The Fanatic in the Attic
When I first came into recovery the thing that really killed me was realising that my thinking was haywire – that I was generally wrong about everything.
My ego was devastated by this newly apparent reality.
I had long prided myself in always being the smartest guy in the room often dismissing other people’s views on things. Generally I always thought I was right about practically everything and what I did know was hardly worth knowing.
I found out my dismissiveness was linked to my insecure attachment. I ended up being intolerant, arrogant and dismissive of others. It kept others at arm’s reach because I didn’t trust them.
The echos of childhood can reverberate for decades afterwards.
So finding out I was often completely wrong about stuff was devastating?
How could I be so wrong about stuff?
Especially I had built up over a life this façade always being right?
My counsellor asked me once “Would you rather be right or happy?
“Right of course” I replied.
I was rarely right about anything in the first months of recovery.
I could not grasp why I was so often wrong, how I kept completely misperceiving events or mistinterpreting people, their facial expressions, their tone of voice.
I would recount something to my sponsor, he would listen and then give the version of events that actually occurred.
I despaired that I had turned into a cretin somehow?
When at wit’s end, this former intellectual genius was illuminated one day.
One day after group therapy in treatment – where 10 complete strangers take seeming delight in telling you who are really as opposed to who you think you are – I was walking in a local park when I suddenly had this revelation that my thoughts were always leading me to a place of emotional pain.
It was as if my thoughts were out to get me, had sort of stopped working for me and had decided to work against me instead.
My thought seemed to blame me for everything as if they were trying to get me to go ”to hell with it, let’s have a drink!”
The thoughts seemed to be the voice of a really negative self schema, mixed with my alcoholic voice that just wanted out of this strange alien world of sobriety and thought it would hassle me until I succumbed. A world full of people who scared me, whom I did not trust.
I did not know how the hell to cope with this world sober and it scared the hell outta me.
The thoughts were fraught, negative, self loathing, they seemed to contain fragments of the reasons why I drank in the first place and the reasons why I drank years after.
There was a maelstrom of unresolved issues and negative ideas of self mixed up in a strange brew with the motivation voice of my addiction which just wanted to drink.
It was no wonder I drank, with this discordant cacophony of mangled thoughts and harsh voices blaring way.
When I rang my sponsor, with news of this revelation , he was so delighted for me.
At how I had managed to disassociate me from these thoughts. He said these are the thoughts of your illness.
I imagined these voices coming from an alcoholic on a park bench who alone and skint with no means of getting more alcohol. Whinging and criticising, desperate and self loathing, life hating…
This had been my illness constantly jibbering away, trying to demoralize me..
He told me the 12 steps would help deal with these thoughts although they never go away completely.
It was such a breakthrough in early recovery. It is one of the main reasons I am alive today.
I had realised there was this addicted me, living upstairs like a fanatic in the attic, which was distinct from the new, recovering me that would have to try my best to ignore it.
This has become easier as recovery has progressed.
My illness and it’s lies, it’s quite convincing chatter lives in ME, the parts of my brain that deal with self, especially motivational parts of the brain.
Hence I have to be careful of wanting or desiring stuff as the thoughts and the chatter get turned on again. If I turn my will, my thoughts over to my HP then serenity prevails.
I have to be aware of Me. Me. Me.
I have to be aware of thoughts which have me, mine, or I in them.
If my thoughts have me, mine or I in them then I am lending my ear to my illness again.
This stuff is a difficult thing to come to terms with – it is similar to egodystonic thoughts in OCD sufferers – thoughts in conflict with a person’s ideal self-image – but when you do grasp this you are well on your way to recovery!