March Of The Normies


Norm...ie!

Norm…ie!

“There’s no such thing as normal people – just people who haven’t shared yet.” – Unknown

There is a word we bandy around in recovery circles that refers to those who aren’t in the grips of alcoholism or addiction.  A word for those who seem to “get” life and who seem to be gifted with the ability to actually deal with life rather than jump into some addictive or obsessive behaviour.  The word is “normie”.

As in “normal” folk.

We don’t use the word with contempt.  It’s not a war cry.  It’s not something uttered in hushed knitting circles.  We don’t wince or grimace when we speak of the normies.  If anything, there is a sort of reverence for the normies.  We are often in awe of the normies – how fantastic that these men and women can take on life and not succumb to mind and mood altering substances and/or behaviours to numb the pain of just being.  Who are these aliens who can just regulate their emotional temperature simply by allowing themselves to do so?  How dare they show up to the Big Game with their shoelaces double-tied, minds sharpened and bodies at ease?

Normies.  Just how do you do it?

I used to go to work either hung over, with drink in me, or planning my next drink.  I couldn’t leave the house without some numbing booze in me or at least the expectation of some to come.  I dared not plan any sort of interaction with another human without pouring some poison down my throat.  Why?  Why not?  My illness told me that I was worthless and that I couldn’t do anything without alcohol in my bloodstream.  I felt sub-human and I drank just to feel part of the race for a moment or two.  I needed chemical propping to meet the day, or at least just look at myself in the mirror.  I needed armour and a shield to move through the next 24 hours.  I wasn’t enough on my own.

I'm off to work dear - did you pack my Lunchables and my backup Odor Eaters?

I’m off to the office dear – did you pack my Lunchables and my backup Odor Eaters?

So as I made my way to work, I used to look around at the folks around me and would, in all seriousness, wonder how the hell did they leave their homes without some sort of emotional fortification?  I had a hard time believing that those people sitting beside me on the subway or walking with me weren’t on something.  Anything.  I didn’t trust others.  I just wouldn’t and couldn’t understand why these other humans didn’t modify their minds and perspective through some sort of inner chem trail.  I didn’t buy the idea of sobriety in others one bit. But there they went – marching through life seemingly unaltered.

It was early in my recovery when I started to hear about the normies.  As if they were pagan gods – to be be put up on pedestals and worshipped in some arcane ways.  Many spoke of them as if they had the Book of Life and knew instinctively how to manage all situations. Bad day? Covered. Anxious?  Covered.  Broken light bulb? Covered and covered.  Just turn to the index of the mythical tome and boom – there’s the answer.  Normies seemed to have all the answers.  We alkies paled in comparison. We didn’t have the schematics on us.

And that’s the problem – that whole comparison thing.

That's the book I'm talking about.  Mreow!

That’s the book I’m talking about. Mreow!

My father once told me that we don’t know what others are going through, to not make judgements. He gave me the example of some friends who seemed to have it all, but who had some tough issues in their lives.  I couldn’t believe it – you mean those people had problems?  No way.  You want problems?  I have problems, don’t you know? {glug glug} Ian MacLeran once wrote “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  And I have slowly begun to see this.  And it’s changed the way I look at others around me.

What I have come to understand is that brushing all non-alcoholics / addicts with the same brushstroke does them and me a disservice.  I know we say it partially in jest and awe, but that’s just a way to keep ourselves separate.  I realize that in my recovery it’s vital to identify with and consort with other alcoholics.  I realize that in a “takes one to know one” mindset, I can be of maximum service to another suffering alcoholic. But I also realize that over-identifying in that manner also keeps me away from the other 90% of the population I share my days with.

Alcoholics and addicts didn’t invent the notion of isolation and escaping from one’s self.  We certainly perfected it. We didn’t invent the spiritual journey as a way of deepening our connection to ourselves and our higher powers.  We didn’t invent meditation and soul-soothing ways to seek and touch the sacred portion of our inner landscape.  We didn’t invent behavioural modification or talk therapy or any other method others may use in their own recovery model.  We just happened to stumble upon them as desperate acts of healing and recovering from a deadly disease.

"Little dude, what time's the meeting start?"

“Little dude, what time’s the meeting start?”

So I need to get off my spiritual high horse and see that everyone, in their way, alcoholic or not, is seeking.  They may not even know they are seeking.  They may be caught up in their own escapism to realize that they are craving something past the external.  Some never touch that part of their internal lives.  And that’s fine.  I certainly didn’t touch that for 40 years. Or if I did, I recoiled from the pain of self-examination.

