Yesterday was one of those days.
The first upset came via email from a person I have to deal with in a non-profit I volunteer for. This person did something really offensive and I’ve been left to deal with it. Despite their attempts to drag me down into the mud with them, I’ve stayed on my moral high ground and refused to engage at that level. I’ve managed to stay professional with them face-to-face, but behind the scenes I’ve been ranting to anyone who would listen about how much I dislike and distrust this person. This tendency to talk about people behind their backs is one I really dislike in myself, and I need to work on it, but it’s not what really disturbed me about the exchange. What I am really mad at myself about is that after we exchanged a few civil emails I actually made a joke. As if I liked this person. As if I had forgiven. As if everything was okay. And it’s not okay.
Later on I was talking to my parents on the phone. My sister is going through a rough time in her marriage and my parents are really worried about her and her kids. Her husband, to put it mildly, is a total douche bag. At one point it was just my mom on the phone and she said something like, “I know Suzie and Bobby will be fine even though their dad is a jerk. You and your sister grew up with one really great parent (meaning herself) and one so-so parent (meaning my dad) and you turned out just fine.” WHOA. Talk about living in a fairy tale mom. My mom was the ultimate absentee parent. Even when she was physically present she was mentally off somewhere else. She never played with us, never talked to us, never showed concern for us when we were little. And she thinks she was really great?! But did I say anything? Nooooo. I just blathered on about “acceptance” and “not being able to change other people”. My feelings of anger, disbelief, and resentment which rose up on hearing those words were stuffed back down inside of me. To be bottled up, ignored, and forgotten if possible. And that’s when I realized that my old, insidious habit of not dealing was still alive and well.
I used to avoid dealing with my feelings by drinking. Now I avoid them by using the teachings of AA. Someone hurts my feelings? Accept it, look at my part of it, and let it go. Someone pisses me off? Tell myself I can’t change them so there is no point in confronting them about it. I’m still hiding, still stuffing, still avoiding, just in another way. And that’s not how the program is supposed to work. As my sponsor once said “Just because you accept someone as they are doesn’t mean you have to be their doormat.” I need to learn to speak up when I hear, see, or feel something wrong. I need to be my own best defense. I need to stand up for me. I can still strive for acceptance and serenity, but I shouldn’t substitute them for dealing with life.
This is all hard for me, because I. DON’T. DEAL. That’s why I’m an alcoholic! I hate confrontation, even when I am in the right. I hate loud voices, angry words, criticisms, blame, shame, and all the rest that in my mind are a given in conflict of opinion. I hate conflict, period! I’d much rather shut my mouth and stew in silence than dare risk any of that. But if I am going to truly recover I have to do it. I have to break the habit of silence.
Today is my 8 month sobriety anniversary. To celebrate I give you one of my favorite songs: “Breaking the Habit” by Linkin Park. You’re welcome.