Who Do You Think You Are?


light-in-darkness

One of the greatest struggles I have had in my recovery so far is the question of who am I? Or namely, who am I meant to be?  And that is really what it comes down to.  Who am I meant to be, rather than who do I think I should be?  I lived a life thinking I was something that I wasn’t.  I lived a life acting as if I were someone else.  I staged myself like a house on the market – to look good for others, when in the end,  the only buyer was me.  No takers. And why would someone else want to take it?

My alcoholic life started out as window dressing.  When I started to feel uncomfortable, a nice coat of paint (or a bottle of wine) would dress things up nicely.  A dab of Pinot could easily spot weld all the little leaks in the house.  A dram of whisky would board up the unsightly fractures in the walls.  A mickey of vodka could effortlessly shore up any foundation cracks. The place was falling apart, and yet I still wanted you to stop by for warm chocolate chip cookies and a friendly chat to keep up appearances.  But in the end, it was a façade.   As fragile as wet tissue paper and as fraudulent as a three-dollar bill.  I was a slum lord and the tenant as well.

As practising alcoholics, we were masters of concealing.  We concealed the amounts we drank, we concealed the aftermath, we concealed our feelings, we concealed the shame and guilt, we concealed our fears and pain.  We concealed the truth.  We concealed our Authentic Self.  We concealed the very thing that would have brought us closer to the Creator.

I have wrestled with this whole Authentic Self my whole life.  It would seem that whenever I felt the yearnings of me to be me, I would self-medicate.  Push that bastard down (because he was a bastard.  How did I know?  I just thought that he was – that’s the power of the mind).  Get into a new mindset.  Be witty, colourful, happy, joyous, sexy, taller. The real me couldn’t be any of that, so let’s get the Synthetica Replicant to take its place.  Whenever a whisper of the real deal would try and bubble up, whenever my conscious would tickle at me, whenever that true sense of self would dare to rise up, I would drown it in self-loathing and copious amount of booze.  Take that, shithead.

There is something pristine and hopeful about the idea that within us all is our Authentic Self itching to come out. That its intention is to emerge and burst forth through the cling film wrap that we apply to ourselves to ensure that we don’t shine as much as we should.  There is a sense that this Authentic Self has always held sway at a low level even throughout our alcoholic careers.  That friction, that dissonance that I felt while I was drinking and being my False Self was really my Authentic Self rubbing up against the fractured me.

Guilt, shame and remorse not only emerged from the cesspool of my manner of living, but knowing that deep down I wasn’t living up to who I was really meant to be.  And I hated it, and yet I craved it.  I felt that my disingenuous alcoholic me was a slap in the face to who I was really meant to be.  A carnival act trying to distract from the fact that I was burning my life down to ground once again, fuelled by booze, selfishness and the manipulation of others.  A nefarious triple threat.

So what does this all have to do with anything?  What does this say about alcoholism or the recovered life?  What does this pseudo-spiritual claptrap have to do with me today?  What does it have to do with the fact that perhaps someone out there is dying to have a drink.  Anything.  Beer, rum, mouthwash, hand sanitizer?

Not sure.  Hope, perhaps?  The knowledge or inner tingling in understanding that there is something within us all that is hoping to live. To be worn like a loose garment.  To be held up to the light of truth and have it shine.  To have our real and true selves out for all to see.  Without shame or judgement.  Without suffocating it in the name of progress, pride or fear.  Without self-sabotaging or retribution.  Just the real deal.  You. Me.  Us.

This very thing is discussed in 12-step literature.  They talk about removing all the things that block us from the sunlight of the spirit – our self-seeking ways, dishonesty, ego, pride, fears, etc. and then our immediate concern being – what’s left of me? I’d be the hole in the doughnut, they proclaim.  What now?  Oh what will come out on the other side of all this?

And that’s very much what we pass through as we get closer to our Authentic Self. It’s just self-centered fear.  Because the reality is quite clear – nature abhors a vacuum.  So in place of these things that clog us up is something new – the hope that things will turn out better.  New ways of dealing with life.  A shimmering light of life that allows us to heal, to be with others, to be with ourselves.  We get closer to who we were created to be.  And that can be frightening.  It can look like darkness, in fact.  But with dark comes light.  And light fills that void where destructive thinking used to be.  We start to become a little bit more whole.

Day by day.

For this cat, I don’t necessarily struggle with the capital gains of this process, nor with the investment, but of the time of maturation.  My impatience and my fears grip me.  I start to wonder if there truly is a pay off.  I start to wander and wonder where else I can invest my time and energy.  Is it to the popular crowd so that I can feel approval of some kind?  Is it to something easy and shiny so that I can get the buzz of instant gratification?  Is it towards the ease and comfort of putting myself down yet again so that I get an ego boost of self-pity?  Is it about playing small so that I don’t have to face that darkness?  Guilty on all counts.

So what’s the deal then?

I know that real happiness and contentment comes from staying true to myself, and that my serenity soars when I don’t seek approval from the external.  And yet, I will sabotage myself.  Over and over again.  It’s like I don’t trust myself, or trust giving it up.  Of letting go.  Insanity, isn’t it?  But that is my path right here, right now.  It’s something that I revelled in as an active alcoholic.  I sought validation from all points.  Because inner validation seemed impossible.  There was no self-love, so how could I find what was obfuscated by my alcoholism?

It’s only now that I catch glimpses of it.  I see the sparks coming from the shine of the light hitting it.  I catch the buzz of embracing the perfection of my imperfection once in a while. I get it.  And then it flits away, and I find myself prodding and poking the wrong hornets nests to get a reaction, to feel like I count, like I exist.

Who I think I am and who I need to be and who I really am are all different, and it’s not up to me any more.  It’s the Creator’s, and I have to trust in where I am nudged is just part of the plan.  I may not like it, nor approve, but that’s where it is, y’all.  Move to the rhythm, even if it’s not my usual beat.

