When I stopped drinking alcohol my friends and family said that I had changed, but I hadn’t changed at all. I was the same kid who yearned for acceptance in a schoolyard of kids who insisted on paying attention to the slits that I called eyes.
We all have to defend ourselves otherwise we die. I defended myself by assuming control. I pushed my forehead into the faces of anyone who dared call me names, I used my voice to grow 6-inches taller and I screamed confidence from every hair on my body.
But I was still that little boy. I am still that little boy to this day.
My hours are dominated by fear…always have been. I am scared of everything. I was scared of writing this just a few moments ago. I took a shower for no other reason than to avoid writing. Why am I so scared of doing something that I love? When my fingers move around the keyboard and thoughts start entering my head I feel a sense of peace. It’s a tranquil feeling and it seems to produce a heat in my body – so why the sense of fear?
The fear comes from a part of me that needs acceptance from everyone. The fear comes from that little boy. I am writing because I want to be seen, and yet when I step out of the shadows people look and look hard. They can see a fraud. Someone who is pretending to be something that he is not; playing up to the world so he will be accepted as one of the tribe.
But if you can just shut out the voices for one moment. Shut the fuck up and listen to the faint hum in the room, feel the slight breeze from the wings above your head; you will realise that nobody is looking at you. Nobody cares about you. If you have this many issues how many issues do you think everyone else has? When people look at me all they see is a mirror pushing their own face right back down their throats.
So I didn’t change when I stopped drinking alcohol; but I did start getting my shit together. It’s been slow, but I am happy with the progress. Do you know what? I have become so good at the facade there are times when I believe it myself…I am not happy with progress because it has been too slow. I tell myself that I want everything now, but I am too lazy to get it. I know it takes hard work and determination, but my foot just keeps slipping off the pedal. It’s greasy and I just can’t seem to get dry.
But moving forward at some pace is better than moving forward at no pace at all. I think people saw me taking action and they got scared. I’m talking about those closest to me. Those whose throat I held at arms length didn’t care that I had stopped drinking and didn’t notice any difference in me. It’s only those who love you the most.
People were scared that I was going to leave them. In reaction, they tried to frighten me by telling me that I had changed. They did this because they know how I work. They know I am a narcissist and they plucked the strings of my ego like a harp made from my own skinny tendons. They were threatening my involvement in the tribe. But like Stephen Pressfield so eloquently puts it, “The tribe don’t give a shit.” I knew it the moment I gave up drinking alcohol; but I need gentle reminders every once in a while because old habits just don’t die.
These words are a reminder to me; a call to arms – my own slap across the face with a pair of cold clammy gloves. When I stopped drinking alcohol I found time. The scales had fallen from my eyes and I could see not only whom I was, but also, more importantly, who I could become.
I took action, I had structure and I revelled in my new routine. I didn’t change. Instead, the things I did changed; but fear is like grey hair. Once it starts coming all you can do is pluck, pluck and pluck. It keeps coming back…but keep on plucking. I need to find the tweezers and quick. For the past few weeks I have not had a decent sweep of my scalp. There is more grey than dark brown. I have let myself go. I have allowed fear to slow me down. I feel like I am trying to clean my teeth with nutty peanut butter toothpaste.
My neck and shoulders are tight but my mind is clear. The eyes are no longer sore and the ache in my belly has found somewhere else to hide.
I didn’t change. I am and will always be that little boy whose Mother said was different because his Dad ran away before he was born. But I did change what I did…and it’s high time I pulled my finger out of my arse and got back to it.
Photo courtesy of h.koppdelaney cc @ flickr.com.