I was just asked how it’s going with my sobriety. I can’t imagine what my face looked like because my mind started racing at 300 miles per hour, attempting to scan every conversation I’ve had with this guy to figure out exactly what he might be referring to. It’s not like we’re the closest of friends, you know, like someone I would tell my secrets to, who would then be given permission to ask me questions like this. I had just told him how meaningful, joyful, and story-filled are my times on the weekend working in hospitality at a local hotel.
“I mean, it must be difficult being around the alcohol and people drinking all the time,” he clarified.
My head was still spinning. I’ve lived my whole life doing what the best publicists do for all the celebrities—spin control. You know how they take their client’s random acts of stupidity caught on tape and turn them into something career-building? That’s what I do for my biggest client—me. Except it’s a bit more subtle. If I can keep up the appearance that everything is the way it’s “supposed to be” then there won’t be anybody trying to get underneath, to see what’s really brewing in my cauldron of gooey pleasantness. There’s nothing intriguing about nice.
Being nice is a great way to keep people at a distance. And for an attention-hungry, insecure, emotionally-driven narcissist, I can get pretty hungry for attention. So I’ve learned subtle ways to manipulate people into giving me a taste of the sweet honey I crave.
When you show a chink in your nice, especially if it’s a briefly revealed glimpse of pain on your face, it concerns people.
“What’s wrong?” They ask because they think they care, they actually just want everyone around them to be nice. It makes things better.
I let out a big sigh. “Oh, nothing.” Most people just walk away, but that’s okay. They don’t really care anyway, I guess. But when a person actually stops for a minute to dig deeper, that’s when I feel like I hit the jackpot, even though I’m acting like I’m four-years-old.
I’ve driven through several remarkable blizzards. And ended up in several remarkably deep ditches as well. One time I was driving back to college in Blair, Nebraska, after spending the weekend at home, working at the radio station and going to church in Omaha. I’ll never forget how so suddenly a switch in my brain literally flipped telling me to turn left. In the middle of the highway. Where there was no road. I can’t explain it. But I made a perfect 90 degree turn straight off the edge of the road and into the snowy ditch. This was in the days before cell phones. So there’s nothing to do, except wait for somebody with a truck, and the time to help, to drive by and hopefully find me. Like Gilligan in the snow. I think people prayed a lot more back then. Now we just pick up the phone to call for help.
On snowy nights, kind people with trucks will actually drive out into the bad weather looking for people to help. These people should get free cable TV for life or something like that. The problem for me is that people who stop and help tow people out of the ditch don’t stick around. They’ve got other people to go help. So I’m left to keep driving. I was helped, but I’m still alone.
Some people continually look for ditches to drive into, so they can keep getting rescued. This helps them feel alive. I am prone to be this way, though I’m thankful I don’t have to resort to this kind of desperate behavior very often. Though, I probably do more often than I realize. My self-help term for this kind of behavior is self-sabotage. To the extreme, self-sabotage inflicts great pain on yourself in order to hopefully bring about great rescue.
I don’t need someone to rescue me, though there are days I feel like I’d love Calgon, or somebody similar in effect, to take me away. My life’s mission has been to find someone who won’t walk away. I don’t mean that I need someone to continually ask how I am really doing. But someone who I can share life with, someone who will tell me the thoughts they think are stupid, and try to describe the feelings that don’t seem to have any words that fit. A compadre. A teammate. Another me.
Until then, I get to live with what feels at times like relational bumper-cars. I’m sitting in my car driving mostly in circles, attempting to bump into anybody near me. We crash bumpers, our heads jolt back, we laugh. We do it again, and then we find someone else to bump into. We keep crashing into each other until the Guy shuts off the ride. I’ve been stuck so often in the corner, unable to back up my bumper car, so far away from all the action going on. The teenage kid usually has to come over and physically push my car out of the corner to get me back into the game.
So when this guy asked how it was going with my sobriety, he was in effect asking me if I ever needed to be pushed out of the corner. What an intriguing question. My answer is an unquestionably and exclamatory, “Yes!” But to put a label on exactly what puts me in the corner won’t do it justice. It’s not simply drinking or any particular action. Sometimes I just get tired of all the crashing into other people and want to see if anyone is out there there who will push me out of the corner.