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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Alcohol Recovery: On Being Selfish & Feeling Guilty

As we sat and worked together on my relapse prevention plan, Michele and I discussed various aspects of what I would be facing on my trip in terms of alcohol stressors. I identified some of the major ones quite easily - I, for example, expected a large portion of my friends would be drinking when we went to the pub, and that this, in turn, would prove difficult for me.

We hashed out strategies like leaving the room, taking a short walk, even just going to the bathroom. We talked about saying no. And Michele made a suggestion, I don't even remember what exactly it was, but I balked. She wanted me to be selfish. Now, don't get me wrong. I can be selfish. I'm pretty good at being selfish -- when it's unintentional. What I struggle with is the idea of deliberately setting out to be selfish (or even, to a degree, getting my needs/wishes/desires met or recognised).

So... I balked. We discussed it, I still wasn't comfortable with it. We didn't write it down as a strategy because we knew I was too uncomfortable with it to use it. And then a situation came up that it sort of got used rather by accident.

Sat around the table after dinner, everyone began discussing where we'd go next - whether we'd have a drink or go our separate ways (which, admittedly, wasn't entirely all that separate). A few people expressed an interest in going for an alcoholic drink and my best friend turned to me to ask how I felt about that plan.

Now, bear in mind, please, that by this stage I'd been around someone who was drinking almost every day for almost a week. The night previous I'd had to bail on my friends because I couldn't handle the pub atmosphere. I was very aware in that moment that if I went to a pub with my friends, I would not have been able and willing to stop myself ordering a drink. My reserves were at a minimum - beer looked good.

I admitted that if "they" were to go to a pub, I wouldn't be joining them. Not really my style, I'm better at tagging along and forcing myself to just cope with it until I can't anymore - better that than what transpired...

Because my friends decided that they wouldn't go to a pub. They wouldn't go for an alcoholic drink and we would instead go to Starbucks. (Which turned out to be closed, adding more difficulty and more guilt.)

And it was the sweetest, most lovely gesture. And I can't even put in words how much I struggled with that. Because now everybody was accommodating to my wishes, to my selfishness. And that's exactly how I felt - selfish.

They wouldn't need to, if only I could drink responsibly.
They wouldn't need to, if only I could be a grown up.
They wouldn't need to, if only I could suck it up.
They wouldn't need to, if only I could act like a normal, sane person.
They wouldn't need to, if only I wasn't such a screw up.
They wouldn't need to, if only I wasn't so weak.

If only, if only, if only.

I could carry the if onlys on but there's no point in rehashing all of them, because they're not separately relevant. There are a thousand reasons I was uncomfortable with everyone changing their plans to accommodate me - and while in some ways, all of them matter -- in the ways that count right now, none of them do except that I felt so selfish.

I felt, too, that I had forced my friends into the position where they had to choose between spending time with me and doing what they wanted, and that's something I'm very uncomfortable with, as a whole. (And it takes very little evaluating to see that this is probably where a part of my difficulty in making decisions that involve other people in any way comes from.)

In the time since that night, I've done some work on teasing out the stuff behind that, and one of the things I found was that (in addition to and separate from my belief that I as a person don't deserve concessions because my worth is less than others - which is a whole separate thing that after years still needs serious work) I believe that since this is my own fault, I have no right to concessions for it. If, for example, my knee was causing a problem and everybody wanted to climb Mount Everest, and I were to say "I'm not capable of that, let's hike Mount Gravatt instead" and people changed their plans to accommodate that, I would be far less uncomfortable...

But my knee is not the problem. My alcoholism is. My desperate need/wish/desire (I'm not sure which one best fits the way I feel about it though I know need is not physically accurate) to drink something that is going to destroy me if I don't force myself to stay away from it is the problem. And that's my own fault, my responsibility. How dare I put someone in the position to choose between something they enjoy and me?

And if they choose me, how can I allow myself to not feel guilty about that when I feel like they've chosen the raw end of the stick.

I am, as is probably obvious in this post, still struggling with how to find my balance and peace in this issue. Recovery is hard, and everything is still so tangled together.

Challenges and Cheerleading:
It's okay for people to choose me over drinking.
It's okay to say I'm not going to do something, even if that's what everyone else wants to do.
No matter what lies I tell myself, I am actually no longer capable of having "just one drink".
It's not worth the cost to drink.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.


  1. Sometimes it's ok to be selfish. And sometimes it's ok to let your friends value you and care about your well being. (They do so because they WANT to!)

  2. "they had to choose between spending time with me and doing what they wanted"

    i suspect, actually, that at that point they had been presented with two things they wanted; your company, and a drink. they went with the one they wanted *more.* it's like saying "chocolate or vanilla," (both are good, its just a matter of what sounds best in the moment) not "chocolate or chopped liver" (one is good, the other you might feel obligated to have if your mother were watching).

    also, the difference between selfISH and self CARE is sometimes narrow and sometimes vast. it can be tricky. but in your identification here (not talking about how it felt to you, more the reality of it) was off the mark. i think you did self CARE, not selfISH.

  3. Your friends had a free choice. Go drink at a pub without you or go have something else somewhere else with you. They chose to be with you you. They dion't feel forced or obligated or whatever, they knew they had a choice, but they also knew they wanted to be with you. That's the end of it. I know the feelings are not caught up yet, but that's what happened. They had a choice and they chose to go to McDonald's. They were actually quite pleased when you voiced an opinion and they haven't regretted the choice they made once. (speaking for myself of course, but I'm guessing others as well.)


  4. A true friend would naturally choose lovely you over boring alcohol!