My story is pretty unspectacular. The abbreviated version is that I began drinking heavily in response to some unresolved trauma from my childhood triggered by the birth of my son. I subconsciously knew this at the time of my drinking and after getting sober I know this to be true to fact. I hadn’t always been a heavy drinker, there were times when I’d binged, but by my early thirties, I was pretty mellow.
Over the course of my first year of sobriety, I did a lot of listening at meetings. I heard many stories of the first drink holding some sort of magic. Stories where people had become addicted nearly instantaneously. Stories that were not my truth.
I also heard many sayings. Sayings that seemed to make some sense for many people, even if they didn’t make sense to me. Sayings that went counter to my understanding of the universe based on my own experience.
Gradually, I found myself adopting these sayings. I found myself changing my narrative to fit the stories I’d heard in the rooms. I began to believe that perhaps my drinking had been troubled all along. That perhaps I’d had a problem from the start. I began to believe this in my core. Until one day, I didn’t.
I was reviewing my life, once again, and I came to realize that no, I hadn’t been an alcoholic all my life. And even though I perhaps showed some tendencies early in my drinking career, my drinking had not adversely affected my early life. The narrative that I’d started to tell myself, was not my narrative. It was the common narrative of the group. I was adopting it even though there were parts of the story that weren’t true of me.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things that get said in the rooms. I’ve been thinking about how some of them resonate and others don’t. I’ve been thinking about how at times (particularly as I was changing my own personal narrative) some things resonated after they’d previously rang hollow.
And I’ve started to question things. How much of what gets said again and again in the rooms comes from a person’s own experience? How much of it is learned experience? How much is just being repeated because others have said it before?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. I know that for some people what they say in meetings is their true experience. But I also know, that I found myself saying things as if they were my experience when they were, in fact, not from my experience.
I’ve learned that it’s important for me to be true to myself. I’ve learned that I need to be vigilant against adopting a narrative that is not my own. And I’ve learned that I have to be careful to share what is true in my experience rather than simply parroting the words that were said to me.
This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.