From what I can tell, the discomfort that I used alcohol to try to obliterate came (comes) from four different directions. Two have to do with my feeling judged or attacked by other people or simply by voices inside my own head, and two are productions of my own physiology. All are deeply uncomfortable, and I haven’t dealt with that very well. I sketched out a map a couple of weeks ago, and the discomfort is right there in the middle.
A voice says someone’s watching me, frowning.
I’ve managed to create a very committed voice/reflex in my own mind that frowns at me a lot of the time. It specifically frowns when I am immersed in something I love or take great pleasure in. Or when I’m gutsy — when I assert myself or exert myself to create the life or work that I want. I’ve done quite a lot of this in my life despite the frowning, but looking back, oh wouldn’t it have been easier had I not had all of that pollution in my mind.
It’s decades old. That judgmental look has an excruciating effect on me. My passions/life force objected vehemently to the disapproval, but for years the most they managed to do was to coat that unpleasantness with alcohol. Or before that, binge eating.
Someone’s literally watching me and frowning at me.
Obviously, these two are related. I didn’t come up with the frowning reflex out of nowhere. My mother’s side of the family was, from what I can tell, devoted to the idea that they were nobodies, and they made sure that their children understood this. (They happen to have been Scandinavian Lutheran immigrants a century ago, but I don’t think that everyone in those groups has this issue. Gotta be one or two who escaped.)
To dream or create or think one might have an impact on the world was to invite disaster. Disappointment, embarrassment (when you fail), punishment for being selfish. We were supposedly objects of other, smarter people’s actions and decisions. Here, too, I went plowing on through with my life, but I established ways of muffling or distracting from my betrayal of the family truth.
I’ve not lived with my parents for 25 years, and my mother died a decade ago. So this isn’t very real anymore. But what is real is a more distant disapproval, one from “society.” There’s no such monolithic thing as “society,” but there are sub-groups of people who often think similar things and we sometimes get “should” messages from them that go against our own desires. I’ll leave it at that for now, but I, like every other human on the planet, have elements of my lifestyle that other people frown at. Again, this is in the realm of joy and curiosity, and also my resistance to lifestyles that would cramp my style, such as being a mom.
The world is too bright, noisey, chaotic.
All right then. Moving on. Have you seen the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron? It describes me. HSPs, according to this author, are people whose nervous systems are particularly sensitive. We get overwhelmed by sounds, sights, or touch much more than other people do.
A majority of HSPs turn out to be shy – they withdraw from the world because it’s painful or intimidating on a sensory level. That part doesn’t describe me – I’m out there. But what I did do was self-medicate to block the sensory overload.
I feel anxious, depressed, irritable, or exhausted for no good reason.
One last one. Typing this out is rather exhausting, even though I’ve removed or made peace with all four of these for the most part.
This last one is also about wholly internal stuff: food sensitivities. A few years ago I made the discovery that my mood improved dramatically when I cut out gluten and dairy. I proceeded to identify soy and rice as problematic, too. I hadn’t realized it, but some things that I considered a fact of life or my personality (since we all have moods) were actually caused by things I eat. There’s a time lag from food eaten to mood experienced, making it hard to see the connections.
Now, if I avoid these foods, my mood is (usually) good or great. All the time. It’s wonderful, and I’m not sure I would have been able to walk away from alcohol if I still had these uncomfortable moods welling up in my emotional space on a regular basis.
All of these produced discomfort in me, and drinking was a major way to habitually soothe the pain.
What these all produce is dissonance — dissonance between my own lovely self, the lively, wise creature that’s inside of me, and a sensation or idea that is painful to that creature. Given any dissonance between my well-being or desires and something challenging (attacking) them, I have tended to side with the emotional attacker. This whole quitting alcohol thing is part of learning how to side with myself. Like Anne Lamott’s rule number one of radical self-care: “militant and maternal kindness to one’s own time-consuming and annoying self.”
I have more exploring of these four to do…. on another day. Thanks for listening. Have a good one!