As a born and raised, but now withdrawn, catholic, I have been predisposed to feel guilt for things of which I didn't need to feel guilty for. It is part of our religious makeup. I remember a time when I was quite young and we were unable to attend church on a Sunday because our car broke down. While all of us children were quietly ecstatic for the news that we did not have to attend church, our enthusiasm was quickly thwarted by the follow-up news that we could not watch cartoons or do anything "fun" for the rest of the day because we did not make it to church on time. I remember thinking how horrifically unfair it was since it wasn't even our fault. Surely God would forgive us for not attending church due to a broken-down automobile. Apparently, we should have walked the ten to fifteen miles and shown our true dedication.
Now there is a word worthy of looking up for further scrutiny. Noun; the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law. It is also a verb; to cause to feel guilty. This word in both parts of speech is pretty much synonymous with addiction, isn't it? There are so many directions we can take the feeling of guilt when talking about addictions. On one level, I am willing to bet that guilt played a huge role in why you are here reading this blog right now or why you began thinking about quitting your addiction in the first place. In that sense, while I do not think guilt is the proper motivation to quit an addiction, it is one consequence of the word's meaning that at least has a form of positivity. The rest of the consequences of its meaning actually perpetuate the end result we are trying to avoid.
As a noun, it is quite judgmental; having committed a crime, offense, or wrong. Let's be honest, shall we? We have all committed actions that could be deemed as inappropriate, wrong, questionable, or offensive while under the influence. I am sure some of us have tiptoed or even crossed the line of legality in our wrongdoings. Nevertheless, the guilt we feel over those missteps doesn't generally come from a concern of legality or outside judgments; no, it comes from within. We feel guilty about our actions because they make us feel bad. Our actions make us feel like we are a bad person. Our actions make us feel like we are not strong enough to act in a "normal" way. We feel guilty because we see others seemingly able to "handle" their alcohol and that makes us feel weak. We feel guilty because we know alcohol will cause us to act in ways we will regret, yet, we go ahead and partake in the libations without abandon. Most of the time, we feel guilty about our drinking or our inability to control our drinking, not the actions that follow as a result.
As a verb, guilt is an epidemic in the society of alcohol. How many times have we had a drink when we did not really want one because someone coerced us into drinking? While this certainly is not a valid excuse for drinking, it is a fact of the society of alcohol. People try to make us feel bad about not drinking, they make us feel like an outsider, they make us feel like there is something wrong with us; in essence, people guilt us into drinking. It happens with other addictions too but nowhere near the level it occurs with alcohol. I have truly had people beg me to have a drink or to stay for one more drink. Beg. What the fuck is wrong with us as a society that we feel it necessary to beg our friends and family to drink poison. We beg them to partake in an activity that we know will make them feel like shit the next day and probably cause them to feel guilty about it. Why is it so important to surround ourselves with people who are essentially killing themselves too? What's the popular phrase? Misery loves company. While the origins of the phrase do not directly speak to alcohol, the phrase certainly rings true for those who are actively drinking. We NEED to stop guilting our friends and family into drinking.
There is a popular meme circulating the internet these days that is pretty funny and somewhat relevant to this topic. Here it is:
Yes, just because we quit drinking, it does not ensure we are going to walk through life guilt-free. We will still make mistakes, we will still make bad decisions, we will still say things we regret, and we will still be fallible humans, however, we will do all of these things far less than we ever did while drinking or using. L brought up a funny comment regarding the above meme. She said, "I don't know, have you ever heard someone say, here hold my water and watch this?" She brings up a pretty valid point. Nevertheless, I can't help but believe the acts we try while sober and the acts we try while inebriated are vastly different in levels of risk and stupidity. We are, well most of us, inherently predisposed to self-preservation. It is in our nature to protect ourselves and those we care about. Alcohol removes that inhibition and opens the door to all kinds of self-destructive tendencies. Alcohol really is the problem.
Here is what I know. As a relatively new sober person, I have seen a massive reduction in my willingness to make stupid decisions. I have witnessed a wonderful decline in my desire to try and impress those who don't need to be impressed, by me. I have far fewer vague memories of things I did the night prior to which I am embarrassed. I wake up each day NOT regretting my decision to drink or drink more. I have a surprisingly better communicative relationship with my partner, my child, and my friends. I NEVER feel guilty for not completing tasks I had promised I would complete. I no longer have to listen to stories of things I did, and pretend to be amused at my zest for "living." I feel guilt over very few things these days and that is a blessing worth celebrating every day. In fact, the only thing I really feel guilty over anymore are the countless years I wasted while engaging in my addictions. I am learning to forgive myself for those wasted years, but that will take some time. Thankfully, I have a lot of quality time left for doing just that.
Living relatively guilt-free as a sober person is wonderful but there is another aspect of guilt I do not miss at all. Looking back, I know I was one of those people who tried to guilt people into drinking with me. I am certain I encouraged L to drink more than she wanted to at night, sometimes. I was a devout supporter of all things alcohol to the point that I made this regretfully stupid comment, which was later thrust back in my face after I quit drinking; "I don't trust anyone who doesn't drink." Oh my god, what the fuck was wrong with me? The answer to that question is quite obvious but it still does not feel good to repeat those words back to you now. What makes it even worse was when my own words were thrown back at me later on, "Aren't you the guy who said he doesn't trust people who don't drink?" Sigh. Yep, that was me.
The society of alcohol supports and encourages stupidity in those who choose to indulge in it and everyone who makes that choice knows it. Just look at the memes about stupidity and alcohol all over the internet. Look at the pride in the photos posted about drunken debauchery. Listen to your friends and family talk with pride about how drunk they got and the stupid shit they did the weekend prior. Watch the movies tout the glory of alcohol. Read the words in almost every novel that describes some form of lewdness while under the influence. Listen to the lyrics in innumerable songs that all but praise the gift that is alcohol. The society of alcohol is the biggest cult in the history of the world and yet the majority of the human population does nothing but perpetuate it on a magnanimous level, and they don't even know they are doing it; that's how manipulative the society of alcohol is.
Take away it's power
Let's stop feeling guilty and stop guilting our friends and family into feeling obligated to partake in something guilt-worthy. Let's start a new cult; a cult of respectability for ourselves and each other.
Guilt is a man-made emotion that prohibits successful sobriety. Let it go.