Friday, February 20, 2015

Hurt Sometimes

There have been two big hurts in my two years of recovery. Both happened with me: that is, I was a part of the hurt.

The thing about hurt is that it really wants blame. It wants a face to glare at, a person to shake a finger at: you did this to me. Like all things scuttle and switch their feet for balance hurt does too. And there can be fault, and there can be blame. After some time I forgot about blame and fault and realized that I was ok again.

Both of these things were disagreements. They were instances where I thought one way and someone else thought another way and although I thought we thought the same way we couldn't or wouldn't meet in the middle. These come and go in my daily thinks inventory: some days my heart hurts, some days my head hurts, some days I don't think of them at all. I have distance from both things and so I have lost the urge to be right, but I still feel sad about it, mad about it. Some days.

The other day I saw one of the women from my old recovery group. It was so lovely to look at her grinning face and hug her close and remember that deep down without words she gets where I'm coming from. That is a comfort I share with few people in my life so it was such a good feeling to hear her say kind words and to say them back. It was a balm to my spirit to remember that this woman is in my corner, that she would help me if I needed her. I was sort of collateral damage in my leaving of the group, I was in the hurt, part of the hurt- but I didn't make the hurt. Even so I had to quit the group to honor my own self.

There are things I no longer stand for.

There are so many things that have nothing to do with me. There are things that happened to my parents that shipwrecked them both, things that happen to other people that I can't help, control, or even know about. These things made me so careful with others that I forgot to be less breakable for myself. Both of these hurts came from me standing in my own two feet and saying my own brave truth. In both instances I lost something: a dear friend, a recovery group. But to sit quiet and muzzle my own self would have hurt worse in the long run. That's what I used to do: remain silent. Since I started silent I had to stay that way. Now I am allowed to say what I mean because it makes me who I am: me.

I've been thinking a lot about impermanence. About how, when my six year old cries because he doesn't want to take a shower, it just won't last forever. About how some days I feel angry, or happy, or calm, or extra hungry. But no matter, because it will be different tomorrow, or next week, or by 3 o'clock. I've been learning to live in the moment by recognizing that it is really just one moment. I've been thinking about how when I'm looking for my piece of just right it is already that way because it keeps changing.

I thought I would drink forever. I thought that because I did and had it was the way I would always be. I'm learning that I can change course midstream. That maybe because even though I believe a friend is forever we may change and not be forever and then that's ok. I can take the parts of our friendship that taught me and use those forever. That a group can help me for a time and then I can do what's best for my feelings and not make it right for anyone but me. That because something is true today it does not have to be true tomorrow, or even for the rest of today.

I think about how much I have changed in the past couple years. How I used to be afraid to care for myself. How I would go out of my way to make it ok for others even when it wasn't ok for me. I think about all the times, the hundreds of them, that I put up and shut up because it was easier than doing something hard: sticking up for myself. I have been practicing disagreeing and compromise, along with ignoring the fairy tale that is all or nothing. I have been honoring the power of somethings. Some things. I have been trying to be graceful and not too clumsy, and I apologize when I get ham-handed. Happily some people love me anyway.

In that wonderful way the universe has of giving me a pat on the back I saw another of the women from my recovery group yesterday. It's been such a nice surprise to see two of them because I haven't seen anyone since I left the group around June-ish. We hugged the same heartfelt hug. We looked into each others eyes and no time had passed. It made me miss group- the way it was before everything went all sideways. I really dig the way that when I've shelved something the forces at work remind me to take another look and see how I'm doing.

It's hard to explain the mechanics of loss- what it means to lose a friend, or a group. What it means to plod on. How in that moment it all feels gigantic and huge but then time keeps passing and somehow I get healed even when I think that could never be true.

There's a reason why it's called "growing apart". Because even though I am being apart I am growing- and because I am growing maybe things just aren't matching up the way they used to. That while I am growing everyone else is growing too. Growing apart doesn't have rules, and just because I grow apart it doesn't mean I have to stay apart, it just means there needs to be some stretching room- even if that room gets to be stretching months or years. Part of stretching can always be a bounce back to check- and part of growing is knowing if it's the right thing for me to do so.

