Friday, November 10, 2006

Hidden Benefits....

There were some posts on a few blogs (specifically Meno's and One Plus Two, both of which were very self-revelatory - in a good way) that got me to thinking about the past a bit more than usual. Self-evaluation has never been my strong point but periodically it's a good idea to take a look at where we've been to help us understand where we are now.

For those of us who are addicts, getting and staying clean and sober is only the first hurdle. Then come the others. Like facing whatever is chasing us from our pasts that made us turn to booze or drugs in the first place. I started using booze to deal with the suppressed pain of living in a world that I saw as brutal, unkind and fiercely competitive. My drinking began at 15 years old. I never perceived the world as a welcoming or pleasant place. It was a barren desert, filled with rocks and snakes and scary things around every corner. I was always waiting for the nasties to bite me on the ankles. The booze made it possible for me to function, however poorly, on a day-to-day basis. I'm reminded of the Anton Chekov quote, "Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day-to-day living that wears you out." Day-to-day living, even as a young person, wore me out.

Booze is a great anesthetic for emotional pain. It blunts the sharp edges and makes us feel better almost immediately. It's a lubricant for those of us who find socializing unbearably painful. We can go to a rosy world of our own creation where we can be who we really think we want to be. We can go to Fantasyland and stay there.

When I first got sober, I remember my first sponsor in AA commenting that hugging me was like hugging a tree. I was so shut down and unable to respond to basic human kindness that I wasn't even at home in my own body or my own mind. I was terrified of facing all of my old ghosts, rattling around in the closet. It meant I had to give up Oblivion. Oblivion had been a comfortable, safe place to be.

I don't come from a wicked family. My family was a very reserved, rather cold, bunch ~ but I can't say I was abused. Perhaps emotionally neglected. But the reality is that I was raised by imperfect people in an imperfect world, just as we all were.

The answer was something distinctly out of my reach, nothing I could put my finger on and say, "I'll fix that and all the pieces will slide into place. Life will be shiny and new." I couldn't blame any person or specific situation. The only thing I could blame was my own perceptions. And that's mighty scary because it means I'm responsible for the outcome.

Meno discusses, rather eloquently I might add, the various things we do to put our "face on", the us we present to the world as opposed to the us we truly are. Many of us go about daily life with our teeth gritted and our knuckles white. She talks about all the assumptions we make and are made about us and how those things shape our lives.

But is it only our perceptions, assumptive or not, that create our reality ~ or is it something more?

I believe ~ and this is only my belief ~ that we come here with a certain life path. I came to this world, not fitting in and unable to establish connections with others. Being as I am not one who is given to insightful revelations, no Oprah-style AHA moments, the rejection often seemed brutal and unwarranted. It was based on assumptions, both the assumptions of others and my own. When one lives a life on the defensive, others will run like hell. That's just a reality of life. No escaping it.

So.. the consequence is this: It has been my job all along to find "home". Not "home" in the Thailand sense. Thailand is full of regular human beings, just like here. It's "home" inside of me. It's knowing somehow, on some level, that no matter where I am, I can take care of my basic needs.

I've been able to find an alternative to Oblivion. That is living my rather quiet life. It is living with my limitations in an accepting and kind way, in compassion rather than a harsh, judgemental way. That also allows me to view others with compassion. It is knowing that I can create safety. It is a self-acceptance and acceptance of others that I never knew was possible in the past as I struggled mightily to meet the expectations of others and exist in a culture that was as foreign to me as another planet.

It is daily enjoyment of other people, my garden, my dog, laughing with my housemates, cooking a nice meal together ... the very small things that create a tapestry of life. No, I will never be very social. I don't even crave it. I will never "fit in" here. That will have to wait for Thailand. I chose to not have children ~ a decision I am grateful for today because a child would not have done well with me as a mother. I will never leave pee marks on any stumps in the world. No major accomplishments. I am a failure in the view of western culture. But hopefully in all of this, I will be able to spread a little kindness and add a bit of gentleness to the lives of the people who surround me. That is the ingredient I contribute to the collective pot. That is my life path.

And that's okay. It's ... okay - now. I'm at peace ~ and I never knew that was possible. For that, I am incredibly grateful.

My best to all of you ~

Thailand Gal

Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law. -- Buddha


Dogwalkmusings said...

I'd hardly label you as a failure in any society. Traveling with you through your discovery of self and acceptance of same is a tremendous contribution. Those who remain prisoner to inner doubts and fears need only to read what you've written to discover they are not alone.

That is your gift to all the faceless who read you. It is a tremendous and generous gift. It is not spelled f-a-i-l-u-r-e.

v said...

Wow, great post. Very honest and uplifting. And I too think you're a bit over critical of yourself. But I understand the point you make. That there's more than one viewpoint and people should make an effort to get past this status quo (western, materialistic, shallow) viewpoint of looking at things.

I haven't read your blog for long but just by reading some of the comments, I think you definitely spread more than a little kindness around. Anyway, great post!

PS - Great Buddha quote!

Ginnie said...

A wonderful blog and very insightful. You are so very "not alone"...I think there are many, many of us who don't exactly fit in but can do a worthwhile job by being here for others.
Thank you for your comments on my blog. I value them highly.

meno said...

"I am a failure in the view of western culture."
I am uncomfortable with this statement. Maybe because i am part of the western culture, and i don't view you as a failure. I understand what you are saying though, it seems that living a quiet, pleasant life is not valued by the dominant culture, but it is by many people.

Thanks for the nice words about my post.

jen said...

what an achingly honest and beautiful journey. honestly, my love, failure is the LAST thing that comes to mind. Courageous, honest, real, hard working, joyous and kind did.

I have no personal perspective on alcohol, other than seeing the devastation it breeds in others - while I have my vices, drink never became one of them. But shaking loose that tiger is a miraculous and brave thing.