We have a saying in recovery – “attraction, not promotion”.  I live my life in a way that attracts others to find out what it is I do.  I live in a manner that brings positivity and light to my soul.  I live in a way that detracts from the shiny and contours to the ordained.  My job is to promote less, and attract more.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Easier said than done.  But what choice do I have?

As newly sober alcoholics can attest to, living a life almost contrary to our old ways is disarming and jarring.  It gets better – believe me.  It gets better.  The things that we used to do with impunity (lying, for example) becomes very difficult to pull of when on a spiritual path.  The things that used to serve us, like manipulation, no longer do.  We just move past it.

So – who do you think you are?  I know that who I think I am isn’t necessarily who I am meant to be.

I sit with this today, and do my best to move through it.  Look at others who have what I want, who exude a gentle and quite confidence, who shine a little brighter, who truly feed from the light within and don’t seek from externals.  Those who can look back at yesterday and say, with ease, “that is no longer me.  I have grown and today I have more clarity”.  That is where I look to next.  You are all out there, and I see you.  I see you there. You all help me with this.  Whether you have two days or two decades under your belt, you’re there.

Let me see you a bit more. Come to the light here…come.  You’re a beautiful person.

Let’s have warm cookies now.

Thanks for being here.

(Edit – I will be away on vacation starting April 3, so forgive me if I don’t respond to your comments right away. – I will be internet “dry”.  I will gladly read any comments on my return.  Have a blessed week, y’all. Paul)

~~~~~~~~~~

(I wanted to share this video from Future Islands, who recently performed on Letterman.  First of all, it’s called Seasons (Waiting on You) – and anyone who reads this space knows my love of things cyclical, as are seasons.  Also, I love the fact that the singer, Sam Herring, just does his thing.  His authenticity is captivating and powerful and just damn fine.  I admire his ability to express himself and that he just puts himself out there, not worrying about how he might be looked at.  And the result – I can’t stop taking my eyes of him.  It’s actually gone viral, this video, so I am not the only one to feel it. Anyway, he attracts.  And it’s a groovy song, to boot.  Enjoy)

 

 

68 Comments Add yours

  1. REDdog says:

    I think sometimes it’s easier for others to see who we really are from the outside looking in, but when all’s said and done it’s only the Great Spirit who can really introduce us to our real selves. It took a few years but once I’d pushed the discomfort I eventually fell in love with that person. Well written again, Paul, respect man.

    1. I love what you said about the Great Spirit introducing us to our real selves. Damn, that was fantastic, actually. I think you just brought it to a new level, REDdog. And I doubly love that you were able to push past all that stuff and fall in love with who you really are. It’s an honest thing, and I don’t think I know that many people who can say it with the clarity and peace that you say that with.

      Full and utter respect to you, my friend.

      Paul

      1. REDdog says:

        Thanks Paul, I’ll admit to being a little bit proud of making it out the other side of what was a dark and lonely place. I wouldn’t want to go back but no regrets about that being where I came from because some of that stuff has shaped who I like. I always had this theory about there being the 3 “yous”. The “you” think you are; the “you” others think you are; and the “you” you really are…few of us ever get to see the last one.

        1. Glad we get to see the you that you really are. It’s a treat 🙂

          Great theory – I dig it.

          Peace to you and your Queen 🙂

  2. Ned's Blog says:

    Surrounded by a family of alcoholics growing up, my battle was the fear of becoming one. It haunted me through my teens and early 30s, especially as my first marriage unraveled. Knowing who I was — and who I needed to be for those important to me — helped me realize that alcohol was still running my life through fear. Whether trying to stop or not start drinking, accepting yourself and your fears are important steps that I didn’t learn until I reached 40. Sounds like you are there, my friend. This is an excellent piece that reflects someone who “gets it,” Paul.

    1. Thanks Ned for sharing what you did. I am so glad that you had another fate in store for you, especially since you know what it’s like to be around alcoholics. They say that we don’t have relationships – we take hostages…lol. And it’s true though. I imagine you had seen much in your time growing up. It’s wonderful to see you as you are now. You clearly have a good sense of self (and sense of humour, of course!) and show it clearly in your writing and your overall persona. It’s genuine, and that’s the attraction of Ned.

      40 seems to be a magic number, yes? That’s when I got sober, and am reaping the rewards of that, for sure. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have you here and sharing…and to congratulate you again on your third FP. Fantastic achievement for a great guy.

      Cheers,
      Paul

      1. Ned's Blog says:

        Maybe all that other stuff is just to help us prepare for appreciating what comes after turning 40? Whatever the reason, from one 40-something to another: We made it 😉

        Cheers to you as well, Paul — and thank you for the kind words and for sharing so much of yourself for others.

        1. We made it indeed! Here’s to another 40 (just keep those birthday candles away from my oxygen tank!)

  3. “I know that real happiness and contentment comes from staying true to myself”

    Oh Paul, I love your post and we must be on the same wave length today. I have to say that my biggest hindrance in being myself is wanting to keep the peace, not rocking the boat, not wanting to offend, pleasing the ones I love. But it has come at a great cost. — Me — I want my boundaries respected, but at the same time, mine should also be respected, and that’s were I compromised. I’m not proud of that, but I think I did it for the right reasons. I’ve had to grow a backbone when finding my voice. I think this process of coming into our own comes in baby steps then huge leaps, then back to baby steps. Those huge leaps take a lot of courage. Dare to be you. Dare to be me.

    Loved the tune, too. Just awesome!

    Have missed you.

    I’d like to share this tune with you by Genesis — from the album Wind and Wuthering. Back in the late 70’s, 80’s & 90’s I’d listen to this over and over during times of self-reflection. It made me weep. It made me yearn. But I didn’t know what I was yearning for. What — who was I missing? I’d capture glimpses. It took me years to discover that I was yearning for me to emerge. The other person — the person I had become due to the pressure from others to conform me into their own image was someone I really didn’t like because it wasn’t me. I’d see myself through their eyes, not my own. When I are a child, learning about my environment, and getting to know myself, it was hard to not allow others to influence my own perceptions of myself, if that makes any sense. I had to die to that image of who they (and I) thought I was before my authentic self would finally emerge. Apparently, I’m a slow learner. 😀

