Are you judging your Sober Friends?
I used to drink a lot some nights. Usually when I was confused and uncomfortable. I was very shy as a child, and even through high school. I was awkward, so I didn’t talk that much. And when I did talk, I was too honest, and my directness scared people off, especially men. So, I learned to tone myself down. Alcohol helped me with this. Alcohol shut down my intense personality and made me more accepted. My friends in college used to say there was 2 of me. The sober serious person, and the intoxicated person that lived in the moment and was more fun.
I never thought of myself as an alcoholic, because everybody around me drank. I was one of the crowd, I fit in. Plus there were people doing things way worse than me so I was ok. At least I wasn’t as bad as “so and so”. It made me feel better to point out someone who was really out of control with their drinking and their life overall. A small part of me could feel better about myself, and redeem part of my self-esteem.
But, when I wasn’t drinking my serious side came out and knew the truth. That side of me knew that I was no better than anyone else. It knew that I was using alcohol to cover my awkwardness and the things I didn’t like about myself. And it knew it wasn’t the right way to handle things. That side would look at me and nod her head in disappointment.
So, of course I had to shut her down. And it is hard to admit now that I got sort of a malicious thrill from shutting her up with too many vodka martini’s. I wanted her to go away, because no one wanted to hear from her, not even me. I was doing the best I could, and didn’t need her to point out my shortcomings. Sure the alcohol allowed me to lower my standards, and not defend myself when I should have in my relationships. But who wants that side of me around, she is too serious and causes arguments.
In shutting that side of me down, when I saw myself in other people I had to shut them down too. If I couldn’t be a party pooper then no one else could be one either. If I couldn’t speak my truth, why would I want to listen to someone else’s truth? So I judged. I didn’t want to do the work to bring myself out of the fog, and I judged anyone who did. I avoided them. Also, I was scared, and a part of me knew, they could see right through me. I was like a house of cards ready to collapse, I couldn’t risk being around someone that could take away my false sense of security.
I used to make fun of people that didn’t drink. I used to call them boring and serious, like I thought I was when I didn’t drink. I didn’t like the nerd part of me that got rejected time and time again for standing up for herself. I didn’t like the logical side of me that realized that I was lying to myself. She wasn’t pretty, she wasn’t fun, no one wanted to date her. She needed to shut up and go away. And I wasn’t going to be around anyone who let that side of themselves show up.
But I was wrong. I know that now. I was mean to myself and others because I was hurt. I was not empathetic to others, because I wasn’t empathetic to myself. I didn’t know how to be. I was just trying to stay in the ‘game’ and not be rejected again. I wasn’t strong enough to get beyond it. There were too many layers over the years of cover up. It would take too long to uncover and unwind it all. And even if I did, I didn’t know if it would make me feel any better. Maybe I would feel worse.
But as the years passed, the pain of the cover up finally became too overwhelming. I did hit rock bottom. And it was either go into the darkness forever, or start to climb out. Even after all the abuse my serious logical side suffered at my own hand. She was still there. And she still loved me. I was embarrassed to admit to her that I was wrong and she was right the whole time. And I was ashamed of all the pain I had willingly put myself through when she saw the way out and was trying to tell me, and I told her to shut up. I had to get down on my knees and beg her forgiveness.
And so my journey back to my true self began. The person that I had rejected so long ago was so quiet and scared. I had trained her to be quiet, so I had to untrain her. I had to let her know that it was ok to speak and to feel, and to defend herself. I had to take her away from people that hurt her, and let her know that I knew I would make mistakes, but I would do my best to only have people around her that brought out the best in her.
The journey was slow, and still is. It is frustrating and lonely sometimes. It is not like the urge to shut myself down has ever gone away. I still feel it when I am hurt and confused. Sometimes it is completely overwhelming to me, and I am not sure that I will make it to the other side of that feeling without numbing myself out. But I do make it. I just let the feelings come out, and feel them. And then they slow dissolve. I am teaching myself that it is ok to have bad days, and let myself feel unworthy and sad. Relax into it, and say “I am unworthy” and then once I get really down into it, I almost have the urge to laugh because I see how silly I am being thinking that about myself. It is almost like the bully that is called out into the open and then they back down.
I work on accepting myself for who I am every day. My serious logical side now runs my life, she is actually pretty fun now that I know her better. I don’t know why I was so scared of her. And I don’t know why I was so scared to see her in others. I have gotten to the other side. But I will never forget the person that I was. I was judgemental, I was mean, I did try and put others down to make myself feel better. Now I cringe when I see the old me in others. But the difference is I have empathy, because I know they are operating from a place of hurt. I know because I was that girl.