Falsely Accused

Here’s the question I am pondering today:

When is it acceptable to be outraged when someone accuses you of not being sober?

A bit of a loaded question, for sure, and probably needs some clarification before I continue.  First, the question is most likely provocative only to those of us who label ourselves recovered addicts/alcoholics. Second, some further definition of the terms in the question might be in order:

When:  at what time

Acceptable:  suitable; I can validate myself

Outraged:  grossly offensive, and definitely a broad term; when push comes to shove, so many more words can be added to it… hurt, offended, worried, confused

Accuses:  seriously wonders to the point of questioning aloud

Here’s the set-up, which, to point out the obvious, is told from my perspective:  I am living my life, feeling as normal as can be expected, when wham!  Out of the blue, the question is posed:  is there something for which I should be feeling guilty in terms of my sobriety?

Since the answer to that particular question is a heartfelt NO, the immediate reaction is outrage (hence the word choice at the outset).   However, since I have vowed, both to myself and to those closest to me, to always, always, take that question seriously, I make every effort I can to assure my sobriety date has remained intact.

This incident, as it were, has been resolved, and the case has been closed, for a few days now.  But what I want to explore, in this post, is the residual feelings that such an encounter engenders.

So, as I mentioned, the first reaction is outrage… how dare anyone think that I am not sober?  Of course, the same monkey mind that chatters incessantly has a quick and annoying response to that question:  umm, because you spent years of your life doing the complete opposite of how you are living your life now?  Is the world supposed to clear the hard drive of their memory because you’ve manage to scrape together just shy of two years of sobriety?

Well, alright, so maybe outrage is too strong of a feeling.  Let’s downgrade it to a stunningly hurt confusion.  Is that allowed?  I mean, I can’t point to one thing I have done, either that day or any of the days preceding, that would validate such a question.  Can I be hurt and confused?

The monkey mind is not as quick, but the general argument is:  well, just because you feel fine, does not mean you are presenting fine, plus who’s to say what might be going on in the mind of another?  Any number of things completely unrelated to the incident, completely unrelated to YOU, might have lined up like a row of dominoes, ultimately crashing down to the scenario which brought about the question  “are you guilty of breaking your sobriety?”

Okay, fine, I can see that to be a sensible argument, and I can play it back to myself, but how do I internalize it, really feel it, so I can let the negative residual feelings go?

Because, and here’s what the non-recovering individual can never understand… there will most certainly be residual, negative feelings.  The need to justify and explain behavior, the helplessness of not being able to just be believed, the resulting memories of all the past conversations… they linger, far past the resolution of the incident.

Particularly when there is some sober time in the equation.  True, two years does not win me any lifetime achievement awards, but it’s considerable to me.  The only other time in sobriety that I have been accused of such wrongdoing happened when I had 4 days sober.  It was another false accusation, and other than the helpless feeling of not being able to convince someone of my innocence, the similarities end.  Of course someone would question my sobriety four days in; hell, even I questioned it!  But now, two years later, and in the absence of any physical evidence, it just feels wrong.

So what’s a recovering girl to do?  All I can think to do, at this juncture,  is to talk back to the feelings, remind myself that I am, in fact, sober, and that I don’t need the validation of another to feel good about it.  I also remind myself that we are all human, and thus prone to make mistakes, and to let.  it.  go.  Because holding on to a resentment is the quickest way to making the accusation a reality.

Therefore, the answer to the question above:  Never.  Outrage, hurt, confusion, necessarily implies a lack of acceptance of the situation.  If it happens, it happens for a reason, even if the reason is not readily apparent.   Move on, do the next right thing, this too shall pass, and every other proverb that seems annoying in the moment but also happens to be true!

Today’s Miracle:

On a lighter note, for those living in the Northeastern section of the United States, today’s miracle should be obvious… back to some sort of normalcy after the snow storm.

On a more philosophical note, the ability to talk back to the negative feelings, rather than muck around in them, is a bona fide miracle.

Posted on January 23, 2014, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Strange that someone would question your sobriety. Then again, I am not them and don’t know their history or thought process. Strange to me and you for them thinking it. Not strange to them. Funny how that works. and we are the ones holding the limp rope there and they are off Scott-free. sort of.

    But the one thing that struck me at first, and you nailed it later, was the part about hurt – what was it about us that gets disturbed when we get hurt like that? Step 10 stuff, really. Talking through this, not waddling in it is the brilliant, and easier, solution. I think what you did was marvellous and shows how much we have grown. There are times early in my recovery where I didn’t have the tools or the time or experience of what it’s like now. And in 5 year from now, it will be that same (hopefully)

    I remember my wife sniffing my water bottle to check for vodka a few times early on. I didn’t feel too upset – I would have done the same if the roles were reversed. But then she did it at some point past a year. I was a bit shocked! I didn’t know what to say, but left it as is. I know her history, obviously, and what i put her through. so I did what you did and just walked through it.

    Wonderful post, Josie…shows us all how to deal with these things when they arise.

    You rock!



