Getting over self-consciousness in recovery
I never felt right. I never felt like I fit in. When I was younger, even when I had friends, I thought they were just doing it because my parents were paying them or they felt bad for me. I always felt like life was especially hard for me or that I didn’t have the right reactions to everyday situations. I realized I was far too sensitive to the world around me. I started to study people around me to see what their facial reactions were. When someone told terrible news and I would note things like “Oh, they are surprised and their eyes get wide and they cover their mouth.” And I would try to duplicate those reactions under similar situations. It wasn’t that I couldn’t produce genuine feelings, it was that I never thought my reactions were correct. I tried to figure out when I should smile, laugh and cry. It was like I was an alien from another planet trying to live undetected from the human race. This way of living, of course, is very difficult and distracting. I would be talking to someone and in my head telling myself, “Make eye contact, smile, make eye contact, saying something nice, smile, make eye contact.” All this was running through my head and it made having a normal day to day conversation very difficult.
Then I would feel like I never said the right thing or that I must’ve sounded so stupid. But when I drank, that all faded away. When I drank I didn’t think for one second how I was reacting I just gave a real reaction. I had no filter I would say or do anything I wanted and it was freeing. The booze helped me get out of this brain of mine that was always telling me I was doing it wrong. When I drank I thought I was the funniest, wittiest, most hilarious person. I would tell crude jokes, I would make fun of other people, and I loved to be self-deprecating. Most people seemed to enjoy my humor… up until a certain point.
That point was usually up until I got so drunk I started saying “funny” things about them. What I thought was funny was actually super mean, super hurtful, and often borderline abusive language. I would cuss, pick fights with people, and just be an all around ill-tempered person. I’m honestly surprised I ever had any friends ever. And at the end of my drinking, I really didn’t. When I had my last drunk, I was in a house with two acquaintances, but I was in a room by myself, trying to finish the job.
Then I got sober and I was back to square one, constantly wondering if I was saying the right thing or making the right facial expressions. I was so thankful for all the recovery slogans, “Keep coming back”, “One day at a time”, “This too shall pass” because I could regurgitate these sayings in meeting and know I was saying the “right” things.
Soon though, I got asked to chair my first meeting where I was expected to talk for 10-15 minutes. I knew a lot of slogans, but not 15 minutes worth of sayings. I was screwed. But then someone told me about what they do. They said right before the meeting they ask God to make them a vessel of his message. I didn’t really understand what that meant until I got up and started my chair. It was like I blacked out (but in a good way for a change!) I could hear words coming out of my mouth, I could see people’s reactions to my words, but I had no idea where the words were coming from. Still to this day, I can’t tell you what I said during that chair, but I know I carried the message. This doesn’t happen to me every time I chair, but the majority of the time it does. The words just flow out of me and I have no idea how they do. Well, I have some idea, because like my friend suggested, I usually pray for God to make me a vessel of his message.
In my recovery program I have chaired many times; I talk any time I can at a meeting, and I’ve also tried to stop being nervous about what I say. I realize that it’s okay to be nervous about speaking to people in recovery, because it just means that I care deeply about carrying the message to other alcoholics. To me, that’s a good thing. Letting God speak through me takes a huge amount of pressure off me. It’s no longer about me or what other people think about me, it’s about delivering a true representation of my experience, and giving others strength and hope.
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