    The lyrics are in the about section. Keep in mind — this was produced back in 1976, so not the best sound quality.

    1. Oh Victoria – thank you for writing my story. I can relate to it so much.
      “I’d see myself through their eyes, not my own.” yes! Double yes! I was always so concerned with how I looked to others. i was also a chameleon. I was what I thought you wanted me to be, to the point where I didn’t know who I was when I (dared to) look in the mirror. I sometimes get that feeling. I don’t act much on it these days, but I am aware of those old feelings. I sometimes do want to sink in it again and just disappear, but I know it’s a backwards motion that would eat me up inside. I’ve come to far to go back, but fearful to keep going. No man’s land. but I go on.

      And it’s in hearing stories and experiences like yours that keeps me in the game, in the loop. Seeing myself in you and how you’ve come along bolsters my resolve and love and ability to give it up to the Powers That Be.

      I love that Genesis song. I have the album (yes, vinyl. had lots of Genesis on vinyl), but don’t remember this song. Played it about five times already. Will have to listen to the album now. But I understand what you mean about welling up at some songs…I too had that “what am I missing?” moments. hell, I drank those moments away. Or I thought I could recapture something that was never there.

      I fell you, Victoria. Thank you for your wonderful, insightful and honest comments. Means a lot to me.

      Blessings,
      Paul

      1. Paul, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I was moved, as always. I’m glad you managed to get through my comment and comprehend it. I flubbed up on spelling and grammar big time, lol. I could so relate to this:

        “i was also a chameleon. I was what I thought you wanted me to be,”

        Yes. I don’t know if you ever listened to some of the more radical music of The Four Seasons, but when you brought up chameleon, my mind was taken to a tune. A tune that I’ve never forgotten, and at times will replay in my mind. Paul — we are not alone in becoming chameleons. I think the cultures we live in play a major role in this genuine imitation life we create.

        Chameleons changing colors,
        While a crocodile cries.
        People rubbing elbows,
        But never touching eyes.
        Taking off their masks,
        Revealing still another guise.
        Genuine, imitation life.

        People buying happiness,
        And manufactured fun.
        Everybody’s doing,
        What everybody’s done.
        You count on lots of people,
        Who can only count to one.
        Genuine, imitation life.

        All the pretty clouds,
        Are a lovely shade of black.
        You find the right direction,
        Someone tears up all the track.
        People worships crosses,
        Fingers crossed behind their back.
        Genuine, imitation life.

        Old friends get together,
        But it’s solitaire they play.
        Everybody’s rainbows,
        Dressed in different shades of gray.
        It’s a lovely place to visit,
        But I wouldn’t want to stay.
        Genuine, imitation life.

        We are the lucky ones, Paul. We broke through. We beat the odds.

        We should be shouting it from the rooftops. 😀

        1. I like what you said at the end there (well, I like it all, but you know what I mean) – we broke through. We beat the odds…and you know, I have to remind myself that. Gratitude goes a long way. I have to remember that there are so many who are broken in so many ways and never make it back. You and I here talking through the computers in our heated homes and with surrounded family loving us, etc…well, that brings it all back, doesn’t it?

          Me, shouting 🙂

        2. Been listening to that album now for the last hour. Man, love Genesis of old. 🙂

          1. You know what? I’m gonna listen along with you. I found the whole album of Wind and Wuthering on YT.

            *puts in ear buds*

  4. I wrote: “I want my boundaries respected, but at the same time, mine should also be respected, ”

    Paul, I meant to write: “I want to respect other peoples’ boundaries, but at the same time, mine should also be respected.

    1. ha ha…I figured as such. Too bad WP doesn’t allow you to edit. Dang!

  5. NotAPunkRocker says:

    This is an excellent post, my friend. I needed some of these reminders today, now, facing my own struggles. Thank you for this ❤

    1. Thanks Sheena! I am sometimes still mystified when I see that someone else is on the same page or is going through something similar. Today was one of those impromptu posts that was more for me. Diary like. I almost didn’t want to share, but glad I did. Glad it resonated with you, which means I am in a different place too. You helped me. We have our struggles, and we tend to think we are unique in them, but this is why I blog – to connect with wonderful people like you who get it, who understand.

      thank you…blessings and hugs to you.

      Paul

  6. fern says:

    This post has many thought-provoking ideas! I understand so much of what you write about. I feel a sense of what my authentic self would be/is but it’s scary to grow toward it.

    With less than a year into sobriety I want to keep it simple. When I worry too much about who I am and who I was meant to be I fall into a pattern of self-loathing for doing neither well. “Is it towards the ease and comfort of putting myself down yet again so that I get an ego boost of self-pity?” Perhaps so. Your sentence seems apt but I’m struggling to understand all that it implies. I sense I am stuck in that pattern but it’s murky and dark and I don’t see a way out. I can be grateful that you are in front of me blazing the trail.

    Good stuff about the meat of recovery. I like how you can cut to the chase and write about what’s real. I also enjoyed the singer for his genuineness. 🙂

    Fern

    1. You bring up a wonderful point, Fern – that when we fail to meet the standards of our imagined self, we attack ourselves. I used to do that my entire life – a life of “should”s. You should have done that, you should have said that, you should have blah blah blah, and then I would be relentless in my punishment to myself. Another example of self-centeredness. Who do I think I am to have such lofty goals for? I cut everyone else slack, except me. So do I think I am so great that I have my own set of rules?

      Yikes.

      But we get past this, when we start to get real with things. With ourselves. And I see that you are constantly doing that now in this point in your recovery, Fern. And I have to continue doing it too. I have to catch myself, tell on myself, call me on my own shit. Or have someone else do it for me (hi, sponsor, friends…lol).

