Saturday, March 7, 2009

Who Really Knows Me?

Before Al-Anon, I was one of those people with whom it is impossible to get any closer than surface level, because below the surface is a seething rage.  When I'm stressed. I am absolutely masterful at diversion through humour. I had to be in 12-Step for a long time before I realised how I have always used humour to keep people away from my inner self. I also discovered early in life that most people love to talk about themselves, so if I asked specific questions: "How's work going with that problem you mentioned last time we talked?" I could usually get them so focused on their own life, that they wouldn't notice I wasn't giving them any information about me.

This was a very efficient way to keep myself feeling so alone, it was like living life with a glass wall between me and other people.
I was so afraid of being thought "less than" - less than perfect, less than capable, less than efficient, less than in control, that I was willing to live my life in a freezing isolation rather than admit to not being perfect in all areas.

Since I've been in program, I have learned the hard lesson that if I want to feel better, not only do I have to work my program, but I have to speak up. It may cause me to wiggle and squirm with discomfort to admit to what is going on with me, but once I do speak up, I receive comfort. The initial comfort is just the enormous one of having said it to another person.

"Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs."

When I was new to Al-Anon, I had quite the speed-bump of resentment over the wording of this step; that last word just stuck in my craw - wrongs? wrongs? As far as I was concerned, it was the alcoholic who was doing all the wrongs, and I was the innocent victim of said evils. I had to learn to admit that I was equally at fault in my own way, and that this did not make me a bad person, it made me a misguided one. I had to be willing to speak to another human being about my own frailties and character defects, as that was the only way to release my immense shame about not being perfect, and receive that warm soothing balm of comfort from my Higher Power, and my meeting group. Once I could speak with my head up, looking around the table, rather than staring at my hands clasped in my lap, I began to see heads nodding in acknowledgment, recognition, agreement, and that helped me to learn that I wasn't a terrrible human being. I was a confused and lonely and distressed (and furious) one.

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