Becoming Self Aware

by Donnachaidh

We all think that we are self-aware. It’s what distinguishes us from lower life forms. We are taught it in school, and we believe it. But it is rarely true. To be truly self aware we would need to know many more “whys” about the way we live, and the reasons why we took certain actions.

As often as not we act on emotions, rather than an analysis of facts. This is especially true where the facts would reveal that we ourselves had shortcomings. We are to a man lax at recognizing our own shortcomings. It is much easier to blame circumstance, or someone else.

I was an alcoholic, uncontrolled. I lived the song “The beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert”. Except in my case it was Bacardi. And it continued all day. Why did I do it? Oh I knew why. At least I thought I did. It made the desperation go away. I was in a hole, but it wasn’t my fault. I was bitter, I felt that life had dealt me an appalling hand, but I knew that my friend Mr. Bacardi was helping me get through the bad patch, and soon things would turn around.

Before long my abuse of alcohol ran to a liter and a half of Bacardi a day. And things never did get better. Life was determined to drag me down. All my friends agreed that I was the subject of misfortune, I used that as solace. Until I had no friends left.

One New Year’s Eve, always a difficult time for the friendless, I rang AA in a drunken stupor. I suppose I wanted a friendly voice, or just to hear a voice, I really don’t remember my motivation at the time. But the guy I spoke to somehow persuaded me to go to a meeting of AA, and somehow I got myself there.

It’s the only time I went. It was awful. But it was a major kick up the arse (Ass to any Americans reading this). I had miraculously stayed off alcohol for the morning and the meeting was over. I listened to what everyone had to say, and decided to accept the invitation not to speak myself.

As I drove away all of the inherent “wrongness” about AA started to fill my mind. Listening to their stories, the members, and reading their literature told me that I could never be cured, and that my only way out was abstinence.

It’s possibly true for many. But not all. I had studied psychology, and my previous career involved extensive use of both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I’d used these tools with others, mainly kids, to get them to address bad behavior (including addiction problems) but I had never applied them to myself – because obviously I didn’t need to. My problems weren’t of my making, I’d just been given a bad hand.

By now it was something like 3 in the afternoon, and I actually felt half-way normal, and for once sober. Thankfully, since to evaluate yourself is difficult enough sober. Impossible drunk.

If I wasn’t really the same as the alcoholics in the hall where we met, drinking tea and eating biscuits that tasted pre-dunked, then I needed to prove it.

As I say, I was not feeling too bad, and it was already halfway through the afternoon. I knew I was going to be OK because I could have a drink as soon as I got home. And I did. And I got drunk as usual. But something stuck, and I promised to address a few issues in the morning. And I did. I forewent the Bacardi for breakfast, knowing it would still be there when I got home, and walked to a local café and had bacon and eggs instead. I started in that café to work out how I was going to prove that I wasn’t like “they” were, and for the first time started questioning myself. I questioned my motives. I questioned the decisions I had taken and the choices I had made (or not made – not doing something is still a choice) and the motivation.

It wasn’t very long before I hit the victim scenario. I have every right to call myself a victim by the way, I was and always will be a victim. Of three very bad experiences. What I didn’t need to do was behave like one. As the saying goes “shit happens”. And it did. Thrice. A victim I am. I will always resent having being put in that position, but I no longer behave like one.

I had the knowledge and presence of mind to analyze myself, objectively. It wasn’t easy, and at one point I took myself to see a friend and therapist to help me over some of the harder parts of self analysis, but I got there.

The ultimate result? I became re-empowered. I sold everything I had in my home country, and moved to the South of France. I re-established myself in business and started a new life again. Do I still drink? Hell yes. I rarely go an evening without a glass of wine or three. But I rarely touch spirits, and I never drink before dinner time in the evening. To be honest the thought of a lunchtime drink makes me feel ill, let alone a breakfast Bacardi.

Am I truly self aware? Not really. But I am closer than most, and know those when can help me when I am stuck. It is truly difficult to be totally objective about oneself, but it is possible to get close.

Why am I writing this? No idea really. Partly catharsis, partly because I just persuaded a friend to go to AA (because here there is no real alternative) and perhaps partly it may help another person to quit killing themselves as I now know that I was doing.

Good luck, whoever you are.

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