Dry Wit: I’ll Take My Self-Growth On the Rocks, Please

I’d like to meet The Doctor, take a ride in the TARDIS, and head on back to whenever and wherever it was from which I got the truly disappointing delusion that the personal growth I would experience during the earlier periods of my sobriety would be, somehow, happy.

There has been plenty of accelerated, almost overwhelming personal growth, of course. There are days when my mind goes racing ahead on the path of understanding where I’ve been and where I’m headed and what’s inside me, and I just keep hoping I can run fast enough and be coordinated to stomp on the leash and catch it before it gets away from me. It seems like one of the side effects of heavy drinking was that my personal, emotional growth was suspended for years while I drank. My relationships were put on ice, if you will – much like the liquor I drank to avoid dealing with them. It was amazing, but at the end of five heavy years of drinking, I still felt like I was in remarkably the same place I had been back when I turned 21, which, when you emotionally wake up at 26, out of college, engaged to be married, and still in the same emotional space you were as an undergrad, is generally a little disconcerting. Like, “How am I still looking for self-identification in Jack Kerouac books, and why do I still have a crush on Orlando Bloom?”

In particular, I have found that one place of painful growth is in my relationships with other people. As sobriety grinds on – as I grind my sobriety on, really – the combination of coherency and rigorous self-examination have tended to suddenly also shed light on the relationships I’ve formed around me in my enthusiastic pursuit of the bottle. In one regard, I’ve been very lucky: I have relationships, some of them very good – like that upcoming marriage – and many recovering alcoholics have to do this process very much alone on the homefront. So, one purple dinosaur sprinkle for me!

But some of the relationships I’ve formed while drinking have been … how shall we say: less than savory. I used to count among my “friends” a fellow bar fly who had totalled another person’s car, injuring several people, while drunk driving and actually resented the court order to stop drinking. He told me this over beers, of course. It sounds insane to me now, but at the time – I’m ashamed to say – I commiserated with that guy. Then there was the fellow alcoholic lady I knew who, after a year and a half of what I thought was a close friendship, revealed to me that she’d been using her friendship with me as an alibi to give her husband while she slept around with guys half her age. At time, through all the vodka, I felt flattered that she trusted me enough to use me that way.

Go ahead and re-read that sentence and let it sink in a bit.

This is the diseased thinking that accompanied my many years of alcoholism. This kind of self-loathing, zero self-esteem crap is the stuff I carried around in my purse every day, and it was a bitter pill to swallow, so I usually chased it with a bottle or two of wine. But since gaining sobriety and learning a thing or two or twenty about myself, it’s been astonishing to me the kinds of friendships I’ve formed – and I’ve formed them around an attitude I held about myself, make no mistake. Those two people I mentioned up there are extreme examples, but even some of the friendships I’ve formed with people who are not alcoholics are still tenuous and questionable when examined through the clear light of a sober day. Though my friendships that pre-date my alcoholism tend to be characterized by shared characteristics like love of literature, fastidious responsibility complexes, and extremely dry senses of humor, the ones that come after carry far less responsibility, and connections formed on – for lack of a better word – deeply shallow terms.

It’s not fair to generalize: like I said earlier, I’ve been a lucky alcoholic. I have some wonderful relationships. And the less compatible ones I’ve formed are more a reflection on my decision making skills during those years than on the inherent value of any one person.

Actually, I started this post slamming the self-knowledge that comes from sobriety, but as I think about it, I’m pretty grateful for this growth. I’m grateful for the opportunity to clear my head, take a step back from harmful connections, and start to form healthy, type-A friendships like I always used to.

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Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

8 thoughts on “Dry Wit: I’ll Take My Self-Growth On the Rocks, Please”

  1. …I feel bad. I don’t acknowledge that I have a problem…even though there’s that part of me that says “Hey! If you have to think the question….maybe…Ok! We’ll ignore that. ”

    I’m trying to lose weight. I have a nasty habit of drinking then eating. So I figure the combined not-drinking-not-eating should help with the self hatred of my size. Tonight it was Saturday. It was hard not to drink. Scary. What else would I do? I get, I’ve identified with almost everything in your articles. Except, I don’t have relationships. I don’t have…people. Good or bad. I live in a horrid little town I’m trying to escape.

    I understand what you mean by using the alcohol to replace the self growth and retrospection. I just…I’m jealous that you had something to rely on. I went three days. And on my fourth day, today I drank. Because it was Saturday. And I am alone. And I will continue to be alone. And I just turned 25 and my only relationship has been an unwitting beard for a gay.

    But. But tomorrow I try again. Because I like your humor. I like dry. I love that you’ve lived a life and found someone. So tomorrow I try again because you share your story. Thank you.

    1. Hey, sweetie. It sounds like, from what you said, that you’ve got some pretty complicated emotions that accompany your drinking AND your eating habits. And it also sounds like you’re not really ready to confront that, and that’s actually okay. When you’re ready, I hope you understand that you can seek help – there are a lot of programs with people who would be honored to talk with you, give you steps you can follow and keep track of to live healthier, and I think you’d really benefit from those when you’re ready.