That is why I love when non-alcoholics / addicts read and comment here.  I think it’s an honour to have other seekers to add their views and voice to the discussion.  It also shows me that perhaps we have so much more in common than I make it seem like.  The perspective I get from my non-alcoholic friends here is phenomenal.  I learn as much from them as I do from alcoholic seekers.  That’s because we are on the same team, in the end.  I am not different, other than the fact that if I pick up a drink, I have a good chance of dying.  I am not different, other than I just have to be more vigilant and be in contact with others who suffer from what I do.  Other than that, we are looking at the stars from the same vantage point.  From the same dirt ground.

Said high (rocking) horse

Said high horse just rocks, doesn’t it?

Because in the end, normies have their problems too.  To downplay them in comparison to me is folly for both parties.  Non-alcoholics have issues too.  They may not down bottles of rum or pop pills, but people have their ways of escaping.  Good and bad – from reality TV to extreme sporting to gossiping to online porn to emotional eating to video games to overspending.  Karen at Mended Musings wrote something a while back about numbing and how there is a fine line between relaxing and numbing.  Everyone is guilty of numbing out.  And that’s fine.  Nothing wrong with escape now and then, in a healthy and non-destructive manner.

The more I can look at the similarities rather than the differences to others in my life, the more I see that I am just a small, tiny part of this whole thing and that I am no better nor no worse.  Sometimes I will get on the subway, and instead of wondering how these people manage their days and how they are better at it than me, I just think about how we’re all God’s children.  He loves them as they are, and so why shouldn’t I?  And why shouldn’t I do the same for myself?

We all have our fears, resentments, anxieties, phobias, ways of seeing things.  We all consciously or unconsciously seek a way of being in this world, of an inner sanctuary, of serenity.  We seek in different ways, but the goal is the same – to be comfortable in our own skin, to be of service, to leave this planet a better place than it was before we arrived.  Normal is no longer a brass ring for me to grasp.  Just being me is where I need to be.  And that’s it.  Because there are no normal people – there’s just people.

 many-people-holding-hands-j0433005-cropped-medium

43 responses to “March Of The Normies

  1. NORM!!!!

    It’s funny but I’ve never thought of normies as “normal” people so to speak. I don’t think of them as people who aren’t seeking. I always just think of them like people who can drink! Pretty narrow minded don’t you think?

    I guess it’s because, like your dad, I know that what’s on the surface of most people is just their date face. They one they put on for the outside world. The one they can’t maintain for long. Everyone is dealing with something every day of their lives. My mother for instance, was a “normie” by my definition in that one or two drinks and she was finished. But normie by your definition? Oh hell to the no! She screwed me up way more than my alcoholic father!!!

    Interesting. That’s what I love about your posts Paul, they ALWAYS leave me thinking.

    Thank you for that (among other things).
    Sherry

    • I thought you were going “dark” in August…lol. But glad you’re here! Lucky me!

      I too put normies in the category of those who could just drink normally (whatever that means), but it also came to pass that they were the ones able to just manage life. oh what magical powers I bestowed upon them! But you’re right – it’s a date face. We all have our demons, and we just do our best to get through the day, and to also change our lives.

      Thanks for making ME think too, Sherry.

      Hugs
      Paul

  2. Reading through this reminded me of how much I used alcohol to numb out the pain of my past. It worked for a while but it also numbed out any ability to experience any real joy. I had myself convinced that I could only relax with a bottle, so when I got sober I had no clue how to relax. I looked to the ‘normies’ who didn’t drink for some ideas, which was a complete turnaround in my thinking. Normies for me were boring, dull people who had their lives under control because they didn’t do anything exciting – like drink. And of course they had no problems. There were no problems left in the world because I had them all!
    What I love about your posts Paul is that they leave me thinking of how grateful I am for my recovery and how much I have changed for the better. Now I know we all go through stuff and we all have our own way of managing the hard times. I’m glad to be a ‘normie’ 🙂

