Fitting In.

May 4, 2011

Chicken Hell. Probably not a real common Google search.

    A common thread binds we unfortunate souls who find ourselves in rooms and rehabs and hospitals and prisons and all those other God-forsaken places on earth addictions take people before the illness finally and mercifully issues the coup de grace. Most of us acknowledge never feeling quite at home in any environment. We don’t feel as if we ever completely belong anywhere.

    This social pain – as does every other kind of pain – nudges us towards oblivion. This is certainly true for me. I have friends and many acquaintances, in many different walks of life. In fact, given my proclivity for contraband, I move effortlessly in environments my more “respectable” friends would fear to tread. But being able to function in an environment – even function very well, superficially – is not the same as fitting in. There are very few places I have ever felt completely at home.

    I was an athlete but was never at home in a locker room. I am intelligent, but I am no intellectual; the ivory tower was foreign to me. I was raised in church, but for a whole host of reasons, I never felt at ease there (I’m getting there; I have discovered God in a very real way – finding a church home is next). I went to a public high school, but had a father who was a minister, so I perceived that I never completely fit in there. I went to law school and met some of the coolest people on earth; but I didn’t completely fit in with most of them, either – I didn’t go to private school or pledge a fraternity.

   I had a lot of people I called friends, but – unlike my brother, for example (ah, the happy oblivion of being a middle child) – I felt like I had one or two friends and a whole bunch of acquaintances. And there are stories – as there are in everyone’s story – of episodic rejection by all the various groups identified above, which fed my belief that I didn’t fit in.

    All this not fitting in and I starved for positive attention and reinforcement. This is a common trait in first-born, who as children are often given too much praise for the good they do, and too much criticism for the bad (although let me add that I have the greatest parents in the world; this is not a critique of them; this phenomenon is nearly universal for first-born).

Gary Larson is a sick man.

    I was extremely susceptible to peer pressure as a teenager, but it wasn’t in the context of the everybody-is-doing-it, after-school-special type of peer pressure. I just went above and beyond to gain acceptance: drugs gave me instant credibility. Also, I began to deploy humor in the form of sarcasm as a defense mechanism. These things worked really well together to shield me from the social pain of rejection, and I continued to use them in concert up until about two weeks ago. More than 15 years later.

    One thing that set me apart from a lot of people – other guys in particular – was that I was – am – extremely sensitive. This was at odds with the high valuation I placed on the traits of grace under fire and an easy-going temperament – in addition to this dry, sarcastic sense of humor I was working on – so I internalized things that bothered me or hurt my feelings while trying real hard to display a devil-may-care attitude. And looking back, I can see now that I got my feelings hurt easily and, therefore, often.

    My existence – happy on the surface – felt at times like that of a place-keeper. Like I was inhabiting this body and interacting with the people in my life just to hold someone else’s place. Belonging just enough to keep the seat warm for when the real Jason got back. Like this was just a warm-up for my real life. I had a tendency to ask myself: is this all there is?

    From an existential point of view, wow, that’s f@cked up thinking! I had parents who loved me, a great relationship with my brother and sister, a great, warm, accepting and loving extended family and eventually, a family of my own. But I had moments when I felt very alone, and I had this artist’s temperament and a melancholy streak I had no idea how to deal with. So, I drugged my brain – at least in part – to make it stop feeling. When I drank and did drugs, I felt like I fit in. I had a society of people – in the case of drugs, a secret society – who at least on this one important (at the time) issue, were on the same page as me. I belonged.

    And now I’m been thrown in a foreign environment with a bunch of complete strangers, without the drugs and without the alcohol to assuage my social anxiety. Being honest, I have moments here when I feel like I don’t fit in. And now I have to DEAL with it. For the most part, I feel this way because of me and my insecurity, not because of anything anyone else here has done. But under these circumstances and without my social salve, minor differences or social hiccups are magnified. So my sarcasm defense mechanism is up, big-time, along with the fake devil-may-care attitude.

Chandler Bing was the Picasso of sarcasm-as-defense-mechanism.

    Fortunately, I’ve definitely made real friends, several of them. People who it feels like I’ll be friends with for the rest of my life.  As you no doubt noticed, J rocketed straight to my list of top-five people in the world (in the span of only five days; he’s a wonderful human being). The kind of person any parent would love for their son to grow up to be, or for their daughter to marry. And I’m not even giving the caveat “now that he’s clean.” In J’s case, I feel like this transformation was inevitable. I hold him in that high of regard.

    In fact, J has been coaching me to allow myself not to give a shit what anyone thinks about me. It’s a lesson he’s learned, and now he wants to give me that same gift. If I’m doing the things I need to be doing, other people be damned – I’m gonna be fine. It’s funny, until this experience, I never knew that I had such self-esteem issues (nearly all self-inflicted). J has been great medicine for me. And there are others, too. Stay tuned…

3 Responses to “Fitting In.”

  1. mary poston said

    Best wishes to you! I agree with J- life is way to short to give a shit about what random people think. Live for you and the ones you love.

  2. […] this is my sobriety, not anyone else’s. And like a good friend once told me, I need to just not give a shit what anyone else thinks. Posted by rabe76 Filed in Addiction, Alcoholism, withdrawal ·Tags: addiction, alcohol, […]

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