      In the meantime, in as much as you can, try to be honest with yourself and ask some tough questions of yourself. Why do you drink? Why do you or don’t you think you have a problem – or why is even answering that question so scary? It may be that you are going through a rough time right now and that your problem drinking will resolve itself on its own as circumstances in your life get more tolerable for you; it may be that even when things are “looking up” you still feel miserable and rely on alcohol to get you through a feeling you may well be, in all honesty, perpetuating yourself by drinking. Either way things work out, darling – and they will work out, somehow – you’re not in recovery, and you haven’t quit drinking, until you pin point that you have a problem of some sort, and work toward getting that problem solved at its base. And either way, it might also be worth asking yourself which of your problems and negative feelings alcohol has ever made a permanent improvement on.

      I have to say I was surprised mostly to hear someone say they are jealous of my social situation, but we always have a tendency mentally to diminish our own good fortune. I am really lucky in many ways to have my fiance, but at the end of the day his presence in my life, and my responsibility toward him, make my recovery more difficult in many ways, because there is constantly another person’s wellbeing and feelings that I have to worry about in this whole process. On the other hand, he’s a really quality reality check and I love him, so yeah, I’m grateful for him.

      However, I can absolutely relate to what you’re talking about. I started my recovery only a couple months ago, after I moved to a brand new city. I don’t know anyone here. That’s not hyperbole. My only social contact is my fiance. I have friends online who are a great support to me, and friends from college who live two states away, but here in person I’m fairly alone. And, the recovery program I’ve chosen does not have a group in my city – the closest one is outside of my transportation range altogether – so I’m very lucky that they have an online chat group and forum where I can still find people to talk to about these issues.

      Anyway – I get where you’re coming from, definitely, and I’ve always been classically bad at making new friends (how do people do it?!) but I do think that, if you decided you wanted to quit drinking, you would find immeasurable support in any recovery group, and you may find that, were you to quit drinking, a change of scene and circumstances might prove themselves not only possible but necessary.

      At any rate – there are a lot of trained experts and professionals out there who would be happy to help you as soon as you decide you want it. Wishing you all the very best.

  2. Thank you, Ruby, for writing this. There are so many layers and dimensions to overcoming an addiction — it’s not just the behavior that stops, but so much more.

    As for breaking up with friends, it’s tough. Sometimes things just fade away if you ignore enough emails or phone calls or are just “too busy”. Other times, it’s just not pleasant. Ugh.

  3. Oh wow. Thanks so much for writing this. I’m really amazed by your ability and willingness to be so honest and open about this process.

    As someone who’s engaged in some problem drinking over the years, I can also relate on a certain level to the idea of stunted personal growth. When your nights and weekends are filled with crazy, fun, loud times with friends, it doesn’t really give you a chance to look at what you’re actually doing with your time, energy, or life.

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

    1. That’s it exactly; for me, problem drinking – alcoholism – was almost entirely about avoiding having to consider personal growth at all.

      As far as being honest and open goes, the alternative is running from myself, and I think I’ve done enough of that. (It’s also much easier to be “open and honest” when I have the veil of a pseudonym to publish under, to be perfectly frank. This is not stuff I would want my mother reading.)

  4. Replace “alcohol” with “bipolar disorder” or “co-dependency” and I totally feel you.
    So, those friendships that you keep, maybe they’re not entirely your best choices for friends. Maybe they’re not bad people. Maybe all you had in common was drinking (being manic). How do you break up with people? How do you break up with people who aren’t necessarily bad, just not who you’d be friends with if you were sober (not crazy)? And the ones who are bad for you? How do you explain that? How do you justify ending a relationship?
    You can break up with a lover- I don’t love you. You can break up with a job- Your hours suck and aren’t worth the $7/hr. But a friendship? “You’re not worth my time” is a little insulting.
    I had to do it recently, and it sucked. Worse, I had to break up with my husband’s friends wives. People I’m still going to see at holidays and events. I just had to say to myself that I had to do it for my own sake. My Aunt Becky taught me that I really don’t owe anyone anything. My internet fantasy aunt has taught me life’s greatest lesson.

    1. Yes. With the ones who are destructive to your life, it’s easier, because there’s an element of justified self-preservation. With the ones who are negative in more subtle ways, it’s a very rough process. I’m feeling pretty stuck in the middle of one such relationship right now and having a lot of difficulty deciding what to do. She’s not a bad person. She’s been a close friend to me through a lot of difficult times. But she’s also kind of a shallow person who doesn’t like my fiance and has put me in some really uncomfortable positions since I sobered up – including the insistence that she dredge up stories of my bad behavior as an alcoholic for her own personal laughs. Couple this with my distinct distaste for confrontation, and I am just SQUIRMING, girl.

      I wish you all the best with your breakups. They’re hard and necessary and icky and painful and you can’t go through life without having to do this once or twice, so I hope your husband is supportive and I hope you have plenty of good people to fall back on. <3

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