As a part of that
little gargantuan 12-step program I’ve returned to recently, I’ve found myself in the decidedly uncomfortable position of having to ponder honesty and “normal.” Normal would seem to be easy, particularly since I typically dismiss the notion–I’ve been known to ban the word from my classrooms because it is too ill-defined.
Which is precisely the problem now. What the hell is normal when I find myself asking, “well, what do normal people do?” The most obvious for instance is, of course, “how do normal people drink?” Clearly, normal doesn’t consume alcohol like me; I’m in a 12-step for a reason. Truth be told–see that? Honesty–alcohol isn’t the only reason. I am a sick, obsessive fucker and my particular brand of alcohol consumption is merely one symptom of the sick, obsessive fuckness. Consequently, I find myself in the position of questioning a great many things I do out of habit and wondering if Normal Folks ™ do that (fill in whatever that you desire). I’m fairly certain that this is not particularly productive thinking, but it’s kind of fun sometimes.
A weirder for instance: how do said Normal Folk relax? Even without alcohol, I isolate, usually through music. Anyone who has survived and/or participated in and/or been subjected to and run screaming away from my myriad musical obsessions can probably testify with some level of accuracy that I use music to keep people and–more often–thoughts at bay. If I want to hear a particular album, woe be tide he who attempts to hold a conversation with me. Weird, of course, because I also see music as one of the great points of connection to other humans in my life (DD & Rhyte, I’m looking at you). But, let us agree, isolation is sort of my schtick; I’m here, after all, translating these thoughts onto the keyboard, rather than, say, reaching out to a voice or a face.
Then again, writing provides me with a solace that few other outlets provide, and writing here at least allows that someone, somewhere hears/sees/listens/understands, which keeps this from being a act of complete isolation. That being said, would the Normal Folks ™ in the room please stand up and take a moment to confess? How do you listen to music? Drink? Engage or reject life? And do you worry about it?
I’m not really worried about what normal does, really (which is good, since I can’t name normal). I embraced a philosophy rejecting whatever it is that occupies “normal” in my head many, many long years ago (anyone who remembers the pink hat–and, god forbid, the pink dress from yon about age 13 or the zebra obsession–I apologize here and now for the visual assaults you survived–probably also recalls that–assuming you didn’t block the horror– that I relished the whole “Why be Normal?” bit). An since I don’t have a flaming clue what constitutes normal and have no real ability nor reason to try to assess the relative normal of anyone else, I can’t be worried about it. Curious, obsessive, and occasionally giggly, but not worried.
And then there is honesty, which is the heart of the first step. I realized, listening to scores of speakers of late, that I’m not sure I can tell my story honestly. I’m not even sure I know what my story is, I’ve spun so many evasions about who and how and why and what I did. How sick is that? I feel not just a bit like that that pink-behatted 13 -year-old: who the heck am I, and how did I get here?* I have to be able to tell my story–warts, frogs, unicorns and all–I know that. I’m just nor sure how, nor am I sure where to begin. And, despite typing endless confessions here, I think I’m scared to death of my own story–I’m afraid not just of what someone else might think of me for it, but I’m terrified of what I’ll think of myself.
I recognize my imperfections–hell, much of the time I revel in them (particularly the obsessive streaks), and I know, what with being human and fallible, I’ve done some terrible things to people I care about over the years–while drinking and while sober. I can recall so many times that I said anything–anything at all–to push someone else away–to build a wall and, yes, isolate when I got too uncomfortable or–more often–too comfortable. I am fortunate that some of these good people have seen fit to allow me back in their lives, despite my actions and inactions. Better people than I deserve to have in my life.
So, here I am, day 39 (thank you AA sobriety calculator), scared witless, trying to keep the cotton in mouth and out of the ears, and trying to just think straight, which is definitely not a normal condition for me. Honest confession? I’ve never been more scared of anything in my entire life. While I know I can’t treat recovery as a test that I can study for (er, or not, if we want to be faithful to the student analogy), ace, and forget about, I usually handle fear like this by running straight into whatever it is that scares me (which could be read as good or bad here, depending on whether I phrase this as running to or from recovery–is it recovery or failure that scares me?) and that is not a, as they say, a particularly spiritual (or, often, safe) practice. But, fuck, I am scared stiff this time, because I can’t fail–I can’t forget why I surrendered. I’m pretty sure that I won’t survive another relapse.
*Questions such as this are, I suspect, why 12-Step programs advise against making drastic changes in your life in the first year of sobriety. Wisdom, that one.