to be loved means to be recognized as existing

I gotta talk about something important to me, and that is: my drinking. Or no wait, my non-drinking. My life in sobriety, a life without self-medication. And how it’s important to me and how, even if others don’t understand, it has everything to do with this current challenge: the most sensory-saturated, busiest, most (potentially) frenetic and active vacation my family has ever, ever taken. Hands-down.

I gotta talk it out because it’s how I stay sane and maybe, just maybe, it will help someone else to read.

Look, in my former life this conference would have driven me to drink. Not because it’s bad, but precisely because it’s mostly a whole lotta good. It’s exciting. There are literally a hundred things to do in just a few days. There are kids, mine and others, having a great time but also needing some TLC. There are smiles and laughs and more people to meet than one could possible remember. There are hundreds of things to buy and there’s three meals a day (ish) to find. There’s swimming and park playdates and walks and hot baths and hotel room straightening out and keeping track of clothes and phones and computers et cetera et cetera.

So this is all wonderful. No doubt. And yet there are potentially very dark sides to all this. First, I’m surrounded by people, and in most my life I am very used to having my own space on a daily basis, day in and day out. This is a huge, huge difference from my typical day. Second, I’m meeting new people (some of whom knew me or had internet-acquaintance with me) and this carries all sorts of potential awkwardness or weirdness – the potential for one or the other party to feel snubbed or out of sorts or hurt or betrayed. The potential for me to disappoint those who thought they might like me, but change their mind once they met the real thing. (In fact just tonight I was remembering another IRL meetup from several years ago… one that went in a most socially-disastrous fashion and resulted in more drama than I was able to gracefully handle.)  To my surprise, a handful of people here have known me or known my writings (or in rare occasions, my reputation!) and introduced themselves, and I often am at a disadvantage, given my blog and Twitterfeed (et cetera) all carry my somewhat memorable name. And this isn’t exactly the kind of environment that lends itself to an intimate cup of tea with each one of these individuals. Um, at all.

Now I can tell you in my previous life I would have been a wreck. Yes, had fun – but been a wreck, and by turns. Desirous to be liked, trying to cram everything into this experience. Needing my kids to behave and to therefore “prove” my good parenting (this is not a character trait I’m proud of). I would have been nervous and hoping to make a good impression. I would have been trying to people-please. I would have been judging other parents and children and I would have made sarcastic remarks to my husband, likely in earshot of my children. I would have overthought and over-engineered and stressed over the class I signed up to teach – and likely the class my daughter signed up to teach, too. Another small but significant example: I would have been very embarrassed when I got myself and my daughter and a luggage cart caught in the swanky revolving doors, in front of a few dozen people. Instead it was just funny. Because yes, I am a Dumb-Ass.

Yeah. Another one. I would not have listened to other people very well. I would have tried, but it would have been like static in my ears.

And I would have had a drink in the evenings. Or more than one. Every night. To calm my nerves. To relax. Whatever. In my case: like so many people and like all active alcoholics/addicts, I want what I want when I want it. And for some time before Recovery, I demanded chemical peace of mind. Yeah, sure, I didn’t think of it that way – who would want to? – just as I didn’t think myself a people-pleaser, I thought myself above those kinds of servile traits or supposed weakenesses. Et cetera. Yeah, I was in denial. But I was also ill, and coping the best I could with what I had.

As it is, though, today, I am quite a bit less ill. I am quite a bit happier, sure, but more importantly I have a serenity that passes at least this human being’s understanding. This serenity has carried me through so much in the last year, but especially now, what otherwise would have been an overwhelming experience (more than one grownup has admitted to having a crying jag at this conference).

I am rather tired, so hopefully I can articulate something important to me before I sign off. I could not be where I am today without the help and support of so many people, some who read here now. Financial and emotional support made this conference a reality, and my family is forming memories and learning skills that are going to bless us and help us the rest of our lives. The support and kindnesses of friends and family and those in Recovery have sustained me and grown the good parts of me this last year. Like I’ve joked before, if you like me now, you might not have liked me then. If you don’t like me now, you really wouldn’t have liked me then.

And finally: I don’t need to be liked by anyone in particular, nor to hear my progress report especially, because I like myself and in general my progress is self-evident. Heck, I have no control over how much others like me and I never did, although I used to backwards-somersault myself in order to be liked (with some success, probably). More than increasing my good experiences or the loving people in my life, my hope for my future is that I don’t abandon myself, because if I do I am little help to others. I am unskillful and unkind.

People come and go, but I will live with myself the rest of my life. Still, I never want to stop saying: I am so grateful for friends, family, and the kindness of strangers.

It’s meant a great deal to me.

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