    • When you were talking about how you couldn’t leave the house without drinking first, it reminded me of my husband to the T. He wakes up hung over, it’s the hair of the dog, wakes up feeling good, lets celebrate. He takes a cab to work bc his license has been suspended for a few years (thanks to two duis) so why not have one before work (he’s a chef nothing major) I was never that bad. I would binge drink, every night. Bad day? Sure. Good day? Sure. There was always a reason behind it and it was usually until 10 pm so I could still get up for work. I wish there was a handbook on dealing with other ppls addictions. I used to think “he can’t sped one day sober with me? God am I that annoying?” Then we got married so I figured that couldn’t be it. I wish he’d seethe light like I did. Life is scary sober, for a little while. It’s like when you learn how To ride a bike. You start with training wheels (a beer or 4 before leaving the house) then you work up to doing it on your own (staying sober until you get to where you’re going) ad you may fall sometimes and it may hurt (tears anxiety anger) but you end up doing it. To the point where you can go with no hands (sober through the whole event) and its amazing. I got engaged, married and pregnant all within the last year of my sobriety and i did it all sober. It’s absolutely amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! Nice piece 😃

      • Sorry to hear about your husband. I’m a chef too…lots of us in that industry. It’s a big thing in that world…the drinks after work (or before / during). Not a big deal often…unless you’re one of us and it becomes a really big deal.

        I am really happy for you in terms of coming to grips with your own drinking…and wow, lots to show for in this past year! It’s not easy, and requires vigilance, but we do it. Congrats on the preggers 🙂

        I hope your husband can see how it is like to be healthy and sober. You’re the best living example for him.

        Thanks for being here.

    • “There were no problems left in the world because I had them all!” Well doesn’t that say it all! I laugh because I was there too. “If you had my problems, you would drink too!” I’d shout to nobody in particular.
      I love how you said that normal people were “boring” – and in many ways I feared that would happen to me too. Sure there is very little drama these days, but is it possible that being content is the new normal for us? Lack of drama and feeling a lot more comfortable in our own skins might seem boring, but seems right to me. We’re all just figuring this thing out as we go along.

      Thanks for being here to help me through this 🙂

      Hope your weekend was a great one.

  3. You hit it on the head – there are no normal people, just people. Normies are a myth like unicorns and mermaids (don’t tell my 4 year old). I have never met anyone who doesn’t have emotional issues and most people I know have abused alcohol/drugs/food/sex/shopping/games/exercise/whatever at one time or another but they don’t necessarily identify as addicts. We’re all on our way somewhere and we use different coping mechanisms and tools to step out into the world each day. Great post Paul and thank you for the mention!

    • You nailed it all in one paragraph Karen – how dare you!? lol. But I guess I wanted to acknowledge the fact that I tend to put people on pedestals and then later (much later – I am slow to things) realize it ain’t cool to do so. As you said, most people have abused something or other. My wife likes her reality TV shows. She doesn’t “abuse” them, just enjoys them. That’s her numbing out / decompressing. She can moderate. I can’t – in much of what I do, even today. But that’s another topic 🙂

      No worries about the mention – as soon as I started writing this, your post popped up in my head (they all tend to stick with me in some way).

      Have a great weekend!

  4. So well said! I was just telling my “normie” friend today how I wish she could come to this women’s meeting with me because she would love it (it’s closed). Heck, I think most people would get a lot out of our meetings alcoholic or not!

    • You know, I was explaining 12 step to our case worker for our adoption (about two years ago) and she really listened and when I was done, she remarked “I think everybody would benefit from doing them.” Bang on. Imagine if everyone made amends, wrote inventory, did prayer and meditation, etc…what a different planet we would have. Pipe dream, of course, but people do parts of these things in their own journeys (confession, etc).

      Thanks Chenoa for your comments! Have a wonderful weekend!

  5. Old saying is that normal is a setting on the washing machine not what people are. Each one of us is a unique creature of God that has their own story and perspective and something to contribute if they let themselves.

  6. Omg! So glad to have “met” you on twitter today. We have a lot in common. For instance, I used that “Norm” picture in a post last week but it was about me being the “Norm!” at the local ice cream shop as I comforted myself with food, and food, and more food daily until I put down the sugar.
    I don’t call myself an alcoholic as I haven’t struggled to put alcohol down. But I have quite a history with alcohol- I started getting drunk at 11- even showing up to 7th grade absolutely hammered. (that got me a trip to the social worker’s office)
    Mainly alcohol helped me to improve upon my game as a sex and love addict as I found it much easier to sleep around while intoxicated—and easier to drown rejection than to deal with it.
    I put down the alcohol when I took my sobriety in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous seriously.
    I get the “normie” reference…although I think almost everyone has at least one vice- lots of people eat to drown sorrow or loneliness. The term I always felt confused by was “Earthling.” Anyone else hear that term in recovery?