  2. Well done, my friend. Good stuff. Hits on something I’ve recently realized. About not letting the Internal Accuser bully me around. That I can stand up for myself. And like you said, talk back. “Okay, that’s enough. You’re bumming me out.” And then turn my thoughts to something positive. Maybe gratitude. Maybe just petting the cats. But I have to break off the argument. Because if I keep going back and forth. One, The Accuser always finds a weak spot. And hurts me. Which I don’t like. Two, all this arguing makes me believe that there’s something to argue about. That I am on trial as the accused and need to defend myself.
    It’s the same with external accusers, too.
    So maybe a little of that outrage is healthy. Outrage at the idea you have to explain yourself. To yourself or anybody.
    I can accept that. I can accept that I find unrelenting negative criticism unacceptable. And that these days I’m (somehow) finding the courage to change it. If I need to use a little outrage to kick start the campaign, so be it.
    But I would discern that kind of outrage as principle-based, as opposed to a more ego-based one.
    I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t want to let go of outrage. Please, Josie, can we keep it? Please please please! This character defect is special. My mom gave it to me.
    PS “who’s to say what might be going on in the mind of another? Any number of things completely unrelated to the incident, completely unrelated to YOU, might have lined up like a row of dominoes,” This concept has been a life raft for me. Saved me a lot of pissed-offedness. And outrage.


    • Marius, thanks for the comment. I am coming around to using that life raft, but it is not an easy one to climb onto. I am at the point where I can understand it logically, but I can’t make the emotional connection. Hope that makes sense, because what I’m describing is a big stumbling block across the board… I can see in my head where I am wrong, where I need a change in perspective, but I can’t make my head convince my heart. Probably sounds ridiculous, but if I could solve that problem, life would get a lot, a lot, A LOT more serene!

      I need to get some Marius zen-ness, then life would be grand!


  3. Loved your thought process here. Outrage is rarely a helpful option, but the reflection IS.

    A quote I recently shared that may be helpful:

    “First is the distinction between reaction and response. Reaction is dominated by the other person. He insults you: you get angry, and then you act out of anger. This is reaction. You are not an independent person; anybody can pull you this way or that way. You are easily affected; you can be blackmailed emotionally. Reaction is an emotional blackmail. You were not angry. The man insulted you, and his insult created anger; now out of anger comes your action.

    Response is out of freedom. It is not dependent on the other person. The other person may insult you, but you don’t become angry; on the contrary you meditate on the fact – why is he insulting you? Perhaps he is right. Then you have to be grateful to him, not get angry.

    Perhaps he is wrong. If he is wrong, then for his wrong why should you burn your heart with anger?”

    — OSHO, EMOTIONS: Freedom from Anger, Jealousy & Fear


  4. Christy, wow, just wow. Someday you are going to have to describe the magic you have for finding the perfect quote… just amazing! I am working on the responding, rather than reacting, and, believe me, I have a ways to go!

    But keeping this quote in the forefront of my mind is really going to help me, the next time I want to react!


  5. For me, how I feel would depend on who’s questioning. The closer the person is to me, the more hurt I’d be. I can talk about and try to reason with my feelings but if it’s a relationship issue at the heart, I have to work on the relationship. No easy answer at all.


    • We are, as usual, on the same page. The closer the person, the greater the hurt. But the final word, for me and my argument with myself, is your last point… what are you going to do, sever the relationship? Of course not, so, no matter the depth of the hurt, moving on is the only option! The other thing that helped me is the reminder that I too have made mistakes, said things I have regretted, and I imagined if I would want the victim of my mistake holding on to it.

      Thanks for the validation, Karen!


  6. Seems like the question was much more about the person asking it than you. And it’s one thing to know this and another probably impossible thing to not take it personally. You sound like you handled it beautifully. And two years IS huge. I hope you know that.


    • Kristen, in the days even since I wrote this post (which was sooo cathartic!), I have come to that same conclusion… I think my actions/words/behavior had very little to do with it. Time is the major healer on this one… the more time goes by, the easier it is to put into perspective.

      And yes, since I love all kinds of anniversaries, I do know that two years is huge, and I am counting down to it… very close now!!

      Thanks for the encouragement and support!


  7. What an interesting position you were put in and it sounds like you turned it into a learning opportunity to not have it drag you down but strengthen you. In situations like this I also like to ‘consider the source’ and try to peel away the layers and try to understand why someone says or does what they do. Often times, there is more going on that I know nothing about that has nothing to do with me. Just stopping by to say hi too! ~Thea


    • Thea! I am posting this comment, then heading directly over to your blog, there are at least three I need to catch up on (bad grammar, sorry). I think what was most difficult in this particular situation is that I could not easily decipher the baseline reason for it all, and direct questioning did not bring about any further information. What needs to suffice for me is the knowledge that is had little to do with me, and be satisfied with that. Each day gets much easier! Alright, over to your blog I go!


      • Thanks for popping over to my blog. I always so appreciate your comments. Nothing fluffy about what you have to say at all. You are so right that it had little to do with you at all. You will probably find out the story behind the accusation one day. Who knows when. I have been wanting to give you an update via DM. Suffice it to say my situation has been a cha-cha dance. Lots of cha-chas forward but lots back. I am often encouraged and equally discouraged. Hope that cryptic message makes sense! Thanks so much for your support. You have been amazing. ~Thea


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