Drama – emotional turmoil for its own sake – is one of those things that may entail drawbacks for normal people, but in the mind of an alcoholic, can lead to serious trouble. When I get too whipped up by anything, real or imagined, I ‘m pulled off the beam spiritually, which means I’m a further from god and closer to a drink.
One of my favorite lines in the 12 x 12 is this: “We learned that if we were seriously disturbed, our first need was to quiet that disturbance, regardless of who or what we thought caused it” (47). In the past, we used to “quiet” our inner disturbances by drinking, which enabled us to excel at not giving a shit. You remember those days, right? Nowadays, though, we have to do manually what we once did chemically. That is, living in sobriety, we have to find ways to become calm by letting go of what we can’t control.
Some call Al-Anon the grad school of AA – at least for those of us who are “Double Winners!” (Can’t type that with a straight face!) In any case, Al-Anon is where I finally got it – that axiom in the Big Book that whenever someone else seems to be upsetting me, it’s really me – my reactions – upsetting me. My instinct is to point at the other person and say, “You’re the problem!” But in every case, that conflict and pain is actually all coming from me fighting reality. I can either be RESISTING something real, or MANUFACTURING something unreal, or both.
In years past, I’ve been addicted to infatuation. While obsessing on that magic person, I’d play all these mind-movies of me doing stuff and them being impressed. “How extraordinary Louisa is! Look how X and Y!” As I’d bask in the idea of them thinking this, I’d get a glorious, glowing kickback of what felt like self-worth. It wasn’t really self-worth, though. It was just a sweet dopamine hit caused by delusion. (Because, lord knows, I couldn’t just have worth as a human being!) Anywho – I’ve always assumed that when god took away that infatuation thing, I was also cured of the whole delusional projection business.
Except for something that happened the other night. See, I write this blog with a lot of trust in you as an open-hearted reader, so when I figured out that a family member highly critical of me had subscribed to it, I became “seriously disturbed.” My heart pounded. I called friends. And that night, I absolutely couldn’t sleep, because I kept imagining this person poring over every word, judging and condemning away. Toss! Not going to think about that. Turn! Except, what will they think of that part where it says…
God, as I’ve often noted, visits me mostly via a little “BULLSHIT” indicator light somewhere in the back of my mind. I’m super busy signing onto my bullshit, which seems to be truth, so I’m certainly not going to recognize anything bullshitty about it, myself. But after years of praying, “Please guide me, please help me grow,” I sometimes get this faint, subtle signal: “BULLSHIT… BULLSHIT… BULLSHIT…”
It’s like a smoke detector going off when you have no idea what’s burning. I have to root around for the source. What, god, where?!
So I sat up, turned on the light, and grabbed my journal. As I wrote, I came to see how I was wrapped up in the opposite of infatuation, which involved just as much projection. This time I had the little Louisa-hating puppet in my mind reading this or that part of the blog and thinking, “How awful that bitch Louisa is! Look how X (shitty) and Y (shitty)!” And this time the kickback was the opposite of self-worth – a hit of self-loathing and guilt.
Why would my ego want this? The same reason I worry about stuff I can’t know or control – that delusion of beating pain to the punch, of somehow bracing myself for the worst. But in shining light on my bullshit, I saw this projection had NOTHING to do with reality. Yes, I can know this person does not like my blog. But there I have to stop. End of topic. No matter how many times the old phonograph needle of my mind wants to return to that groove of our story in progress, I have to remove it and say firmly, “Not real.”
Maybe my ego’s just addicted to the self-importance of drama. Compared to my projections, reality’s storyline is pretty tame. “I’m here now” doesn’t merit much of a compelling soundtrack. I realize it’s only human nature to imagine what we can’t know and, likewise, to feel emotional reactions to those conjectures. But as an alcoholic, I can get addicted to just about any diversion from the work of being myself – that ordinary woman wiping down her kitchen counter. What might it be like to really give up the idea that these projections, these personal dramas, have any bearing on reality? What if, rather than losing myself in mental commentary and spin-offs, I were willing to be humble one moment at a time, and to live in the simplicity of what is?
God, I’m pretty sure, would click LIKE. (jk!!)