It’s National Recovery Month, and the goal is to reduce stigma around addiction and educate folks on the services and benefits of substance abuse treatments and mental health services. These reminders are good for those who don’t experience a substance abuse disorder, who are life rafts for those struggling and ready to seek help, and who are necessary for those of us living a life of recovery.
Every day I don’t drink is another day of sobriety, but sobriety is not the only goal. I and other addicts want to find healthy ways to live rewarding and safe lives; we are recovering every day in our relationships, jobs, and passions. We are turning over past traumas, examining the trauma we have caused, and are actively trying to be kinder to ourselves while we move away from shame and toward healing. It’s a fucking lot, and I am proud of where I am in my journey. Everyone’s recovery looks different; however, the common thread I love most about my own journey, and the journeys of some of my favorite sober people, is the ability to cut through the bullshit.
I have always been able to see, hear, and feel deception. I am intuitive and feed off of others’ energy in a way that is exhausting and almost painful at times because I take on the feelings of people around me. This could be something I was born with, but it’s most likely a direct result of the shitty environment I grew up in. I lived in a physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive house. The people who were supposed to love and protect me hurt me. The people I turned to for help were the ones causing the damage. As I got older, I stopped looking to them as comfort and instead learned to understand their motives. I needed to be able to read my abusers so I knew what may be coming next. This helped me avoid certain situations or prepared me to go numb when I couldn’t get free.
This fine-tuned ability to read people has made me an excellent lie detector. I am already guarded and a bit skeptical of most people, but I can sniff out excuses and lies with accuracy too. It’s actually a fun game sometimes to listen to people yammer on about something or throw themselves a pity party to then ask a pointed question that they either can’t answer or get defensive to the point of not answering at all. I don’t do this with malice. I just don’t have the ability to sugarcoat a situation or allow someone to skirt accountability. I grew up in a born again Christian family full of child abusers; I’m all set with people not taking responsibility for their actions or circumstances.
I now take full responsibility for being a hypocrite. Until I started holding the mirror to the lies I was telling myself and the people around me when it came to my drinking, I was full of bullshit too. It wasn’t an easy process, but once I started to break through my excuses and really learned to understand some of my reactions to people and situations, I was able to let go of my ego. I soon realized that I was one of the people who got pissed off or hurt for being calling out. When I got defensive, scared, or angry early in my recovery, I had to learn that those feelings were so much more about me than the person I blamed. I did the work—I am still doing the work—and found a true sense of vulnerability that allows me to feel less like I have a chip on my shoulder and more like I can offer empathy to myself and others.
My empathy comes with a bit of an exception, however. I have very little tolerance for narcissism, excuses, or reluctance to do some self-reflection. Someone doesn’t have to admit they are using these walls to cope; I can see them from a mile away. I don’t have time to let folks convince themselves they can’t do something before being able to honestly say they are not the reason for not reaching their goal. I will support people who are struggling no matter what the topic, but if the struggle is coated in bullshit, don’t waste my time.
The longer I am sober, the quicker I am able to see what’s important and real. My bullshit meter is running on all cylinders and its efficiency gives me the confidence to say what I need to say but also to remove myself from unhealthy situations when necessary. I spent too long living a life that was not authentic. I have felt more than my share of pain and have worked too damn hard to waste my energy on people and situations that aren’t based in authenticity. Because of this, I have surrounded myself with people who share these same values, many of whom are also in recovery. Some of the best people I know have made some pretty bad choices—but then took responsibility and learned to do better. Our goodness was always there, but we needed some guidance, support, and honesty.
No one gets better at something by being told they are already perfect. And no one gets better at life by being told they are right all the time. After years of being gaslit by people I was supposed to trust and living a life that was full of secrets, shame, and broken promises, it is so refreshing to know I am safe and better off for my ability accept criticism and to call others out too. My journey to sobriety has made me self-aware enough to see my own bullshit, and it’s made it easier to see yours too.