I am not on Facebook. Or Pinterest. Or Myspace. I can also confirm that I don’t have a Tumblr account, have any knowledge of Instagram, Four Square or Tagged. I am unsure of what some of those “share” buttons on my own blog even do, and am afraid to get anywhere near things that ask me to “Digg it” or go to “Reddit”. I’d rather “forget it”, to be honest. And as for Google + and Ning…well, I would have a greater chance at composing a polka in Sanskrit than figure those things out. I am practically Amish, frankly, in my social media thingies (are they called thingies even?) I will admit to enjoying and using my Twitter account. I also have a Rubik’s Cube and an abacus that I enjoy too. I am also sure I have my old VCR with a copy of “New Jack City” still stuck in it (spoiler alert – Chris Rock plays a crackhead). So…what does this have to do with anything other than my sheer ineptitude and unwillingness to join the 765 billion people who use those outlets?
Well, there is this thing called self-containment. I haven’t seen very much written about it – there’s a bit of a paucity when it comes to the topic of unrevealed inner workings in a world where revealing everything – from the type of soup you ate to what you think of your boss to what colour undergarments you have planned out for the next day – is a de rigeur thing. Self-containment isn’t about Big Brother (Google?) watching over you and/or invasion of privacy. It isn’t about anonymity or being open and forthright (although it may play a part in it). It isn’t about hiding behind a keyboard while pouring vitriolic venom onto an unsuspecting audience (hate the game, not the playah? Whatever). To me, self-containment is the ability to not overshare, to keep a certain part of ourselves / our lives unbreached, to enjoy a portion of our inner landscape on our own without questioning eyes, to have a modicum of self-respect and dignity towards our own selves.
Now, this whole thing about turning into our own WikiLeaks with cute puppy pictures and Brown Betty recipes attached is nothing new, of course. I am sure there are a plethora of folks who at this very moment are spilling everything about themselves like an oil pipeline onto the internet, nary taking a moment for introspection or couching it in a manner to make sense of it holistically. Not to say that we don’t or can’t share pieces of our lives with others. That’s the reason why the social media sites are so popular. “Look at me! Look at me! Like me! Like me! Retweet me! Retweet me! Enough about me, what do you think of me? ” And there isn’t anything inherently wrong with Facespacetwitterdigg. It’s how it’s used at times, and for a sober alcoholic, this leads me to a different outlook on these phenomenon and the idea of sharing. Or oversharing.
As bloggers who are in different stages of this Booze Bingo we play (I23 – “I had 23 beers today! I win…weeeeeeeee!”) – active, looking to quit, quitting, struggling, recovering, recovered – we have the tendency to write anonymously. Not all of us do, but for the most part, we keep a certain distance from our scribbling, for obvious reasons. So while anonymity hinders a lot of the oversharing that I may want to indulge in, it certainly doesn’t stop me from detailing all the minutiae of my day in any other fashion – on the laptop or away from it. But for this alcoholic, there is a premium that comes with an overabundance of revealing without the countermeasures of boundaries, self-love and respect. And this whole self-containment idea doesn’t just live in cyberspace. This also applies to real life – disrobing emotionally to others regarding our alcoholism, or about anything else that pertains to our inner life. There was a barrier that I had, and I crashed through it too many times.
There isn’t an alcoholic out there who hasn’t woken up, teeth itchy and tongue wall-to-wall carpeted, and not only cringed at what they did, but also what they said. Ohhhhhh noooooo…I said what? To who?? Nothing like the ol’ social lubricant dripping with too much grease and releasing the hounds. I have had these moments, and I have had them sober. Yes! Emotional hangovers, they are often called – revealing perhaps too much in a vulnerable moment or some sort of emotional breakdown at some point. Spent. Burnt out. Seeking comfort in just shutting the hell up for the rest of that day. I have suffered a few of these in my sobriety, and have had to reset the Emoti-a-Meter (TM). Instead of chugging water and aspirin, I pop large chunks of quiet measures and perspective to recalibrate myself.
Blabbing all about my dark and inner secrets to, let’s say, the bus driver or the hot dog cart dude at 3 am, is something I’ve probably done. Not a big deal – unless that weiner peddler was my bud or my brother. Where things fell apart for me was when I would reveal too much to too many folks. Seeking sympathy. Seeking a last ditch effort to connect with someone. Seeking to be seen. Seeking to be heard in a world where I felt insignificant and useless. Seeking to just be heard, period. In exposing myself completely and with reckless abandon, I failed to see that I was harming myself, in a way. I was showing full disrespect to myself…and that was par for course, because I loathed myself anyway. So what’s a few extra sentences in my day, anyway? So what’s the big deal in demonstrating this “honesty” that people speak so highly of? What’s the damage in baring myself as the human being that I am to my fellow man?
