actual real live human being – and a very attractive one at that if I may say – behind that blog.

    For some reason I had pictured you as a blond. Isn’t it funny how we get these random images for no good reason? Like I picture Belle as a brunette with a kindly face and DDG as a fiery redhead. Ha.

    Anyway, lovely all around.

    xx

    1. risingwoman says:

      Yeah, he’s a cutie to be sure. Killer smile 😉

    2. It was pretty cool to meet up with Michelle, I must say. Rare opportunity…good timing too! It would be pretty cool to all hang out and have a little sober spa, eh?

      It took me time (turtle, remember) to figure out if I would post pic or not. I had to check my motives and to understand if I was breaking anonymity for the sake of it. Which I wasn’t. I consider the sober blogging / recovery / sober twitter community to be tight, protective groups. I consider them like an AA group, in a way – which is where we are allowed to not be anonymous amongst ourselves. And frankly, I am getting to a point where the recovery thing is becoming less and less of a “thing”. It’s just part of me. I recall hearing someone ask a mid timer outside a meeting about her “coming out” to some friends or at work. His response always stuck with me “What’s the downside of that?”. Hmmmm. So for me, I am not worried about someone stumbling on that pic. If they did, they are here for a reason…and perhaps can relate or see that there is no shame involved. Most people in my life know, except for those I work with (my bosses and HR know) and acquaintances. So the downside to that is…well, none, really. How they would react – don’t know, don’t care. It’s not a secret or anything to blackmail me with!! lol.

      But everyone is in a different boat. Some need to have this more under wraps than others. Some have fears (founded or unfounded) about being “outed”. Many just hold their privacy as more sacred. It’s a subjective thing. I don’t think everyone needs to unveil themselves. Something in me has been guiding me towards this for some reason. Whatever 🙂

      Blonde? That would have surprised my dad then, for sure…lol.

      I do the same as you – picture people behind the words. Always fun to actually see them and realize that they are nothing like our minds make them to be! DDG as redhead…yeah, I see that 🙂

      Thanks Lilly – love having you here, as usual 🙂

      Paul

  14. byebyebeer says:

    Handsome photo – how nice to see what you look like!

    I dug this post a lot…love how you pointed out how we were desperate to appear normal when we were drinking anything but. It was such a struggle. Now normal is something I don’t have to think too much about because that struggle is gone. Such a blessing.

    1. Thanks BBB 🙂

      You’re right about not something to think about much. Obviously I thought about it enough to post about it, but it’s just one of those things that slips into the stream of life and I just go with. Ain’t no thang 🙂

      Thanks for the comments!

  15. Mrs D says:

    Book me in to the sober spa you handsome somebeach (great term Mr Hall)!! It’s you!! It’s you!!! So great to see you Paul, another fabulous post here. It’s totally awesomely excellent having you in the sober-sphere. What a wonderful community of warmth and camaraderie and support and friendship you are building here on your blog.. what wonderful comments above.. I must click around and check out other blogs that I don’t know about yet. As for normal… you’re so right it’s the little normal everyday stuff that make life great. xxxx

    1. Oh Mrs. D…lol

      I have only learned from those who came before me – wonderful folks like yourself – who had already fostered a loving community about them. I am like you – I find out about other blogs by checking the comments and blog rolls from other people! It’s fantastic how we have this fantastic little haven here for us to share, laugh, cry and support. Very groovy stuff.

      Your seat at the spa awaits you

      Blessings,
      Paul

  16. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Love this – making sense as you roll on forward.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words and for being here 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

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