I bow to you, eastern.

Pam said...

Your honesty and insights show that you are definately not a failure.
Alcohol had a bit of a grip on me at one time...self medication...I felt the world rubbing me raw and could not cope. Finding your way back takes great strenght. For me, it also took a fair share of solitude.

Gobody said...

"I'll fix that and all the pieces will slide into place”
Part of being human is being broken searching to be complete. There is no fix though; it is the journey of learning and experiencing that really counts. Your accomplishments don’t have to be in what you have invented or created, you have already accomplished a lot in the lives of those you have touched. I would not forget your comment about reacting out of fear or out of love, that’s your seed within me. It doesn’t have to be physical to be important.

“The only thing I could blame was my own perceptions. And that's mighty scary because it means I'm responsible for the outcome.”
Once again you nailed it on the head, you might need to take responsibility for your perception before you can see life as it …. “life is what you make of it”

Thailand Gal said...

Mari, Thanks for your kind words. Sometimes it's hard to imagine. :)

V, thanks. More than I can say. :)Yes, I value the comments very much and everyone is always kind to me. It encourages me to write more. Glad I can give some of that back, too!

Thanks, Ginnie. I know you "get it".

Meno, it's the same for you. You "get it". Lots of people don't. And, yes, there are times when it's very difficult to be beaten down by the majority. I just try to keep my perspective. :)

Jen, you are an inspiration. The world is just a better place because you're in it. I likewise bow to you. (virtual wai)

Pam, I like that phrase "rubbed me raw". That is such a good description. And, yes, you're right on target about why we did it.

Gobody, yes... love or fear. Sometimes we switch from one to another in a matter of minutes. At least I do. The best thing is when we get to choose to come back to the right one. :)

Thank you all.

Peace to you,

TG ~

Larry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Caro said...

I am probably seeing more than what is really there but I feel something is shifting. I feel people want more than what they are conditionned to believe. And I thank you for voicing what i am incapable of saying.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

While I don't have any obvious addictions, I totally relate to your eloquent post because I have always felt like a misfit in Western society. (I'm sure I was a monk in several past lives because I am unusually comfortable with solitude and my own thoughts.)

I chose to have a family, and would have been unhappy if I hadn't. But still, I know deep down that I belong in another culture.

I believe we come into each incarnation with a main mission to accomplish, and attract to ourselves events and relationships that will help us to achieve it. The bad experiences are probably our greatest teachers.

If we try to be our best and truest selves and to inflict no harm on others, we are not failures. And many people who leave lasting monuments to themselves are not successful, at least in my humble view, if they don't use their abilities to benefit others.

Larry said...

Chani,thank you for sharing this.

Keeping things in perspective is quite difficult for me. But it can be done, and with a bit of work over the years, I have gotten much better at it. I think it is a quality largely lacking in modern society and particularly screwed up in us alcoholics and addicts. Without perspective it is difficult or impossible to adopt a set of values make sense or serve us well in the real world. We don't talk about it much for some reason, but I believe that the process of recovery involves, consciously or unconsciously, the re-evaluation, modification
and re-ordering of our values. You've done a good job of that.See you on the list.

joel said...

...leavng a footprint of gentle kindness is a legacy any human being should be proud of... thine own self be true

Brenda said...

Chani, this is Brenda from the list. This may be very, very difficult for you to accept, but introversion is not a neurosis or personality disorder,it's not even a flaw. As you discovered, attempting to medicate it with booze and drugs is a temporary, ill-advised solution that has pervasive, severe and unforeseen consequences.

It sounds as if you're learning to accept yourself in spite of the fact that you have a personality type that is not well understood, appreciated or rewarded in the 21st Century. Perky is rewarded. Thoughtful is not. But you wouldn't really want to be perky, wouldja? ;o} Stop defending yourself. You don't have to. Calling yourself names like "failure" is only doing the same thing you accuse others of doing.

Knock it off. If other people don't like or understand the way you live, fuck 'em!

Thailand Gal said...

Caro, I hope you're right. There is a shift and many people are tired of the gerbil wheel. For so many, it's hard to jump off.

Heart, we're on the same page.

Larry, I don't see any way of staying sober without being fairly vigilant about always making sure our values and behavior match up.

Joel, thanks. I am trying.

Brenda, I do feel a need to defend myself and shouldn't. You're right. I do seem to have internalized some unhealthy messages. See my morning post to the list about this. :)

Thanks, everyone. :)

Thailand Gal

ecm said...

What a beautiful post. And a very insightful perspective.

QT said...

Great post and I don't think you have failed at all.

Defending a way of life that you find essential to your emotional well-being means that on some level YOU think there is something wrong with it -and you clearly don't think that so CELEBRATE your quiet moments and revel in your solitude. I do that when I walk around my place - I try to remain absolutely quiet and soak in what is natural -the sunlight, the trees, the water. This revives me and I couldn't care less what anyone else thinks. No one questions me when I tell them I need to be alone, outside.

Many kudos to you for your committment to sobriety. I work with someone who has the same struggles. I know how difficult it can be.

Keep yourself happy and muse less on what makes others happy - that is for them to worry about!

Potato Print said...

Hi Thailand Gal,
This post is truly the most beautiful thing I have read in a month. So many things to react to. First, I am grateful for the recovering alcholics in my life. That AA problem seems to be a purifying process, because truth reigns in their lives. I learn so much from listening to people who have been to hell and back.

Also, the idea that it is the small things that count. It sounds trite, but then maybe a perfect little seashell on the beach is trite.

The practice of kindness is the biggest challenge -- and the biggest joy. My mom used to say that kindness is all there really is in life.

Thank you for the energy, feeling and thought that you put into this post.