I always had a secret mission. In it, I took notes on the Earthlings and reported all findings to the mothership. The assignment seemed simple enough, but it was a long, lonely ordeal. You see, living as an imposter wasn’t for the weak-minded. To do what I needed to do – survive – my goal was to stay as separate from the hominids that populated this planet. This sort of science-fiction mentality saved my life…until I found the one true thing that would skyrocket me to my own private Krypton. Alcohol.
Whether it was the bullying or the apathy in the aftermath of the shoving and name-calling, I never felt quite at home in my own skin. Even as a child, I felt that everyone except me had gotten a manual for living – a set of volumes outlining what one needed to do to thrive in life. How to talk to others, how to smile and mean it, how to feel emotions without wanting to hide or wail uncontrollably. How to give and feel love. I felt a large chunk of something was missing in my life, but couldn’t put my finger on it.
If you were to ask me how I was after the bullies went home, I would have said, “fine”. And that was the veneer I put on for the next thirty years. I was fine. But deep down, I was a sensitive, empathetic, gentle boy who didn’t know how to navigate life’s rough waters. I was rudderless, adrift at sea. Whenever I was myself – doing well in school, playing the flute, being a general nerd – I was beaten down literally and figuratively. Grown-ups were either unwilling or unable to help me deal with these situations so they left me to fend for myself. The prevailing attitude of “boys will be boys” carried the day. So I hid my talents, lived my life under cloak and dagger. To be me meant pain. The only way I could feel safe was to picture myself as an alien who had landed here on Earth and stay a dispassionate observer. I played the role well. I shut down emotionally and cast judgements on everyone who darkened my space.
And then came the alcohol.
Alcohol allowed me to play both sides of this spiritual subterfuge. I could find that liquid courage to play the role of human. I could laugh, talk to others, sing, feel good about myself. At the same time, I could continue to isolate, craft resentments and feel victimized. My alcoholism blossomed and the good times ceased. All I could manage was to pretend to play at life while I crumbled within.
There is a term used in recovery, terminally unique, to describe how you’re the only one to feel how you feel and hence resign yourself to a slow death. I was textbook terminally unique. Playing the victim card stamped by memory of those bullies kept me in the maelstrom of self-pity and isolation. Even my role of observer no longer worked. I knew I had life within me, but couldn’t live it or feel it. I was suicidal. Being apart from, and not a part of, was destroying me.
There is no loneliness, isolation, or sense of being different as there is with the alcoholic or addict. We trod about as if we invented those things. Or at least we try and perfect it. It wasn’t until my bottom tossed me about like a rogue wave was I able to break that idea of being different. I found a connection to the Creator which in turn has allowed me to be open to His children. And in doing so, I found that missing piece which had always had me searching for – me. My authentic self, grounded in the love of others and guided by His hand.
I no longer need to observe from afar. I quit my alien job and finally joined the human race, love and spirit intact.
Paul at Message in a Bottle