Getting Trashed vs. Cleaning Up
photos by just another picture
We live in a culture that will support and encourage you to run from your problems in any way possible. Stop by the bar every night and have a few beers. Make sure you have alcohol at your parties, so everyone can loosen up and have a good time. If you go to a friend’s house, be sure to bring a six pack. Do all of these things and no one will ever question you. In fact you will be encouraged and celebrated.
But should you decide to stop drowning your sorrows and start paying attention to what they might be telling you — should you decide to open up to your life and your emotions — should you decide to face how devastating your losses and failures have been and seek help — don’t expect a whole lot of encouragement. Expect, in fact, a certain amount of opposition. People will encourage you as long as you are handling your difficulties in the culturally preferred way, which is to ignore them and/or run from them, which is exactly what alcohol helps us do. But get serious about confronting your problems, get down to business with acknowledging the truth that you are in fact a significant part of your problems, and you will likely face some ridicule. Interesting how we cheer on those who keep their problems at the end of a bottle, but often ridicule those who have chosen to use another substance — Xanax, Paxil, Zoloft, whatever — to help them actually face their problems, confront them, and work through them. And no, I do not and have not used these substances — but my point, of course, is so what if I did.
I am not saying that everyone who enjoys a glass of wine with dinner is “drowning their sorrows,” or that all people who choose to drink are actively in the process of denying their problems. I am simply saying that, culturally, the “deny problems” approach is favored, and the “confront problems” approach is not. And of course people are actively engaged in denying their problems both with and without the help of alcohol, and with the help of many other substances and habits besides alcohol.
But deep down, we all know that something is wrong. We all know, deep down, that we are hiding fear, or insecurity, or jealousy, or regret, or a feeling of inauthenticity. Nearly everyone fears that if others really knew us, they could never accept us and love us. We’re all hiding something. And because this is true, most people are therefore enormously threatened when someone in their life decides to stop hiding and to find, face, and follow the truth. When you make this decision, people who claim to love you (and for the most part really do) will often ridicule you, call you a head case, and try anything they can think of to get you to return to denial and falsehood. This is not because you’re doing anything wrong. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that the light you are reflecting hurts their eyes. Truth can be painful to look at, and when you begin to look at the truth about your life, others feel less comfortable denying the truth about their own. If they are not willing and ready to face the truth, they will say and do whatever they have to do to get you to stop living in truth. It’s nothing personal, although it feels very personal.
So if you are a truth-seeker — if you have decided to clean up instead of remaining trashed — to pursue truth rather than falsehood — to face reality instead of run from it — do not expect the enthusiastic support of those around you. If you end up getting it, you are fortunate indeed. Either way, seek the truth about yourself and your way of being in the world. You owe it to yourself. But remember to be gracious with those who are not ready to do the same.