I almost plowed my car into the John Calvin Presbyterian Church tonight. It was then, as I swerved left to avoid the building, that I realized how badly I did not want to go to the Al-anon meeting inside. I didn't do it on purpose. I'd never been to that church before and the street was dark so I didn't see the place until the driveway came into view. I checked my rearview mirror, saw that no one was behind me, stopped short, and swerved into what I thought was the parking lot on the side of the building. It was, in fact, the entrance to a circular drive in front of the building. How the hell did I not notice that? Anyway, I stopped short and swerved again to avoid the building and follow the curve of the driveway. And now those of my friends who are reading this will never drive with me again. Look, I was nervous, all right! I didn't want to be there.
When it got to my turn I told them how much I didn't want to be there. But the discussion topic was faith and I told them that it was faith alone that brought me to the meeting because if I had stopped to think it through I would have rationalized reasons for not going. But functional people keep telling me that all this 12 stepping and introspection really works so I have faith in them. I also, believe it or not, have redeveloped faith in God. This last week has been so bad that I've been praying all throughout the day. "Dear God, please take over. I don't know what to do or what to think. Please help me."
Well...I think I overprayed. In the last 48 hours, several realizations have hit me and every time one came to me I wrote it down in a notebook. I figured I'd read those things when it came my turn to speak at the meeting, but when the time came and I looked in my backpack I saw that the notebook was missing. I had just told everyone that I felt it was prayer that made my head clear enough to receive these answers and now I couldn't find them. Everybody laughed when I looked up at the ceiling and cried, "Why???" Then some of them said that maybe God wanted me to think them over again, not just read them. He wanted me to remember. And I did. Here's the list of things that I'm not happy about realizing:
1) I'm addicted to people, especially unattainable, mean or manipulative ones. I get lonely, call a friend and I either have a fantastic time with them or they make me upset, but either way I'm satisfied for a while until I'm lonely for them and I need a fix again.
2) Most of the time when I get mad I immediately numb it. I don't want the person (most likely someone I love) to feel the pain of me being mad at them so I make the feeling go away. But the problem stays.
3) For a long time now I have avoided looking at myself in the mirror. Even when I'm in a movie theater bathroom, if I see myself gliding past the mirror in the corner of my eye I won't look at myself because I'm afraid I'll see the ugliness that everyone else sees.
4) There are functional people in my life and I'm always terrified that they'll leave because they don't need me. They just like me for who I am. This shouldn't be unsettling but it is.
5)I don't have a sense of humor about myself. I thought I had one but I don't. All I do is tear myself down before someone else has a chance to, so I can beat them to the punch. The problem is that I beat myself up so bad that by the time someone else makes the slightest criticism or playful smartass remark, it's a death blow. It's like giving a burn victim a hardy slap on the back. Then the other person is confused about why such a small comment hurt so bad. But I have heard that there's a genuine, affectionate sense of humor that I can develop about myself and I must know how it's done.
6) Of all the 12 steps I'm going to struggle with, step 9 - making direct amends to people "except when to do so would injure them or others" - is going to be hell.
7) I'm terrified of letting people down, and I rarely make my own decisions. I either go with whatever they want to avoid tension, or I let things happen to avoid making a decision. Because of this I have hurt people I love, and sometimes have put them and myself in bad situations.
8) There are two sayings that I've heard in the program that should make sense to me, but they don't. Or I should say, they make logical sense but I don't feel them make a change inside of me yet. The first is the one I've talked about before, the "Expecting someone to give you something that they're not capable of giving you is as insane as going to the hardware store for a loaf of bread." This doesn't work because the truth is when you're hungry enough you can smell it. You'll walk down every aisle of the store thinking that bread is just around the corner, getting hungrier and hungrier for it until you'll swear you can taste it and you'll tell yourself that you do.
The other saying I've heard is "Dwelling on the past is like breathing air that's ten minutes old. It used up and stale. Breathe fresh air." But what if you're convinced that the old stuff is the only air in the room? You can hold your breath and try to fight it, but after a couple of minutes you'll gasp for it because you believe it's the only way you'll survive. You've been surviving on it all your life.
9) Realization 8 leads me to 9 which is this: I'm delusional when it comes to people. I don't know what I want out of any of my relationships, who I really am, or who I can trust. I can't even trust myself to make decisions.
10) I can't ignore 9 anymore even though I really want to, and I'm really fucking terrified to find out the extent that I've gone to placate people so I can avoid confrontation or stirring anything up.
So...tonight was fun. My brain is exhausted and I need to go to bed. I debated about posting this, but as I was telling a friend earlier, I get the feeling that writing all of this down will help someone else who might be going through the same thing. I hope so. The miraculous thing is that I'm not beating myself up about any of this, though. I'm not sitting around thinking about how pathetic I am. I'm taking inventory and seeing what I've got to work with.
Oh, and besides getting a sponsor, my other success this week was when one of the group members told me that I've improved since the last time she saw me.
"I've improved?" I asked her. "I was a mess in there."
"Yeah, but when I saw you before you weren't focusing on yourself. Now you are. That's a step."
"It is? Like an actual step?"
"An unofficial one, yeah."
I've unofficially grown a little! That's got to count for something. And since this was a rather heavy blog, I will make an offering to those of you who stuck it out and read all of the drama to the end. "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant.
Put on a little makeup, makeup
Make sure they get your good side, good side