      Glad you enjoyed the singer. I’ve been listening to that album non-stop now. I can’t count how many times I watched the video. he even has a few memes out with his dancing. It’s all good.

      Thanks for the great comments! You rock 🙂

      Hugs and love,
      Paul

  7. elee says:

    Really beautiful post!

    1. Thank you. It’s nice to see another Canadian around these parts. Welcome to the sober community online here 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  8. Casey says:

    There are so few people in this world I trust enough to look up to. And you are one of them. Something in the way you write encourages me so much (and there is so little encouragement out there).Reading your journey helps me believe recovery of the authentic self is not just possible, but worth the hell you have to go through to get there.

    I didn’t drink much, yet I relate so much to the self-destructiveness and the pain. Thanks for sharing your authentic self with us.

    It struck a chord when you said ‘we don’t have relationships, we take hostages.’ Whew. I never heard it like that, but that’s entirely how it felt to live with my husband’s problem drinking. It’s odd, I’m sure my husband could relate a lot to your story. And I feel, in some strange way, it’s as if your sharing helps me heal some of the damage my own husband did to me. I can see what my husbands point of view may have been like a little bit more clearly (he’s told me enough that the stories sound similar). Thank you for carrying the message. It gives me hope for my own healing.

    Much love and many blessings,

    Casey

    1. Hi Casey!

      I am ever so glad you are here. And I read your last post, and I see a lot of commonality in terms of the authentic self, and sifting through the pain and hurt to (hopefully, finally, slowly) get to the good stuff, or at least, the stuff that we were meant to be. You are clearly on a path, and it’s tough. We all have our chicken wire to cross over. And we also have nice patches of grass to land on and lie down on and stare at the wonderment of the clouds and stars and wonder “yeah, something out there made these! And they made me too. What a wonderment I am too. Even if I don’t feel like it”. What power in that, eh?

      One need not have to have struggled with the bottle (or needle, or pill box, etc) to have these kind of struggles. I think we all do, in one way or another. Some maybe not as much. Maybe some of us get it early. And to those, that’s awesome…and there is usually a struggle in another department! You have been so open and honest on your blog and I can see the scars that you write from. You are quite brave and courageous in your own journey, and it inspires me.

      I don’t know what it’s like to live with and love someone with something like alcoholism or addiction. I can’t even imagine. So i can’t speak to that, but certainly I know what it’s like on this side of the fence…and it’s not pretty either. We sometimes do realize the pain we are causing, but don’t know how to stem the bleeding. My family was so important to me, but the bottle still came first, no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise.

      We battle, and we let go and we learn and we tumble and we triumph. it’s all a part of His plan, I suppose. It’s in the hard that we grow. We grow, my friend. You are growing in leaps and bounds even if feels like you’re still in quicksand. I see it. You are a beautiful person and mother and wife. Shine on..continue growing, my friend.

      Blessings,
      Paul

      1. Casey says:

        “We all have our chicken wire to cross over.”

        Or, in my case, barbed wire to crawl under (like that one time when I ran away from home for 24 hours…)

        For us rescuing types…there’s inner drugs we become addicted to when reacting to other people’s drama. Living in a dysfunctional home, you become acclimated to a certain level of adrenaline to feel ‘normal’.

        I’d been a biologist for half of my adult life, working in the field of DNA (forensics and medical genetics). Even as I understood the science behind reproduction, I still am in awe of how wonderfully made humans (and animals) are. When I became pregnant for the second time (after miscarrying the first time), and saw my daughter’s ultrasound, I burst into tears. Life, our life – yours, mine, my daughters’, everyone’s and everything’s – life is so precious. I recognize that as much as I recognize other people’s indifference to that fact.

        My friend once told me that he didn’t believe humans have drug or alcohol problems, we have living problems. I’ve known since my childhood, when I was 10 years old and visited Auschwitz with my grandmother when we were in Poland, that collectively and individually, we are deeply suffering.

        I thought it was my job to alleviate some of that suffering. I didn’t know that I forgot to try and alleviate my own. I think, in some ways, I helped others so I could hide the fact I needed so much of my own help. I let others need me, but I didn’t let myself need too much from others. The seeds of codependence was planted. In al-anon, they call this para-alcoholism, because we have nearly the same traits as the alcoholic, even though we may never have touched a drop. Alcoholics can get better with recovery programs while codependents can, and often do, get worse if they are not also in recovery programs. I know, at times, I’d been sicker than my husband was.

        My husband now is a healer. When he lost his job in mechanical engineering, he ended up studying massage therapy and craniosacral therapy. With that training, he also started working on his own wounds. He had to, because he knew something inside me broke that last time. I stopped talking for nearly a week. I could barely take care of myself.

        And even though he was partly responsible for that break, he is also a part of my healing. I get free massage and craniosacral therapy anytime I need. It’s part of what is helping me reconnect with him…even though a part of me is so afraid to get as close as I used to be with him. This is why I read your perspective too, with earnest. When I think about you and your wife rebuilding trust…I think…well, just maybe that can work out for us well, too. I don’t know, it just comforts me because I’m so used to the women in my life (my mother and sisters) just bailing on their husbands. It’s beautiful to see the ones that make a commitment to stay and heal with each other. It gives me hope that I can too.

        Thank you so much for the validation and encouragement. I know we are not supposed to look for that validation from outside ourselves, but it is wonderful to have feedback.

        And I know, though sometimes it’s hard for me to see it, I AM cultivating connectedness and making deposits in my daughters’ emotional bank accounts. Tonight, when I laid down with my littlest one before she fell asleep, we had some laughs while we were giving each other a zillion Eskimo kisses. My daughters never cease to amaze me or warm my heart. I’m so amazingly blessed to have them, though I have to say, in the early years, I was so overwhelmed with the three of them under 3.5 years.

