Maybe it’s because of my years as a habitual liar and Omitter of Truths, that I have a hard time believing all the things people tell me. Not in an especially critical or cynical way. Not even in a suspicious way. Just in a-“I wonder if they really know how they feel about this”-way. Sometimes when I thought I was being honest, I wasn’t…all the way.
It may also be because of my years as a habitual liar and Omitter of Truths, that I have a hard time believing the people that seem to believe everything I tell them. How many times did I sit across from someone blatantly lying to my face and I’d patiently accept it? Not surreptitiously or resentfully but out of pity. Or finally resigned that this was a lie too big to conquer in one conversation or too small to matter in the long run.
I’ve found that I surround myself with people that look beyond the words being said. The people that will ask a straight-forward question, listen to my answer as if scanning it, then pause – ask me another question about my answer – then listen. This is good (and annoying) because the only thing worse than lying to someone is inadvertently lying to yourself. But it takes the type of people that “get” me to know what kind of question to ask.
That’s what we gotta do is get down to just one story, the true person we are, and live it all the way out. -Denis Johnson, The Starlight on Idaho
These types of people know where I keep my secrets, where I tuck the lies, where the delusions take over reality and fears take over my words.
That’s what is so hard about recovery. It’s the act of finding out who you are in real life. In my addiction, there were so many versions of me floating around out there and they all sucked. Then I had the delusions of who I intended to be, and those were all very compartmentalized and separate in my brain.
One personality for work, one personality for church friends, one personality for family, one personality for AA friends…
Sometimes the more difficult thing was finding out who I was not. A lot of “outsiders” not in AA think that writing a list of our character defects is a demoralizing and degrading act. Well, for one, if you think that then I think you should write one. It is a step into humility, that’s for sure. But more than that, it’s a step into owning who you actually are.
If anyone escapes childhood and adolescence without any trauma, then good for you. You’re probably a great person and somehow got lost and ended up on my blog.
But for the rest of us, those traumas packed on a bunch of descriptors of what we thought defined us. We identified with those parts of ourselves that were dirty and broken and carried that into every part of our lives. Or else we tried stubbornly to ignore them or drown them in booze, drugs, sex, food, etc.
To ignore a trauma is just as much a betrayal to my identity as it is to have it become my identity.
That is also so difficult to grasp. To let go of even the bad things I thought I was. If my whole personality was based on being an asshole alcoholic, and now I’m honest and Christian and sober, who the hell am I? What am I left with? A child of God, ok, but what does that even mean. I have a lot more experience being the “bad things” than I do with this honesty business. It’s tough. It’s scary. It’s dangerous.
Yet, that’s what makes it all so thrilling. And as any good alcoholic will tell you, sometimes chasing that thrill is all we’ve got.
And God. I think God when He sees me in these “honesty or die” situations, is like, “Uhh, we already know you’re going to tell the truth, stop making it such an ordeal. Scoot, scoot, leave that person a note that you hit their car and move along… there’s more cool stuff coming your way…”