Like many others in recovery from alcoholism and addictive behaviours I grew up with this really uneasy feeling of “not being part of”, “never belonging anywhere”.
I felt like I did not belong or did not fit in. In fact it was only when I got to AA that I had my first sense of belonging, of being amongst my own kind.
I had found my own recovery family and had this feeling of having gone home in some strange way.
I grew up in a house with three older sisters so thought I did not fit in completely with them because I was a different gender and had my own bedroom.
I also felt warily distinct or different from my parents too. I was always wary of my parents because I never completely trusted them.
Their violent arguments had lead to many traumatic incidents in my early childhood which still scar my psyche to this day. In fact I still suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) today as do about 40 % of alcoholics.
So I felt I never completely trusted and hence never completely attached to my parents, especially my mother. I loved them deeply but there was always this invisible almost unconscious wedge between me and them.
I also grew up in the “troubles” of Northern Ireland. I grew up in the highly usual scenario of being a Catholic in a very predominantly Protestant neighourhood.
This was also traumatic at times so I never attached with the society and culture beyond my home. I also got trouble from Catholic kids at school for coming from this Protestant area. I was always having fights to defend myself. So it was a fairly traumatic upbringing inside and outside the home.
Looking back I had more than enough reasons to feel not part of.
It wasn’t until I came to AA that I found a whole bunch of people who had also felt the way I did – they also felt they never belonged.
I was suddenly struck with a choice – either I felt I never belonged because of various circumstantial factors (which quite frankly did not help) to do with my upbringing or because I was an alcoholic?
As I feel completely at home with other alcoholics this seemed to be the reason I felt that I had never belonged.
If you feel that you do not belong it may be because, like me, you haven’t found your society of like minded people.
People just like you. People who do not fit in naturally with the so-called “normal” world?
In fact when I look back on my early drinking at about 14 or 15 years old I remember alcohol giving me that warm euphoric glow which felt like someone had poured “love chemicals” into my blood.
I had a “spirit awakening” if you like, whereby I felt so much more comfortable in my own skin, relaxed, expansive, acting spontaneously without fear, connected more with other people, felt the warmth and camaraderie of my fellow human beings.
Alcohol allowed me to more fully join the human race.
I allowed myself via alcohol to belong temporarily, to attach to the warmth of others.
Then in cold sobriety these feelings would shrink and recede – until the next time.
But was the illusion.
For me the so-called euphoric recall contains that feeling of belonging, or not being desolately alone. But connected. In fact the spirituality of 12 step groups is about the connection with others in the same boat as yourself..
In later years when asked by my wife why I drank, I would answer “to get away from myself”; to escape me!
I found a surrogate home in AA, a learnt attachment. Like my own family it can be far from perfect at times, but it is here I belong ultimately, with my own.
Accepted completely for who I am.
Where I am free to be me.