Resisting my urges became second nature early on. It turns out I’m an exacting person. One with powerful desires and urges and ideas that I never figured out how to handle and wasn’t taught how to by my parents. (To say the least.)
I trained myself to accept conditions (inner and outer) that weren’t what I wanted or needed.
I wanted quiet, and I had to live in a noisy world. I wanted shade, and I live in a world where nice day equals heat and glaring sun. I was a contemplative kid, but when grown-ups (or other kids) saw that pensive look on my face, they jabbed at me to get me to “not look so serious,” or sad, to come back to the noisy world. Perhaps paradoxically, I also wanted adventure and stimulation. New languages, strange and wonderful cities and high foreign mountains… and at home I got indifference plus the reminder that if I did a semester abroad, I’d owe $1600 more in loans after college.
If you’re a supposedly good kid, you go with the world’s default (nice means sunny) or with what the world demands (pressure to be outward-focused, constantly available to respond to others). These created great dissonance in me, and they have constituted a lot of my discomfort.
I did do study abroad, and it changed my life. My instincts proved reliable. The loans paid for my escape from boredom, and were so worth it.
The price of compliance… a discomfort-infused life
Complying with other people’s worlds means living in a world full of stressors. My god, the irritations, once I started seeing them, were everywhere. (I still have a few to get rid of.) Rather than move through a world I had customized to my own likes and desires, a world calming and fertile for me, for decades I moved through a world that was intensely irritating because all I did was take what was offered.
A lot of it was physical. I failed to provide myself with physical comfort such as wearing sunglasses in the sun, drinking water when I was thirsty, peeing when I needed to pee (TMI!), resting when I was tired, getting warm when I was cold, staying home reading when I felt like being alone. It’s not like I was bizarrely thirsty, cold, and always needing a bathroom — this was subtle stuff. But one simple yet enormous element of my recovery is reactivating my responses to physical discomfort — getting comfortable, making myself at home in the world.
Where does alcohol fit? For many long years, my reaction to the irritations was to self-medicate. First I used food (sugar, carbs, fat). Then I was sort of free of the medicating for a while. And then I turned to alcohol. So many options for numbing away the stressors, getting “peace,” “happiness,” or “contentment” the artificial way.
But now I want my own peace, happiness, and contentment. That which comes naturally bubbling up from my body and mind. During those long years I poked my head up many times into my own contentment. But it was always short-lived.
It turns out that I have excellent, profoundly awesome reflexes protecting me from peace and pleasure. Award-winning. I deserve an honorary PhD in self-sabotage.
More on this shortly. Happy Monday!