This moment isn't really forever. The labels you and I give ourselves don't have to stick. Life things that get too tight or too loose don't have to be made to fit. Today I am open hearted and kind, tomorrow I have no patience for anybody's shit.  Seeing that things aren't permanent helps me see the levels and layers of what I thought was only my simple self. It helps me try things again, do-overs that were maybe meant for another time after I'd had more practice. Because I change every day my life can change every day too- and that isn't bad or wrong, it's just different. It feels different to wave like seaweed when I want to be stock still like a stick in the mud. But all of this gets better with practice. I keep practicing waving around, and I keep getting more comfortable at it.

It helps me know that some things aren't forever- and that's totally fine. When I can see past the permanence of the moment and be comfortable in the sometimes of it all I can handle things like hurt and shift with the bravery and grace my self deserves. I can see that maybe things aren't always like they seem- that retrospect (looking back) and introspect (looking in) can give me the perspective (looking around it all) that allows me to flow with my life instead of fighting against it. That I can be hurt, and feel hurt. But I am not hurt. Only sometimes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Socially Awkward

I've been having a thought provoking back and forth with a pen pal about social anxiety. I have always been uncomfortable in social situations. I don't like small talk. I'm not really all that patient with meeting new people- I kind of just know if you are my sort of person. As I've grown older I have stopped trying to be friends with everyone and just tried to be friends with people who feel like part of my tribe. You know the feeling- you just click with some folk. You recognize them. This can take time, and now that's OK- you know how when you're hammered you are immediate BFFs but without the booze you actually have to take the time to get to know people?

For a long long time the only people I recognized were the people who could drink as much as I could. It was my main requirement for a friend. I discovered that reality a few months in to being sober when I was friendless, and so it stands to reason that my close friends now are people I haven't had a drinking relationship with because they are people I chose with my heart and not my tolerance.

So, say, ten years ago, I was in a social situation. I would beeline for the drinks. I would have had a few at home to loosen up- you know, because I am pretty socially awkward and booze made it easier to talk to people. I was more charming, funnier. I was a sparkling conversationalist. Because I am more at ease in small intimate groups the booze made bigger social occasions more fun. Wrong. Totally wrong.

It made it so much worse.

Thinking back on it I realize that drinking made me extra incompetent at handling gatherings- public or private. I would worry always about several things- would there be enough to drink? How much could I drink and not black out? Would anyone notice I was drunk? Would I do or say something embarrassing? Would I remember enough of the details of the evening so I could do damage control the next day? While I was paying attention to all that stuff I was never really paying attention to where I actually was. I was in my own obsessive drinky la la land. No wonder it was never any fun and made me nervous- I never was actually at the place where I was. Plus the people I thought were my friends we people I never really connected with- they were drinking buddies. The way I drank didn't allow for genuine close relationships to develop. I was never comfortable enough being myself.

I think about the lot of us that started drinking to ease the discomfort of social situations in the first place. What a mistake that was! In my entire drinking career it never got easier to be at a bar or a party. That solution never worked. I think about the group mentality that (here in America for sure) the best and brightest are the ones who love to be social and a popular in their peer group. I think about people like me who don't like parties or big to do's. How would things be different if I'd known at fourteen that having one or two close friends was the right thing for me? That my weirdness was OK, and that not every single everybody wanted to be a Guess jeans wearing adorably dumb in class cheerleader? How would have been to know that at twenty-four? At thirty-four?

Drinking made me even MORE socially awkward. It didn't make me more of myself- it made me even less of myself. It works for some people- but it didn't work for me. I suspect, if you're reading this, that it didn't work for you either. Now that I'm sober I can be in a group of people and just be quiet. I can not have to talk at all. All the mental chatter about my drinking and how much people are liking me is quiet too because I can sense how I'm feeling. If I need to leave early I leave. If I need an excuse to walk away I just head for the bathroom or just say excuse me. (wow!)

I'm not a big fan of the label "social anxiety' because I think it lumps us all into a ball and it sounds pretty negative. I am a big fan of labels like "introvert" and "extrovert" because I think it helps us to understand the sort of people we are. Of course we all feel totally weird and uncomfortable when we're freshly sober. It takes practice to get that ease. Of course some of us love parties and loads of people and some of us want things to be more low key and small. Of course meeting new people is hard and a little scary. So some anxiety is totally normal.

So much of what we feel seems so permanent at the time. It seems like things will always forever ever forever always be just like this and never be different. But it will be different. With practice anxious becomes uncomfortable. With more practice uncomfortable becomes knowing. And with knowing comes ease.