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!
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.