So, last week was pretty much hellfire and brimstone aimed at my dwelling. Wish I could say I did the celebrity walkout with explosions in the background…
But I didn’t. Got nicely caught in the crossfire happening in my own brain. I’m still dealing with aftermath and all the beautiful particles and things. I got seriously spun out. Thankfully, I was able to do some energy work yesterday and that was regrounding.
Thing is, I really care about what people think of me. It makes up my value system. Merit badges galore, based on opinion or numbers. Numbers like GPA, or the accuracy percentage I achieve at work for dictating calls. Or opinions deeming me a worthwhile person, a “sweet” person (oh how often I hear those words), a “nice” person, etc, etc, etc. These measure my value and worth.
It was also the standards that in many ways, drove me to alcohol. “If that’s what you all think of me, well I’LL SHOW YOU HOW I REALLY AM!” (imperfect, bitchy, unbridled, that is)
I still haven’t resolved this inner maelstrom, unfortunately. With 21 months of sobriety, it still pops up and I still assign my value to what others think of me, to outside standards. So when someone on the outside confirms my inner insecurity – that I’m not actually measuring up to the standard of “quiet, peaceful nun who makes no waves”, well…cue the explosion pictured above. I crumble because my entire value is dependent on what others think of me.
Most of the time, too, I spend my days rushing around trying to meet standards. My own, or the standards of others. When I was in school, it was professors and GPA. Now that I’m not in school, it’s all about work performance and what my friends think of me. I graduated with my B.A. in December, and when I tell people I graduated Magna Cum Laude, they usually react as if that’s a huge accomplishment. Well it is. But here’s the deal. It doesn’t mean necessarily that I’m just “a good student.” That Magna Cum Laude, for me, is a sign of how obsessive I become about maintaining standards.
I did it in my sobriety for a long time. I still struggle with it. I really care about what other people think of how I’m doing my sobriety. Back a couple of months ago, I realized I needed to change up my sponsor situation. I had been working with my love addiction sponsor primarily and had never worked a full set of steps in AA. There was a variety of reasons I chose to do that (and it was a conscious choice) but they’re not really important and if I explained them, it would be further evidence that I was trying to get your approval. In any case, it was working for me; until it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t, it really wasn’t. So I got a new AA sponsor, who just “happened” to be available right when I needed her. But I had a tremendous amount of shame around the whole thing, so much so that this is the first I’ve mentioned it on here. WHAT would others think of me if they knew? Especially people who I had told that I had a sponsor? Were they all secretly judging my program? What if I wasn’t good enough after all? Since I was basing all my values on things outside of myself, this was a massive concern.
This has all been sending me on a collision course since November, and now I just can’t avoid it. My outside circumstances are almost forcing me to go in. At the very least they’re putting up HUGE signs.
So my head and heart have been in a nasty firefight for almost a week. It completely knocked me off my feet and my thoughts have been drifting through the ozone ever since, dragging my hapless feelings behind them. One outside situation, and boom. It was like a rocket to the moon.
Here is the thing. I can’t measure up to a standard of “quiet peaceful nun.” I don’t really want a 3.83 grade point average. Nor do I really want to maintain 98% accuracy on my calls at work at all times, pushing myself to get there. I can try to push myself into that cage all I want. I can let what others say, think, or do push me into that cage. I can let numbers push me into that cage. But unless I releash the cracken (MWAHAHA!) I will always go back to the things that satisfy the pain of being in a cage… things like alcohol, or men, or more recently, work standards.
(It’s not really a cracken, by the way. Source)
It’s not anyone else’s fault that I got into this firefight. Honestly it’s just a reflection of my inner state and what I am doing. To myself.
But here’s what the bigger, wiser part of me is saying:
Stop trying to live up to standards. Stop trying to be someone I’m not. Stop trying to conform. Stop trying to push myself in a box. Stop being invisible. Stop hiding. Stop running from yourself. Stop the go, go, go that pushes you even further away from the truth. Stop, in the name of love. Before you break my heart.
Do I know how to STOP?
Nope. I am stumbling forward pretty ungracefully. I have help from a really wonderful Higher Power though.
I think some of it means grounding myself on my truth. Some of it means that being an emotional and sometimes erratic person isn’t a bad thing. I am not bad because I am emotional. Some of it means accepting the loudness of my soul. A lot of it means letting myself off the hook and out of the cage. Dropping keys for my beautiful, brilliant, rowdy prisoner (and letting her know that it’s okay that she’s rowdy, it’s really really okay).
It’s reminding myself of this poem I wrote right after I got sober:
You are not incarcerated by fear.
The key is in the space
and the door.
There is no distance between you and freedom.
Stop, Laurie. Find the space. In it lies the key.
8 Replies to “STOP – In the naaaaaame of looooove…”
Laurie, this is so great. I related so much. Just thank you.
Awww thank you for reading, precious Heather! Glad it somehow spoke to you today. Love you much.
I always thought the one thing missing in AA literature, is a chapter on the terrible two’s. The second year is rough. Off the pink cloud and into the trenches-where emotional warfare…..where the war ‘inside’ is happening. All the ‘exit doors’ are a diversion- to whats happening inside.
You know how they say in the church…that once someone is saved, the enemy works double time to get them back? In early sobriety, especially the second year, it almost like the disease is working double time too.
I know this might sound whacked, but I was thinking about what you were saying two sides of the same coin. Its like having different entities inside, no? Two SELFS. The Cane and Abel of Self. Mine say’s”I’m no good.” Or make un attainable perfectionist goals, only to say, see-i told you so. They say I don’t deserve any praise. That I am weak, stupid and nobody likes me. They say put on the mask, so nobody can see the real piece of shit that is I. All day long hearing, ” I don’t like you” coming from inside is hell. Does that make any sense???
Untreated, I think its normal defense mechanism to develop multiple interior personalities and or mask wearing, to even remotely deal with it, and who wouldn’t self medicate?
My ‘little boy Mike’ didn’t stand a chance dealing with that. No wonder he ran off to hide. I used to think, if I ever let that little kid come out of his hiding place that I would start to cry and never stop.
My sponsor has it too. He calls it…the old tapes that play….automatically.
After all these years, I still struggle with this stinking thinking. Thanks to AA and seeking outside help, it is not debilitating like it once was, but I still have my moments.
FEAR —-Face Everything And Recover or Fuck Everything And Run. When I finally realized I was running from myself is when the real work began.
And for me, I dont know the answer for making amends to people that have passed. My experience is that sometimes I feel like I can talk to them, like they are in the same room with me, and I even ask them for advice. I also truly feel like those who went before I got sober, know that I am truly sorry for the way I treated them and they have forgiven. I truly believe that.
And it is tremendously comforting to know that I do not walk alone, and that we will always be together.
I do feel like I’m in the trenches a bit! Although I have to say, so far, my first autumn in sobriety was still my worst to date… ironically, the best though.
I DO feel like my disease is working double time, though! Great analogy. I know exactly what you meant. Used to hear that all the time in church.
And yes – what you said makes perfect sense. Really describes my experience.
Thanks as always for reading; you are right, it is comforting to know we are not alone!
Absolutely love the poem at the end. Beautiful end to an already beautiful post.
Thank you! So appreciate that you stopped by, friend. 🙂