extract from a new, undefined writing project:
Question from Grateful Girl: “Why do you do it? Do you get a lot of personal satisfaction?”
What’s the part of being a sober penpal that I like the best?
I have a front row seat while you do some something brave. You dehydrate Wolfie. You learn to ignore the voice in your head that says Drink Now. I throw the glitter, rustle some pompoms. I listen. I point out possible (maybe, theoretical) potholes in the road. But let’s be clear. You do all the hard work. You figure out who you are as a sober human. You have very large realizations and feel proud of yourself and feel relief. So having a front-row seat to that? It’s really very lovely.
Apparently I have a soothing voice. That anyone can feel calmed by me is funny, because I’m anxious by nature. Maybe I sound soothing because I’ve been right there. And I’m a good rememberer and a good describer. I have a few talents – communicate, write, build community, sense of humour, empathy. I’m determined and mostly upbeat, and when I’m not, my husband drags it out of me with his insufferable easy-going-ness.
Where do any of my traits come from? Childhood, I suppose. For some reason, and I really don’t know why, but I could not conform. I was a good student, easily bored, teacher-pleaser. And also insecure, unsure, with poor boundaries. I drank to fit in, and it worked until it didn’t. I don’t want to write a memoir, and I don’t want to talk about family shit because it’s not my story to tell. This part is my childhood story, I can tell this part: low income family, parental job instability, parental divorce, domestic violence, a time without a telephone, eldest of four children to young parents.
So what happens when you don’t get all of your needs met (and no one does, it’s just not possible)? You either resent those people for not gifting you with attention/self-esteem and a perfect life (I did this, resenting). Or you move on to a place (with therapy? with coaching? with time? with sobriety?) where you can accept that they did the best they could, and that while it wasn’t good enough (it never is), you can now go out into the world and fill your own holes.
My needs weren’t met (no one’s are), I can bang on the drum of “why me, why not this, why that, why this over here.” I can stand there with my needs not met (they never are) waiting for those holes to be filled by someone else. Or I can go out and make shit happen, pay someone to help me change the inside of my head, speak to counsellors, learn new strategies, and fill my own holes.
I’m not broken. I’m learning. Learning what I need.
We all have to do this learning anyway, even when we have cushy lives with money and smothering parents who love each other (!). If that was you, then the challenge would be autonomy, self-direction, internal motivation.
Nobody gets what they need.
OK, so what. So we learn how to do it for ourselves. We learn to self-soothe and have agency and get our shit together. We figure out what our hobbies are, we figure out how to move our buttons so that other people don’t push them so easily.
That’s the part that’s cool about being sober.
And that’s the part that’s cool about being a sober coach.
I get to watch YOU do THAT.