    • I love the “earthling” term. I guess human is the same. We all have our thing, I suppose. Alcohol is certainly a gateway to many things for many people, even if alcohol itself isn’t the main issue. I knew a guy who did coke, but only after drinking first. He would never jump on the stuff sober.

      But I certainly understand how alcohol worked for you in those situations (i read some posts in your blog and understand a bit more of your story there). Loneliness is a big thing for us, isn’t it? Hopefully we get to surround ourselves with positive people who enrich our lives.

      Thanks for popping by – great to have “met” you too 🙂

      Paul

  7. Life can be hard for Normies too!!! I am one of those, I have to be for my job. I have to look as if I have it altogether, nothing fazes me and that I have no personal issues or even, suffer any health problems. Because if I didn’t appear that way, my patients would lose confidence in my abilities, my staff will question my decisions and my juniors will doubt my judgement. I think sometimes people forget we are human, like everyone else. You are right, there is a human being, with human weaknesses, strengths, triumphs and failures behind every Normie!

    • Yes – that was my point! lol

      I can’t believe that on top of all your stresses and pressure, you have to put up such a distinguished and steel-like front. That’s a lot of work 🙂 But I understand – at work I do have to put up some veneer to keep the troops in line. I have come to know that staff can smell out doubt and fear. So even when I am not 100% in my decision, I stick to it. But I can also apologize if I steer the ship the wrong way, or show that part too, so that I am not a robot…lol. It’s all about balance. sounds like you have a great command of your inner landscape and how to manage things. But we all have our days, don’t we 🙂

      Thanks for being here, Tiff (one of my fave normies…lol)

  8. Hi Paul – The whole idea of normies had me thinking that most other people were like unfeeling or cold or just didn’t have the passion and verve that I did – or other alcoholics do.
    I still lean slightly towards alcoholics as “more human than human” and that this cruel gift we are living with is a lens that not everyone else has the privilege of looking through.
    So I’m not looking down on normies with all their cold steel handling abilities, but sheesh – some FEELING? please! Anyway, not to get worked up about it.

    • I know what you mean by “more human than human”, and in some regards I would agree. We certainly have the distinction of seeing things in a different light. A light that we had no choice but to get to or die some horrific death. I certainly didn’t necessarily get into recovery on a roll and streak of good tidings. I got into broken and it’s after doing some work I can see just how wonderful this thing is.

      At the same time I wouldn’t impugn others who don’t go through hell and back like we have. I know that’s not your intent, and perhaps I am misreading it. I think others tap into something that we have either had to work for or are still seeking. Or not. Some still struggle. I am still in awe of my wife and others in my life who have instant access to their emotions and can decipher and verbalize it well. I am still a lagger in that department. So while I can have heavy and deep conversations with an alcoholic I’ve met right away, I realize it’s not appropriate with a stranger off the street or someone at work perhaps. Doesn’t mean that they don’t have depth of emotion, but it’s just a different vibe I guess.

      In the end, we all have our thing I guess, eh? 🙂

      Glad you’re here – happy to have crossed paths with you 🙂

      Paul

  9. Just how do they do it? Still I people watch and ask myself that very question. How DO people make their way through this life of ours with sober minds? Observing people navigate their daily lives was like watching a nature documentary. I think that I’m just, for the littlest of bits, ready to consider the idea that we each on unique journeys together.

    Thank you yet again for sharing your thoughts and observations.

    • I laughed at the line about watching them like a nature doc. True! That’s a great way to look at it. But all the folks I know who are not alkies and who are not in recovery for something will tell you that they too have their own stuff they go through. They have their issues (small and not so small) and that’s just how it is. I have to see that I am neither better than or less than them. I’m just imperfectly me.

      Thanks for being here – means a lot to have you here. 🙂

      Paul

  10. Hey Paul. Once again, great post. I love your thoughts on this. I would never consider myself a ‘normy’. I use to be dependent on marijuana (back in my wild and crazy days), and think that I do have an addictive personality to a certain extent. I have a really difficult time being balanced. I’m either black or white. Trying to learn the grey areas a bit more. My dad was an extreme alcoholic and it eventually led to his death. I had the amazing and privileged opportunity to help him make his peace with God before he left this world, or as we like to say in ‘Jesus-people’ corners, “When the silver chord was severed” 🙂 .
    You know what though Paul, you’re so right. We all have our vices and problems. I’ve heard it said before that people turn to religion and use it as a crutch. We all have our coping crutches. I wouldn’t say that my faith is a crutch, not in the negative and impersonal coping way at least. I would say that I’ve found what was missing all along. The last puzzle piece is finally in place. And then again, I shouldn’t say ‘I found’, but that it was freely offered me.
    Love your writing Paul. You always make me think and appreciate you.
    🙂

    • No need to apologize for your faith, Staci (although you may not have been doing so). I fully understand finding that missing piece, and you found it. I have found mine…it just took a beating and a half to get to it. And even then, I still need to work on it (and indeed I need to work on it these days).

