Apartness is such a common thread in the stories of alcoholics and addicts. It seems to plague us; the feeling of being an utter misfit, of not belonging and having to pump ourselves full of booze just to feel a part of things. I don’t ever remember feeling comfortable anywhere. I was squirmy and awkward, my mind always swirling with assumptions that nobody wanted me there. The world didn’t have room for me or perhaps I was the one person God forgot about. I was doomed to wander the earth never quite knowing my purpose. I thought it was something I would grow out of, but here I am, an adult, and still feeling like the new kid in class.
Tight Knit Circles
I trudged through grade school as gracefully as I could manage, which basically means I tripped through most of my early life. I had little to no friends throughout the years, and the friends I did have usually didn’t last the year (who wants to hang out with someone who doesn’t even want to hang out with themselves?). The world always felt too big and too mean and the people in it seemed to want nothing more than to hurt me. And so, every day was a new battle with new enemies. I grew tired of the constant fight before I even reached middle school, but I somehow managed to drag myself out of bed each morning and face the day.
I remember during high school dances, people would always gather in tight-knit circles to dance and talk. All I ever wanted was to be safe in one of those circles. But every time I tried to join I was always gradually squeezed out. What a perfect illustration of how I felt about life; I was an awkward loner in a world of cozy communities.
And that’s exactly how I felt when high school dumped me off into college. I was just one person with an overgrown pixie-cut and a struggling self-esteem in a huge city I didn’t know. It was cold and lonely and that’s what started my alcoholic career. But I found that in the two years I was drinking, I only isolated more, became more of a misfit, felt more miserable, and constantly wallowed in desperate apartness. What I relied on to bring me closer to people ended up ripping away everything I cared about.
Sobriety Will Change Things, Right?
I thought that my sobriety would change these things. I thought I would return to school after a summer in rehab and be triumphant – that the grey-scale glasses would finally be lifted from my eyes and the city would blossom before me, welcoming me into its fold.
It hasn’t. It feels as cold as it did when I moved here four autumns ago. I have ventured down its alleys, visited its local shops, enjoyed its food, but it still seems to be withholding its treasures from me. It taunts me with laughter spewing from bars. Constantly throwing exclusive groups of happy friends in my face. It never stops holding up a mirror to my loneliness. It’s amazing how apart I can feel in a city so crammed with people. There are so many circles here just like in those high school dances and yet not one vacancy… At least not one for me.
It is hard to be lonely and sober…
The only places I feel at home now are at AA meetings, and perhaps it is because they are large and it’s easy for me to come and go without being noticed. I feel more comfortable at AA than I do in my own apartment; even my bed seems to whisper to me that I just don’t belong. I have to ask myself one thing every day now in order to quiet the Burnett’s and Smirnoff chatter in my head. I can drink or I can be happy – what do I want to do today? Though it’s hard for me to say that I’ve been happy since I’ve journeyed back to school, I have stayed sober. And right now, that’s enough for me. I know that whatever pain I am suffering in this moment will only be exacerbated with a drink, and that helps keep the thirst at bay.
I Belong on This Planet!
Though the awkward misfit in me would rather hole up in my apartment with Netflix and Noodles and Co., I know I cannot sit around and wait for the world to open itself up to me because it simply won’t. It’s hard and it’s horrible, but it’s time for me to create my own space in those circles. It’s time for me to stake my flag and let the world know that I’m here to stay. I’m done being squeezed out.
And you know what? It’s easy to squeeze someone out who doesn’t think they belong there in the first place. If sobriety has taught me one thing it is that I belong on this planet. In this crazy mess of a universe, my life is rich with reason and purpose; my Higher Power has given that to me. There will be times in the future, just like now, when I’ll feel alien and strange in my surroundings. When that inner misfit will scream at me to go back into hiding. But if I don’t even believe I belong here, nobody else will either, and I’ll once again find myself a lonely wanderer searching vainly for connection. I’m over being lost, alone, and apart.
And so I’m determined to push myself into all of those private dance circles. And tell everyone they better get comfortable, because I’m not going anywhere.