        I am more hopeful that I am enough. That the Universe will provide the encouragement and support I need so I can keep moving towards health and wholeness and I am excited about the emergence of my authentic Self. I’m beginning to understand the idea of being “born again”, because in some ways, it feels just like that. It’s been a LONG gestation period, and these birthing pains are only the transition to new Life.

        May you keep growing and keep inspiring others with your message of hope.

        You are amazing.

        Many blessings to you and your family.

        Casey

  9. stephrogers says:

    I am completely in awe of your openness and honesty. I know it is in no way the same thing, but when I came out at 33 and had to bust open my marriage and re-define my identity I went through a similar thing. If I wasn’t a straight, married, mother of three then who the hell was I? I have been in a process of re-definition ever since. It is always a fluid thing but worthwhile navigating in order to live your true life. Much power to you. You have a strength that is seldom seen in this world
    x

    1. I think what you say about re-definition is spot on. We all go through something where we have to smash our old ideas. And certainly you had to do that. I mean, that’s quite the new way of going in your life. And look at where you are now – clearly very happy in your endeavours (following your blog and Twitter, that is!) and having a very strong sense of self. Isn’t that what we all want? I like what you said about this being fluid and navigating through it. It’s people like you, Steph, who inspire me to move further, to not settle for less, and to reach further.

      Thank you so much for this. I am blessed to have you here 🙂

      Cheers,
      Paul

      1. stephrogers says:

        Right back at you. I am inspired by you and your journey. I am so glad for WordPress at times like these. It makes out lives richer.

  10. furtheron says:

    “Dance like no-one is watching.” Ever heard that? I wish I could get close to that – I don’t dance cos I look a total idiot but because I don’t dance I don’t improve if anything I’ve regress in any innate ability I had over the years.

    What’s that to do with this – well that is it for me, I know myself but limit myself due to the external. Why should I care if people say “Blimey, he can’t dance to save his life” – why does that matter?

    Ever looked into the Johari window? Clever little device about what we know about ourselves and what others know about us. Many recovering alcoholics, esp in the blog world, are continually opening up their “open” area through declarations like yours here and mine about my dancing. But also there are many things in my mind similar to dancing like no-one is watching that I still won’t reveal… that’s the work to be done

    1. Yes! I have heard that dance thing. I am like you – I look like a tosser when I attempt to cut a rug. No good can come from me attempting to dance other than the joy of ridicule that others may derive from it. When it comes to dancing, I am better off sweeping the floor beforehand. I know my limits.

      I haven’t heard of the Johari window. Will do that after I type this. I imagine that there is transparency, then there is privacy. I know that there are things that I am not as open about. Perhaps stuff that only my sponsor knows. not so much about the “what I did”s but more about “this is my truth as I see it”. And sometimes I am not ready to be completely revealing about something. Or it’s in small portions, or to one or two folks, as needed. But that’s the work, as you said. I hope to get to a point where things are that open for me. In the end, I see it as a chance to help someone else. The more we share, the more we all can identify.

      Thanks for sharing the dancing stuff, Graham. I know you can play the music that gets them going, but I won’t be dancing. I’ll be sitting and having a soft drink listening, tapping my toes 🙂

      Paul

  11. Dede says:

    Ah, yes. To become a person “who feeds from the light within and doesn’t seek it from externals”. That is the dream, yes? This is brilliant Paul. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much, Dede. Yes, it’s the dream! I certainly wish I could eschew the externals and gain the much required *stuff* from within, but I am not there yet. A work in progress. But I am not bending over backwards for others’ approval as I used to. Back hurts from all that bending…lol. I need to chill out and just take it from within. See what the Creator has down there for me. probably a lot more than I give Him credit for. Hmmmm…

      It’s wonderful having you here and commenting. I very much appreciate it.

      Paul

  12. timiambeing says:

    You seem like you are on a journey, a journey to who you would like to be. It also sounds to me that you have a very good handle on what makes us do the things we do and how we got into the pickles we tend to get into – I had not realised that those support methods were so comprehensive and interesting, great stuff you have learned along the way there. Not just for recovering alcoholics (don’t we just love labels!) but for anyone looking for themselves in amongst all of this and all those others out there.

    Just a couple of things that might help, you are not specifically ‘meant’ to be anybody, it’s your choice, that’s what makes it hard – and that’s what makes it easy. There is no right you and no wrong you, just you becoming. You are in the process of making yourself, and you ARE the process of making yourself – not just this time round, but for always and forever. So for a while there you played the alcoholic, it sounds like you did a pretty good job, plumbed the depths of the character, really got to know the issues involved. It also seems as well as helping yourself out of that particular role when it no longer served, you are also very interested in helping others who are, shall we say, maybe a bit too immersed in the role they are playing to see a way out of it. Its not my place to have an opinion, but if I did have one and I was to speak it out loud, I would say your making a very good case for your life so far. You seem to me to have created a life of great depth and purpose and I am sure when you take a break from things later you will look back and see something similar.

    Just another point, when you say it is the Creators job to nudge you in the right direction now, you intimate that you have let go, released control. So many people have huge issues with this, but doesn’t it feel wonderful just to let go, really let go! The poor old ego works really hard to keep everything on an even keel, to keep you safe and protected, it doesn’t like to think that if it lets go there is something else there to look after you. I think you know there is far more to you than this instance of expression you find yourself in, you are far more than that which flickers into being in this particular space and time probability. If you could see the bigger picture, even for a split second, then the battles you enact here and now would pale into insignificance – but what good would that be to a life well lived?

