By Bill McD.
(A few Mozart-induced thoughts of a gray and drizzly morning)
“to be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” (e.e. cummings)
This appears on my “Zen a day” calendar for last Monday, and I have been thinking about it, on and off, for the rest of the week. It seems to me that cummings, while addressing a more general, “condition of man” kind of thing, may as well have been speaking directly to those of us fighting addiction.
After all, we are all of us on a search for self, something we touched on last week a couple of times, if memory serves. All of us, to some degree or another, lived lives that were not our own, in which we followed the dictates of alcohol and/or drugs and, all too often, the whims and fickle vagaries of some rather questionable companions. And at some point, we all decided that this was not a healthy way to be. So we have this great commonality, but at the same time, we are more diverse. We were, I think, much more alike when we were still using, and what a sorry lot I daresay we were.
Sober, we have a diversity of opinion which is rich and lively, sometimes fun and sometimes angry, by turns profound and mind-numbingly plebeian. All of this is good, and a far cry from the sameness we once exhibited: Thinking ourselves “terminally unique,” to borrow from AA, we were the proverbial dime-a-dozen. Every barroom had a number of us in there, talking shit and meaning it and forgetting it and returning to hold forth some more the next day. Too many living rooms had one of us, watching bad television, cursing our luck in the world and dreading what the next day was going to bring down on us. Cheers!
What binds us now, it seems to me, is something greater even than our common fight for sobriety. Knowing what we were, seeing, possibly for the first time, what each of us has the potential to become, we feel a need to encourage the growth in each other, even when it means we know we’re gonna argue, sometimes even viciously. We are helping each other to become individuals, something we were, for the most part, excruciatingly bad at before. I think we see this mostly in newcomers, who are still fighting the idea that maybe their old “friends” aren’t the best people in the world to hang out with anymore, that maybe they shouldn’t have whiskey in the house or go to happy hour, that the “just one more” bug is poisonous and horrible and wrong. The using society is a hard one to leave behind, for the very simple reason that we got a sense of self, however warped and mangled, from that society.
As we move on toward sobriety, we find that our minds and our souls feel lighter and more free; we become more capable of looking critically at things which once were not only acceptable but even desirable, things that now seem to be stupid and harmful. As we explore that mental/emotional freedom, that new-found critical ability, we slowly, slowly, discover who and what we are.
And it is not easy. It is the most difficult thing most of us will ever do. Because there are some demons in there, deep in our pasts, which have shaped us, and they are not pretty to look at. But they are us, to some degree, and as such have to be accepted or killed off and replaced. We can do that, now, either one. This is a part of becoming “nobody-but-yourself”, I think. When we were a part of that drinking/using “everybody else”, our arguments were loud and crude and meaningless; that which we cannot remember is not a valid lesson, or a valid point. And they were the same arguments, night after night, pounded on again and again because we were so woefully misunderstood and the world just didn’t get it. I myself had EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM IN THE UNIVERSE SOLVED. Absolutely true. ‘Course, I have no idea what my solutions were, but I’m sure they were great.
Somehow, I think I’d just rather be me. Wrong, right, whatever. At least now I know that if I piss somebody off, or if I make them think or laugh, I’ll remember, tomorrow, what I said, and know that I meant it. And that it was me doing the talking and thinking, not thirteen Bass Ales and a multi-colored shooter with a very strange name….