      As mentioned, the moniker “normie” is just a term we use…I don’t put as much stock in it as I used to. It’s not a word that I use much any more as well. Perhaps in some recovery context at a meeting now I might use it, but I prefer to look at the similarities rather than differences. It’s important of course I identify and share my experiences as an alcoholic, but outside of that I just like the idea of being another human here with the rest of y’all 🙂

      Thanks again for your words…I now have to look up “severing the silver cord” 🙂

      Hope you’re well.

  11. Well written Paul. The most understandable post on adiction that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Apparently not having an addictive personality (I’ve abused alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, crystal meth, food, etc and have just walked away from each with no lingering desire.) I have never understood why recovering alcoholics seem to think they are so different from the rest of us. I realize that it takes a strong focus and continual vigilance to beat alcoholism, but to me that does not mean the difference is complete. I was a guest at an AA meeting once – I went with a good friend of mine who is 25 yeras sober – and I saw a room full of regular people who were addressing their problems with the help of others. I did not see a room full of people who I could not understand.

    Anyway, our similarities are far greater than our differences. Thanks for a great post.

    • Thank you Paul for this. It means a lot to hear you say these things. And it’s important for me to see these things myself. I think many of us are on a spiritual path, and I see that it’s not important what the impetus or catalyst is for such journeys. The fact that we are seeking is enough for me, and that means I get to cross paths with wonderful folks like yourself who seek and can share their own experiences in a manner that benefits us all.

      We talk a lot of about “service” in AA, and usually that means doing work at the AA level – running meetings, making coffee, etc. I don’t often do it because my work schedule changes every week, so I can’t be counted on to make my commitment. But I try to be of service in other ways, even if it’s small, and usually it’s outside the church basement. So that has helped me enmesh my program with “normal” life. We are certainly more similar than not, and am finding labels a little less tasteful for me. In the end, I do use my alcoholic background to help others identify and help them, but outside of that, just chalk me up as “human”.

      Thanks for your wise words

      Paul

  12. I used to (and still do to a lesser degree) walk around thinking everyone else “got” life while I was floundering around. I wasn’t even drinking when I began to feel that way. What I’ve come to realize is that a lot of people are just better at faking competence. I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner, it’s just not something I have an ability to do. But certainly drinking took away uncertainty.

    • I am with you about feeling that way before picking up that first beer. We all have that in common I think. I think what you say about faking competence…I understand what you say. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and so I end up being a bit more “authentic” to myself than I used to be. Are others the same? No idea. I can only focus on things for me. So perhaps others (non-alcoholics) see things in a different light, yes. So like you, I can only see things as I see them, and that is often through the lens of recovery, although I see that my path often crosses the paths of those who aren’t in recovery. Or at least to those I am spiritually attracted to.

      I am rambling, but I agree with you 🙂

      Thanks again for the read and comment 🙂

  13. Dear Paul,
    I still remember the first time you kindly called me a “normie.” I remember chuckling and thinking, “I’m a horrible example of normal.” Then I got all introspective and anxious like I always do when I wonder about things. And life. And stuff. And kids. And AUGHGHGHG!

    Breath.

    You hit the nail on the head with your very last sentence. We are all just people. For the first time, I really looked at your “Carry the Message: gravatar and it gave me goose bumps and an epiphany. It’s very obvious that God, the universe…someone…has put you here to carry and proclaim this message. I was drawn to your words from the very beginning and it’s a post like this that reminds me why.
    Much love to you and yours this week, dear Paul. xo

    • Awww..this just blew me away, Michelle. This is exactly something like the Laws of Attraction were made just for you. You are nothing but positive energy out here, and in return it comes to you. I am very blessed to get a tiny chunk of that here…it illuminates the room nicely thank you very much, as it does my heart.

      I haven’t been proclaiming much lately, but I know that is part of the work I myself have to do. Get back out there in the real world and do what I do here, or at least try to!

      Anyway, thank you so much for this – made my evening…it really did. Much love back.

      Paul

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