    Thank you for this post, I have no idea how I came across it!
    With much love and respect – Tim

    1. Tim – THANK YOU.

      I re-read this because you mine so much here, and you give so much here. I am indebted to you for sharing so much of your wisdom and observations here, with elegance and integrity. These are the kinds of comments that make me continue to write in this space. These are the kind of thoughts that really bring things to a deeper level, and for that I am ever so grateful.

      You are correct – I played the character of active alcoholic to its hilt. Nailed that performance. And now this second act starts (or started) and it’s a whole new perspective, a whole new way of life, and it feels like I am only now starting to get the lines from the Cue Master off to the side. Perhaps I am playing small in all of this (a character defect of mine), but deep down I know that I am on the right path. Even if I don’t think “I” (ego) like it, it’s what it is, and it’s precisely where it needs to be.

      I love what you said here – “There is no right you and no wrong you, just you becoming. You are in the process of making yourself, and you ARE the process of making yourself – not just this time round, but for always and forever. ” Bravo! That is what I was trying to get at, but you certainly got it. Succinct, yet profound. It’s exactly what I feel is going on. It’s taken me time to get to even understand this, and so it will be for my time on this earth. We are where we are, as we are needed to be.

      What a trip.

      Thank you Tim, for your fantastic words. I hope that I can find you – I checked to see if you had a place to land your own words. Do you have a blog? I’d love to see more of your thoughts.

      Blessings,
      Paul

  13. Twindaddy says:

    Perhaps the question should be…who do you WANT to be?

    1. You had to muddy the waters, didn’t you?? (just kidding) Actually, it brings new focus and light to things. Who do I WANT to be? Hmmmmm…popular, famous, insanely funny and witty? I can strive for some of that. Stretch myself, put myself out there, get busy, learn something new, tackle new projects. Or do I want to be kind, gentle, empathetic, loving? Well guess what, I still have to put myself out there, get busy, learn something new, tackle new projects….just of a different kind and level.

      I certainly have some things I would like to be. Want to be. But I guess I am at a point where I may not get what I want, per se. And not that I settle for less, but I settle in the place where I am right now. And then move from there. I am certainly getting closer to what I want to be. More open, more willing to be myself, more engaged to others. Not perfect. Some days I want to retreat. But we forge ahead, don’t we? We all have that thing that hold us back. So do I WANT to break through that. Hell, YES. 🙂

      I have to stop now (I have to take my son to karate class, so I have limited time right now) because I will probably start another post right here responding to your barbarically simple but profound question.

      Thanks for this…made me think.

      Paul

      1. Twindaddy says:

        Ha! It already IS a post. I think if you’re happy with you are now then that’s great. Of course there’s always room for improvement, but you don’t want too many goals, because there could be some disappointment that comes with that. After all, you can’t do all the things.

        1. True dat – on all accounts (see? keeping this short)

          onward and upward…

          1. Twindaddy says:

            Woohoo!!

  14. lucy2610 says:

    I so love what you write – every damn time! 🙂 Attraction not promotion indeed xx

    1. Awww thank you Lucy 🙂

      I hope to get back out onto the blogs I love (like yours) and take it all in. I promise to check out what’s percolating over in your corner of the world 🙂

      Thank you for being here…made my day 🙂

      Paul

  15. mike says:

    Pauly, you are your (principled) authentic self.

    My authentic self is in my 4th step. ( A scared little kid who grew up to become angry and self centered adult)

    My ism’s were in force long before I picked up a drink or a drug and have been a control on my life since forever and continue, though to a lesser extent today. As a result of trying to live our principles, my authentic self today is a whole hell of a lot better than it ever has been.

    If I continue honest inventory, asking for help, and trying to do the next right thing, my authentic self will be revealed. All we have is today, so might as well make the best of it and try not to project into the future or past. All I can do is try my best, the future, direction, and results depend on the man upstairs.

    Authentic self is a work in progress.

    1. You always bring it back to the work, Mikey. And for that, I am always indebted to you. Of course…the inventory shows us where we are. My inventory showed that I played the victim card, that I felt both less than and yet better than others, that I lied to protect myself and drinking, that I used others to make me feel better about myself, that I manipulated for the same reason, that I tried to control everyone and everything, that I had major fears of not only failure, but of success, that I loved to self-sabotage and then hide in self-pity.

      I can go on, of course…ha ha.

      So when they speak of spiritual principles, we are asked to find the opposite of our character defects. Dishonesty – honesty. Intolerance – tolerance. Vengeful – loving. jealous – trusting. Arrogant – humble. Etc. So those are the spiritual principles I try to ingrain into my life. Not always easy, but then again, I have my HP there. He’s the shoehorn that slips me into those puppies. He’s the power. He’s the one that shows me the way. So I’ll just let go of the wheel and let Him drive. Nice scenery to watch, anyway.

      You’re an inspiration to me, Mikey. I thank the Creator we crossed paths.

      Big hugs,
      Paul

      1. mike says:

        Pauli-o

        Thanks, pal.

        Try this. Make an inventory of your positive attributes: an itemized list of current assets; a list of traits, preferences, attitudes, interests, and abilities.

        Next to that list: List the defects of character, maladjustment’s, and dysfunctional behavior that hold you back.

        Self centered fear rears its ugly head in a thousand and one different ways. Its up to us to discover these things, so that we can work on them: to bring em out of the dark and into the light and hence to the old man upstairs,

        Wanna know who you are? Do a daily inventory at the end of the day. If nothing else, it will give you some positive action to take for the next day.

        later my man.

