Ahhh, the great paradoxes in life. Smart women meet Sexism, Smart Black Men and Women meet Racism, Everyone on the Planet meets Trumpism. All the various permutations of the “isms” creep up in everyone’s life, much to our dismay. It seems like any word ending in ism almost always has a negative connotation. And for the past two years, I’ve heard people cite their own alcoholic brand of isms hundreds of thousands of times. I hear well-meaning AAers discuss isms in their thinking as though emotions and thoughts and fears are all independent diagnoses. My internal dry-heave mechanism activates itself every time I hear that shitty, four-letter combination. “I took away the drink, I’m still an alcoholic. Because MAN those isms.”
I don’t like cliches. This is not to say I’m innocent of using them, I just think it’s a poor-man’s conversational trap door. “I have nothing original to say, so I’ll take a normal, human neurosis and slap ‘ism’ on the end of it.” All disgust aside, I think I understand the sentiment. As is our way, alcoholics tend to be self-absorbed. Our fear of say, public speaking, amounts to an enormous flurry of speculation about what others think of us.We might as well be leading a press conference at the Rose Garden. Forget about the thing we actually need to speak about; the immediate need is to analyze how and why the audience thinks we are blubbering, bullshitting fools. Like right now.
I don’t believe alcoholics are special people. I know special people who happen to be alcoholics. I think we are humans with a magnificent affinity for overwrought thinking…and alcohol. I agree that a program for continuous sobriety–any program that works–is necessary. But I don’t agree that we are superhuman or subhuman. We just need to be reminded that “the wolf is always at the door,” so to speak. I hate to feel apart from humankind, just like anyone else would. There is nothing special–or more accurately, unique–about that fear.
-Patrick Bateman, American Psycho
I guess what I’m alleging here is that addicts and alcoholics are way more normal than we think. There are times when I feel like such a weirdo for having the thoughts that I do. But I’ve noticed that the longer I am sober, the more willing I become to share those outlandish thoughts with my non-alcoholic friends. On any given day, one of my closest “normie” friends texts me comments about her bowel movements. I mean, this is the nature of of friendship, true. But it also shows me that my thinking isn’t so crazy, especially when we talk about serious things. She has insecurities and irrational resentments, just like I do. The only difference is, if I don’t work through the hidden complexities, I am wired to take it out on a drink. And there will most certainly be consequences if I do. Dire ones.
I’ve learned to block the isms. Audibly, mentally, figuratively. I keep in mind what I taught my kids to do. When they get rowdy, I tell them to “take a chill pill” (not to be confused with Xanax). Silently, they put out one hand, grab an invisible glass of water and slosh down their invisible chill pill. Miming this never fails to amuse them (or me). They can’t very well walk around thinking their problems are The Most Important Problems of Ever.
Leave that to the alcoholics.