We all have them.
Those stories. You know the ones – the little tales and fables that we create and tell ourselves over and over again. And sometimes trumpet to others. The stories that we act out on. The ones we rehearse and perform and perfect and groom and preen and fuss over. The ones that adorn us like glittering stones and sunset-coloured scarves.
The little white lies, the booming whoppers, the threads of delusion that shoot through our lives. You know those ones. And we stamp our lives with them like they are golden sheets of truth and hold up to the light of scrutiny.
It’s the things that we tell ourselves and believe them. Things like:
- I wasn’t meant to be happy
- I was never a pretty child
- Everyone I know is fake but me
- Girls don’t like going for a guy like me
- I’m too smart for everyone
- I’m not worth much
- I’ll never be popular
- God has it in for me
- I’ll die drunk and alone
We all have them. And we usually don’t know that we’re telling them.
They just seemingly bloom out of nowhere and coat us. They become harder and shinier, like the armour that they are , the more we tell them. The more we believe them.
And they clog our spirits. They sit on us like scaly deposits that slowly erode the shine from within. They’re lies from within.
I know because I lived my whole life going on the script that was etched early (and later) into my head. By me. I don’t know when I started to think that I wasn’t worth much, that others were more “valuable” than I was, that I was best left alone unmarred by the touch of others like a low caste creature. But whenever that was (and it was early in my life is all I can guess), I started to believe it. Nothing a child wants more than to believe in something that they feel is absolute…even if it is ruinous and corrosive.
And I believed a lot of my own tarnished tales. Believed them as if they were marbles in my hands, warm, wet and hard to the touch. As if they were jewels to be stowed away and kept safe. I still do believe some today.
The one thing recovery has given me is the chance and the ability to peel away these harmful stories. I find it so fascinating that these little things can become such large fissures in our lives, that they can exert so much influence. Tales wagging the dog. They run the show, even though they hold no power on their own. It’s when we plug some juice into them do they loom larger than life. Belief and holding faith in these is all the power they need.
I know that when I embarked on this rich and sometimes rocky road of recovery, there was a lot of this stripping down of old ideas. Working with my mentor and uncovering, discovering and discarding these potentially fatal fables, I was able to see things a little bit clearer. I was able to wash some of the caked mud off the windshield in which I viewed myself and the world.
These days, I get to continue doing that. The chunks might not be so obvious at first, but as I start to figure these things out (or have them pointed out to me), I see that they can easily blind me. I can’t rest on the laurels of my last housecleaning.
I was thinking about all of this the other day, as I found myself collecting some of these chinks of broken armour and observing them. I found that once again, I have been carrying around these simply, but effective, lies.
Here are some recent doozies:
The Story: I’m a very hard working guy. Most people couldn’t handle the kind of work that I do and would be exhausted at the end of one of my typical days.
The Truth: I do work hard, but not always. I can be lazy, in fact. I can spend time at work surfing the internet when I could be finding some meaningful tasks that I am actually being paid to do. I have taken my position at work for granted for a while now, and have been giving myself a sense of entitlement which isn’t good for me, or for my employer.
The Action: I need to get back into doing the things that got me to where I was – leading by example, taking on other responsibilities, cut down on my leisure time at work, get my hands dirtier.
The Story: I have a steel-trap mind. Very self-disciplined, never forgetful, always on top of things. I have a keen brain that is very organized.
The Truth: I am abysmally disorganized at times. At work it’s different – I am very much organized, but in my personal and home life…the opposite. If given free time, I fritter it away, or tidy and clean while more important stuff looms. I could never work out of home – I’d starve. I have no self-discipline to speak of. I rely too much on inspiration, even though that I know inspiration is fleeting, and it’s dogged (sorry) perspiration that wins the day.
As far as never forgetting things, I am, in YouTube parlance, an Epic Fail. I keep things in my daily planner and phone and look at neither. Just today, my wife said, in many more words, that I was a hot mess lately. Even for me. I just can’t remember any dates, get appointments mixed up, and forget things…even when I have them put down somewhere. I need to put post-it notes around to remind myself to look at my phone and planner. Insane.
The Action: Not sure, actually. I have to figure out a way of gathering and organizing my thoughts, my dates and my responsibilities. Any suggestions?
The Story: I am perfectly content finding validation from within. I am so connected to the Creator that what others thing and feel about me doesn’t affect me at all.
The Truth: I still do seek validation from others. Not nearly as much as I used to, but I’d by lying if I said I don’t get twisted up now and then by something someone says about me, or how I perceive someone thinks of me, or if they think of me at all. I still compare myself to others, and tend to count other people’s blessings in envious and jealous manners. I still do peek at my WP numbers, I still see if someone has responded to a tweet.
Living a whole life thinking I wasn’t worth much, I found ways in my alcoholism to do my best to have people pay attention to me. Most failed, but I still tried. Trying to manipulate and control people was one way of trying to bolster my self-esteem. Belittling and putting others down was another way. I don’t do those now, so sometimes I am stuck as to how to feel better about myself. Temper tantrums, in many guises, are still my feeble way of trying to recreate those things. Sick thinking, but luckily they don’t happen all the time.
The Action: Keep trudging the road of happy destiny. Keeping in contact with the Creator, helping others, laying low and just doing the right things for the right reasons will eventually bring me to a greater place of peace, where I don’t need a riot of people patting me on the back, like little Timmy after he lost his dog, to make me feel better about me.
I have more of these, but will skip them for the sake of not making this a duller read.
What I do want to say, is that all of this unearthing and telling on myself isn’t done so that I can feel bad about myself. It’s not to put myself down, or to put me in my place (or maybe a touch of the latter). It’s not about self-flagellation or self-pity. It’s about clarity. It’s about stripping away what doesn’t serve me, and breaking free of the stories that I have always believed. It’s about enlightenment of sorts.
In doing this, I get into the reality of my life, and then see where that leads me. The more I can chisel through the lies, the freer I get. I may not like what I see, but it’s not for me to like. It’s for me to deal with. To ask for help on. To seek alternative ways. To get rawer and eventually stronger. And in many ways, it makes me more human. As I was walking down the street the other day, and thinking these thoughts, I looked around me. I saw people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds. I saw a vast and varied cross-section of humanity going about their business. And I thought to myself. I am nothing special here – I am just another human being just doing what he needs to do to stick around. I am a garden variety drunk in a garden variety world. I am no lesser or no better. Just here.
I am Paul and I’m an alcoholic. I am not a sobriety sage or a master of anything. I am one of Gods’ kids just hoping to do what the Big Guy says enough times not to mess things up more. To do better. To help others. To make life better in some ways.
Tearing away at the fabric which binds me is just one way I can lighten the load and find a clearing in the woods to lay down and do my work…unencumbered by the weight of my own fancied expectations and lies of the mind.
Live out of truth, brutal honesty and the willingness to change. Tough stuff, but I will do what I can. (I was going to say I will do my best, but that would be a lie…:) )
Love and light to all,