What it comes down to it is that I didn’t have boundaries of any kind. I didn’t respect my own, nor did I respect anyone else’s. By blurting out whatever was going on with me, which in my active alcoholism was usually unhealthy emotional turmoil, I engaged others in a conversation that they didn’t want nor need to be a part of. I imposed my sick self onto the personal bubbles of others, and almost dared them to not take my own drama for the sake of my own temporary relief. I didn’t engage in proper, useful and helpful two-way engagement with another person. I took hostages. I performed drive by’s. I suffocated others with my runoff. Threw pigs down a well for the sake of hearing splashes.
What I have learned in my recovery, amongst other things, is that sometimes there are some thoughts, actions, beliefs, etc. that are for me and me alone. There is a sanctuary within that precludes inviting others in like I would invite someone to check out my latest Facebook contribution or to join a chat room (am I using the right lingo here? Oh where is my rotary phone to call my godmother about these things?) It’s not to say that I am keeping secrets or harboring some evil plan for world domination (well…). But there is a part of me that needs to be just with me. My Own Private Idaho, of sorts. The unfiltered, the raw, the swaddled, the whispered, the clutched, the loved, the broken, the repaired, the chosen, the protected. A place within me where I can explore the core of me and to process, uncover and collapse as needed. To sing within. To dance privately. To quell the noise above.
And that goes to this blog, or my tweets, or any other sort of public platform. The fantastic breadth of sober bloggers out here write on different levels of anonymity and privacy. Some of us are quite open, some more guarded. We all reveal to our comfort level. But for me, I also have to be aware of several factors in what I share and how much I share. Outside of anonymity (another topic for another day), there is the fact that people I know in my personal life who read this blog. There are details that need not be disclosed. There are things that can be misrepresented, misconstrued, misinterpreted, misdiagnosed. There are things that, frankly, don’t need to be aired because this isn’t the forum for them or I don’t want to bore the living bejesus out of y’all. Discretion and respect rule the roost in this regard. And judgement. Lots and lots of judgement. Something I lacked for much of my life.
Listen, I am not prescribing a blogging burka of sorts, a messaging muzzle or a roll of duct tape over the keypad. We are social beings and for me, this blog and other outlets give me a voice and places that allow me to share with others a bit of my internal mechanisms. A sort of what it was like then, what happened, and what it’s like today kind of simplicity. A window into my own realm, a place to showcase my struggles and resolutions. And in return I get to bear witness to other people’s work and emotional / mental / spiritual landscapes. It’s a conversation that never ends, with brooks and streams and inlets all coming together in a wave, pattern and flow that feeds into a body of language and understanding that we all get to feed from and feed into.
Self-containment gives me the perspective and wisdom between what I can broadcast and what I should broadcast. Knowing the difference gives me a sort of internal breathing room, a place to house what is for me and me alone, and still plenty of space to be forthright and honest at the times I need to be, or choose to be. I can be of service to myself and to others when I come to the table with clean motives and not there to throw up my emotional garbage and walk away for others to clean it up. I take responsibility for whatever it is I transmit to others and make sure my boundaries and intentions come from love and respect. I show up when I need to show up with whatever tools that allow me to reach into you and to tell you that you’re not alone. I allow my heart to be open and receptive to what you have to share. And I have every right to disclose or not disclose, to receive or to not receive. It’s about the level of appropriateness in any given situation or forum.
I have been accused of being too honest – both when in my active days (a rare backhanded compliment, considering the epic amount of dishonesty I engaged in while drinking) and in my sobriety. I am not sure if they are positive things, but I will take them in the spirit they were given. But I know I have to reign in that instinct to open up too much at the wrong times and the wrong places. Sometimes what someone needs is for me to be quiet and listen. Or share just enough to let them know I understand. And that is a big lesson for me – self-containment gives me the gift of portioning myself as needed. Fluid and yet responsive to the situation. That is something I was unable to do in the past. Self-containment gives me the opportunity to check myself at the door, look in the mirror, adjust my hair and decide what I am bringing to the party of life. I get to continue building and respecting boundaries – for me and others – and get to feel out what I need to say and what I need to not say. It’s about balance and self-love. And self-love is the name of the game.