Dreams and Lies and Intimacy.
I had some bad dreams last night. Drinking dreams. I dreamed that on my recent vacation with BB, I had actually had a few drinks. Never been drunk, but had a drink or two from time to time. And in fact, I dreamed that I had done that several times since quitting my alcoholic-level drinking. In the “present tense” part of the dream, I was sitting with my old sponsor, Mickey, in a hot tub. He asked me if I’d drunk on the trip. I told him I’d had one sip. I said I didn’t want to give my coin back just because I’d had a sip. I hadn’t gotten drunk.
And there is my own signature brand of lying. Mixing truth in to the lie so that it’s easier to tell and harder to detect. The lies I tell when I drink. Using that ability to say false things convincingly, to sand edges off of sharp truths, to get what I want. To get others to agree I deserve what I want. I like to think I don’t tell lies in sobriety. But sometimes I still do.
In “How it Works”, the chapter of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a paragraph on those who cannot seem to recover. It describes them as people who cannot or will not be honest with themselves. We say, “They are not at fault. They seem to have been born that way.” I am capable of being honest with myself: I know I am an alcoholic. I know I have a tendency to deceive. To manipulate. To jerrymander.
The most difficult part of my honesty with myself is deciding when I’m at fault. The easiest thing to do is to find reasons that someone else is to blame for my indiscretions. Or that no one is. But the truth, the difficult truth for me, is deciding that I am to blame, and that even if I don’t “deserve” the consequences, I still earned them. I feel this way about a lot of things. That even if I did contribute to my own difficult situation, I didn’t deserve the fallout.
The truth is, well, complicated. But I’ve earned the vast, vast majority of the bad things that have happened to me are largely of my own making. Through bad decisions, or lies. Telling the truth has gotten more natural to me. It takes training. I think it’s associated with fear, all this alcoholic mendacity. I am so terrified that someone would find and see the real, broken, ashamed, miserable, small, pathetic me, that I’d rather fabulate something entirely and risk that being exposed. Because even if you did uncover my lies, you still haven’t found the real self you could hurt. Pitchfork all my scarecrows. You can’t hurt me.
But that kind of dishonesty protects us from intimacy in addition to harm. I have come, in my sobriety and my maturity (such as it is) to respect and value intimacy and vulnerability in ways that I entirely abhorred as a young man; a drunk. Isolation is the helpmate of the drunkard. As a sober man, I’ve learned some of the value of being known. Being explored with tenderness rather than scrutiny.
Intimacy, as a younger person and an addict, all felt like a throat culture; a needle biopsy. Being penetrated painfully and scraped and examined and tested and torn. It was horrible and clinical and violating. It took several things to recover from that state. Including the careful and gentle efforts of a very fine psychologist. With whom I fought bitterly for a long time, only realizing after a long time that I was fighting with myself, my past, my fear. My lies.
Emotional intimacy in sobriety, now that I’ve done the work, is better. It’s… intimate. And sometimes still painful. It takes a long time to heal. But I have slowly put this self back together. One false step. One long stride. And now I’ve begun to run.