        1. You know, I do an (almost) daily 11th step inventory. I follow the questions they ask in the book – was I dishonest? What did I keep to myself? Do I owe anyone an apology? Where was I self-seeking? etc. I have a form for this one that I photocopied a million times. I also go through the day, what did I accomplish, etc. Then I pray and ask that I be of better service tomorrow, learning from today (IF I learn…ha ha). I don’t always get to it, but I try. It’s amazing how much I forget until I need to remember…ha ha.

          I don’t do the assets – my thinking is that I didn’t get drunk because of my good stuff. It’s the self-centered fear stuff that is part of my -ism.

          The great thing about this list is that because I know I am going to do it, I try not to do things that I know will need an amend…ha ha. Right actions into right thinking kind of thing. And it works. I don’t often have to make an amend. Not that I’m perfect of course. I have a lot of course corrections I have to do. Some big glaring stuff that still blocks me, Mikey. But I pray on it and try to make the corrections. Good 6 and 7 stuff. Pray to be willing if I’m not.

          But what you say is truth – we give it up to the Creator and let Him deal with it. I just try to do my part. He may run the shop, but I still have to do the donkey work.

          i used to have a list where I checked off assets and liabilities at the end of day. Maybe I’ll try that one too as see if it jars something loose. I always have a screw or two loose 🙂

          Paul

          1. mike says:

            Paul, Good point. I find that if I only concentrate on revealing defects, I forget about the positives. I need balance, as I still can be drawn into the what I’m doing wrong as opposed to what I;m doing right. This is a partial list.

            Have I started the day with prayer and other spiritual disciplines (such as meditation and reading) to put me in a sound frame of mind for the day ahead?

            How am I feeling in general? Am I well rested and adequately fed? Am I harboring any resentments or fears that may influence my attitudes and behavior?

            Am I right with God, putting my trust and faith in Him and seeking to serve His will in whatever arises during the day?

            Am I being honest with myself and others? Or am I being deceitful and manipulative or otherwise controlling?

            Am I being unselfish and helpful? Or am I trying to use other people to serve my purposes?

            Am I being kind and forgiving? Or am I being ungracious, demanding, and resentful?

            Am I being compassionate and trying to see things from others’ point of view? Or am I trying to force them to see things my way?

            Have I owned up to my mistakes and corrected them? Do I owe anyone an apology?

            Are there things that didn’t go as well today as I wished? What could I have done better? What can I do right now to improve the situation? What can I do tomorrow?

            Did any of my character defects create problems today? Am I staying aware of my defects? And what am I doing to compensate for them or to improve them? Am I making progress?

            Is there anything going on that I need to discuss with my sponsor or someone else? Have I prayed and written about whatever’s disturbing me?

            Am I grateful for my blessings? Am I ready to go to sleep with a clear conscience?

  16. Fascinating post, Paul. As usual, you’ve got the thoughts combusting against the walls of my hungry mind. I think that might be it right there… our minds are constantly hungry for some type of fulfillment. Whether that gratification comes in the form of the bottle or truly chasing after our dreams while managing to have other gravitate toward what we are choosing to put out there… well this, my friend, is up to us.
    My whole recovery has been a constant progression. During the darker days prior to this beautiful time of my life, I always had an image in mind of who I wanted to be someday. But things kept getting in the way and every time I actually thought about putting the bottle of wine away for good, that demon always came knocking down my door, provoking me like some bully. Telling me the only way I was able to make people laugh or be the life of the part was to become drenched in liquor. Well, guess who the joke was constantly on? That’s right.. me. And I was completely at fault. I didn’t have a clue about who I really wanted to be because I never gave myself the chance to grow and learn from my own soul and self-admiration. When we learn to love ourselves, there is a light which generates from our hearts. It’s captivating. People are more inclined to follow us and look up to us instead of run away from us which is what most sane people do.
    I love when you wrote, “I know that real happiness and contentment comes from staying true to myself, and that my serenity soars when I don’t seek approval from the external. And yet, I will sabotage myself. Over and over again. It’s like I don’t trust myself, or trust giving it up. Of letting go.” There was a time when I felt like, “Okay, I can do this. I don’t need to sabotage.” And once things were starting to get better, it was time for destruction to alienate me once again. It was only until I completely removed the problem when I was able to turn the light on inside of me.
    I can only hope and pray our brothers and sisters can give sobriety the time it needs to breath and find it’s way in the world. Everyone’s path is different and all of our journeys through sobriety are going to fan out in different spaces. But here’s hoping more people struggling can find the strength to give it a try. It’s absolute stunning to be in these places now. Magnificent, actually=)

    1. You write such rich and wonderful comments, Gina. Sometimes it’s hard to get back you on these because I just nod and agree and wish that I could have said what you said because you said it so well and eloquently 🙂

      ” When we learn to love ourselves, there is a light which generates from our hearts. It’s captivating. People are more inclined to follow us and look up to us instead of run away from us which is what most sane people do.” I get this…and love this. Captivating is the word. In 12-step parlance, we talk about attraction, not promotion. I tried to attract, and in the wrong ways for the wrong reasons. Hopefully I don’t do that (as much!)

      You certainly attract, my friend. Your spirit shines on 🙂

      Paul

  17. Another insightful, inspirational post. Thanks Paul.
    Sharon

  18. byebyebeer says:

    As usual, you brought up something I will mull over. I’ve recognized that alcohol was a big spirit blocker since around the time I dried up. I maybe hadn’t made the same connection with “our self-seeking ways, dishonesty, ego, pride, fears, etc.” Thank you for sharing what I needed to hear today in yet another soothing, beautiful essay.

    1. I just realized I didn’t reply to some folks here. Yikes! Anyway, better late than never 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words, K. Alcohol, and the things that preceded the booze, were the big blockers for me as well. What a dark, persistent thing we dealt with. Blessed not to have that going on still 🙂

