Fear is what it all comes down to when I started learning about myself in sobriety.
I’ve always been self-aware of my actions and behaviors but I also chose to not do a damn thing about them.
I sometimes wonder what’s worse; being aware of one’s character defects and not fixing them or not knowing what they are and suddenly opening Pandora’s Box, spilling all that garbage out on to the cold, hard floor, realizing it’s finally time to change.
Guess it doesn’t matter.
But knowing what my junk was made it at least tolerable to deal with. It didn’t make it easy, but because I was sick and tired of being the person I was when I drank, I sat down one day and took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror.
And what did I see?
I saw doubt. And insecurity. Low self-esteem. Guilt. Shame.
I judged too quickly, was closed-minded, shallow, impatient, selfish and self-centered, and pretty much intolerant of anyone or anything that didn’t adhere to my principles and how I thought the world should be.
Yeah, I was quite the catch, all right.
I put up a good front, masquerading as a responsible adult who got up every day and went to work and paid his bills, but that’s all it was; a disguise.
I remember when I was about to check into my second detox. I called my dad and sat down with him and told him I’ve never felt so alone in my life.
His jaw literally dropped, just like you see in cartoons and he said, “What are you talking about? You have a beautiful wife, three great kids, and all the friends in the world.”
But it was the truth.
I thought people didn’t understand me. I thought they’d never understand the crazy, neurotic thoughts I had bouncing around in my head. I thought people were always talking about me and saying things behind my back.
I had zero confidence and couldn’t do anything in a public setting without being drunk.
I could be arrogant when I felt threatened or rude when I felt insecure.
The list is endless.
I was not a very nice human being, to say the least.
As hard as putting the drink down was, it was even harder to do the work. But I did it. I knew whatever I had been trying for over twenty years wasn’t working, so I tried what was suggested.
When it came to admitting all of my shortcomings I was okay with it, because, like I said, I knew what they were. I wasn’t exactly proud to share them with other people, but I did.
Then came the hard part.
I had to be ready to have them removed. But I liked my character defects. I used most of them as defense mechanisms. They were part of who I was. I also knew that the parts of me that were less than desirable were a huge part of what was stunting my growth, both mentally and spiritually.
So I trudged through all that muck, and although I still (and probably always will) have my character defects, now they aren’t as transparent. And they’ve lessened over time, some substantially so.
I don’t doubt myself as often because today I try my best in everything I do, and that’s all anyone can ask of me, including myself. I’m not insecure in general (I still have one or two insecurities I’ll keep to myself) because I learned acceptance of not only other people, places and things, but I learned acceptance of who I am.
The shame and guilt I felt because of the hurt I had caused people while I was drinking and the damage I did is gone, thanks to the work I’ve done. I no longer have to dwell in the past, because I don’t live there anymore.
I don’t judge as much as I used to (anyone who says they don’t occasionally judge is lying), nor am I as impatient or as intolerant as I once was.
Today I have faith that everything will work out and I embrace the unique madness and individuality that each of us brings to this sometimes fucked up, yet wonderful, blue planet we live on.
And all of it is due to the fact that I was able to get out of my own way, humble myself, and take a few simple steps in the right direction.
Jay Keefe, Director of Happiness and Staff Writer at The Addictions Academy
National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer
Published Author of “And Drink I Did”
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