Amy Dresner get that it’s hard — and important — to stand up for your new self in sobriety.
I needed people to move my stuff, visit me in the psych ward or rehab, hold my mail, take care of my cat.
As I started to get better, I still needed people. I needed people to cosign for my phone or car because my credit rating was like that of a homeless crackhead convict. Sometimes I needed people to buy me food or shoes as I scrambled to financially stabilize and be self-supporting.
As I did the work on myself, I slowly got better.
I put together a nice chunk of time sober. I got a job. I got a relationship. I became saner. But the most interesting part was that not everybody could see it. And many were obvious in their, dare I say, disdain of my progress.
The people I attracted to me when I was really sick were people who needed to be needed. My dependency made them feel empowered. My reliance gave them comfort that I wouldn’t — couldn’t — walk away.
But what happens when you don’t need them? It takes a confident person to rise above their insecurity and support your independence. And what happens when you’ve given your life a complete make over in just a few years and they’re still living their loveless life, going to a job they hate, feeling stuck and stagnant?
I’ll tell you. They’re not happy about it.
I have a best friend who seemed resistant to upgrade her image of me.
She still saw me as broken. She still shamed me for a reactive promiscuous period I had during early sobriety. She still believed that because I wasn’t capable of a healthy relationship three years ago that I couldn’t possibly be in one now.
“Well I knew you had to be with somebody because you can’t be alone for long,” she jabbed.
I found myself defending my life, my choices, my past; sobbing that she had no compassion but plenty of judgment for what was the most difficult period in my life. I found myself trying to prove to her that I had changed. Because her disbelief made me doubt myself.
Dr. Marc Lewis, former drug addict now neuroscientist, speaks about the importance of self-trust in recovering from addiction in a 2013 TEDxRadboudU talk. It’s so important to know that you CAN trust yourself, but after years of breaking promises to yourself it can be very hard to do.
Then you’ve got 12 step which preaches “powerlessness.” I admit I owe much of my metamorphosis to 12 step, but that does not mean I can’t pose questions or take issue.
One of my problems with 12 step is that they tell you can’t trust yourself: your head is not your friend, you can’t believe your own thinking, only God or your Higher Power can save you from drinking/using again. Well, I have spent my life giving my power over to others: spouses, parents, drugs, fears, therapists, sponsors. So it’s ingrained in me that when somebody I believe in and trust still sees me as broken and full of baloney, that, of course, they must be right.
My real belief regarding powerlessness is that in giving yourself “over” to a higher power or the rooms or God, you’re really just giving yourself over to another part of yourself that you don’t currently or consciously identify as “you”. It’s a different locus of control but it’s still you, a deep untapped part.
(More spiritual 12-steppers may say that I’ve yet to have my burning bush moment and they could be right. But I’m clean almost 3 years and pretty happy so whatever I’m currently doing is working for me.)
What my crying and shame told me was that I had not forgiven myself for what I had done.
If I had, I could have been calm and tossed out one of those enraging throw-away phrases like, “Sorry you feel that way.”
Instead, after a day and a half of upset, I called her and went, well, a little Joe Pesci on her. Perhaps a swearing rant peppered with bellowing “Who do you think you are?” and “How dare you judge me!” isn’t the most sober, Buddha-esque move I could have made, but I felt like I finally stood up for myself.
I planted a flag in the ground and punched the playground bully in the face… even if that playground bully was really me.
This article originally appeared on www.PsychologyToday.com.
Photo credit: Flickr/dMABCJ