      Paul

  19. Paul, this is such a big topic. A few months before I got sober, I took an online class through Brave Girls Club called Soul Restoration. The basic idea behind it was to close my “soul house” for restoration and kick everyone and everything out. Through art/collage projects and journaling, I was encouraged to restore my soul house and decide who and what to let back in. When I pictured my soul house with just me in it, it was bleak and colorless. The only life I found in my soul house seemed to come from other people. I thought I needed to drink to “be myself”. I thought that alcohol opened up the doors to who I really was but all it did was mask the parts of myself I didn’t like and blur out the good parts that still needed to mature and develop. I could write a book here but I just want to say that I got a lot out of your post and you hit on such important points. Have a great vacation!

    1. Yeah – I’m late on this…lol.

      Thanks for the comments and your online class story. I can relate to that soul house, bleak and colourless. Seems to sum us up the way we were, yes? If I am not careful, I can get back to that place…sans the drink. So being authentic to myself is the only way I can add colour to it.

      Hope you’re well 🙂

  20. stacilys says:

    Hi Paul, you never cease to delve deep into the needs of the human spirit. And your posts always move me. They’re filled with so much emotion and, I believe, are a true expression of your ‘true’ self. You are being open here. You are being vulnerable and transparent. Know that it is much appreciated.

    “mouthwash”
    –I’ve seen this in my dad. It really is the ultimate expression of alcohol addiction. And so sad, really, so sad. Even now I’m almost in tears (but the again I am emotional today).

    I really believe, Paul, that all people, I mean ‘ALL’ people are in desperate need to return to their creator. That it is only then that we can be truly authentic, or at least, on the road to becoming our true authentic self. We are such silly little creatures scurrying around this earth, trying to find pockets of pleasure and tidbits of ‘somethingness’ to fill the void and emptiness that lives at the core of each and every one of us. From Canada to Brazil. From the tribal peoples of Africa to the tribals of the pacific. From Northern Europe to the countries of the Far East. No one is left out. We all have the basic need to find completeness in the one that made us. Humanism has lied to and stolen this from the post-modern world, unfortunately. The amount of teenage suicides in astronomical. And it is no wonder that depression is the disease of the 21st century. Oh, how my spirit is heavy now with this topic.

    Yesterday I posted a poem called, “Humanity’s Search” and gave a bit of the background to it. I quoted St. Augustine. This is what he said:

    Man is prone to a curious feeling of dissatisfaction and to a subtle sense of longing for something undefined. This feeling of dissatisfaction arises from his fallen condition: although he has an innate potential to relate to God or the absolute, this potential can never be fully realized, and so he yearns for other things to fill its place. Yet these other things do not satisfy, and he is left with an insatiable feeling of longing—longing for something that cannot be defined.

    Whether it be alcohol or drugs, or it could be money and material possessions. For some, it’s social acceptance or the quest for the ‘perfect’ body. For others, it’s study, philosophy, religion or the belief in doing good to others. People try and find completeness and fulfillment in one thing or another. When really there is only one way.

    I know this comment is long, but a post as rich and as deep as this demanded such a response from me.

    Many blessings my friend.
    🙂

  21. Here is who I AM & Will always be in Recovery! Keep It Simple!

    *IT’S NOT ABOUT PERFECTION~~IT’S ABOUT PROGRESS*!!

    Great Post Paul….Hugs & Blessings, Catherine
    PS….Thank You for all your Kindness on Twitter! XoXo 🙂 🙂

    1. Thanks Cat! Glad all is well with you these days 🙂

      1. Thanks Paul,
        And hope all is good with you too! Xo
        *Cat*

  22. Dani says:

    Lovely post, Paul.

    1. Thank you Dani – glad you’re here 🙂

      Paul

  23. Well shit, Paul. I’ve just ruined my mascara. Your writing has moved me to tears. Thank you so much for such a wonderful post. It really spoke right to that authentic self inside me. You’re an excellent writer and a shining star.

    1. Rebecca! I was watching you the other day pronouncing “Sanguinity” and it was spellbinding…lol. But thank you for the kind words. I’ll get you more mascara.

      This is the struggle for me forever, methinks…this authentic self. But it’s a noble one for us, isn’t it? Even getting a glimpse of it is better than being left in the dark…which is how many of us lived our lives, drenched in booze.

      Thank you for being here…you keep shining too 🙂

      Paul

  24. “I know that real happiness and contentment comes from staying true to myself, and that my serenity soars when I don’t seek approval from the external. And yet, I will sabotage myself. Over and over again. It’s like I don’t trust myself, or trust giving it up. Of letting go. ”

    This is so me and I struggle with trying to overcome seeking approval from the external. I think one of my biggest issues is comparison, the thief of joy. I have to be like someone else in order to obtain what I want, that I won’t ever receive it just being me.

    I really enjoyed another thought provoking, raw post.

    1. Hi Deanna – so glad to see you here 🙂

      Yes – the thief of joy! And I too feel that it’s one of my biggest issues. I love what you said about not getting what you want if you are yourself. I very much get that. Damn, if I could stop wasting time and energy on trying to be someone else, and just be me…well, things would be easier. And yet, knowing all of this, I will go an jump up and down like a little puppy dog saying “like me! like me!” I seek validation from others. I want approval, in ways. I want to know that being me is okay, because I often feel that being me is NOT enough. So what is the real me? Um….I’ll get back to you on that…lol.

      It’s a tough road, this one, Deanna. I know I am not alone in this.

      Let’s be gentle to ourselves…let that be our goal today 🙂

      Paul

  25. This is a tapestry, several rich posts in one. I wish this were Freshly Pressed, though you had your day in the Sun. =)

    Brilliant, how you got under the cover, so to speak:

    “we concealed our feelings, we concealed the shame and guilt, we concealed our fears and pain. We concealed the truth. We concealed our Authentic Self. ”

    But why? Did all the hiding begin with the shame of the alcohol and the fear of censure? Dominoes from there on? Or did each thing you hid bear its own reason?

    Hope is something I think about – and so find it insisting itself into my writing – a lot. Without it, we’re dead.

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