When I was drinking, I loved being the center of attention. I was an attention whore. Look at me, ME, me dammit. Tell me I’m pretty. Adore me and shower me with affection. Consider me smart and funny. Think of ME often and let me know you’re doing so. Watch ME get silly drunk and be hilarious and irreverent. Isn’t this fun? It is, for ME!
And I always wanted to be right. I considered it acceptable because you know, I’m a Leo, and everybody knows Leos are supposed to be larger than life, natural-born leaders and limelight-seekers, adored by many, magnetic to all, and generally the confident experts about almost anything under the sun. Funny how being born in a certain month gives you that right. Even when I knew nothing about a particular subject, I could always pull some semi-related fact out of my ass and sound pretty knowledgable presenting it. ME, not know something? Preposterous! You know the question – Would you rather be right or happy? That one was easy.
So it’s terribly and wonderfully ironic to me that when I celebrate a sober milestone at an AA meeting (most recently 9 months), I get a little anxious because I know the attention will be on me, briefly, and that usually I’ll be asked to share my thoughts with a room full of people. And because this program has literally brought me to my knees and shown me that the world does NOT revolve around ME, standing in the spotlight doesn’t feel so natural anymore. It feels humbling and awkward; the kind of awkward that feels like I’m actually growing in the experience. Standing up and sharing my sentiments and thanking the people who help me stay sober every day is a raw and vulnerable thing. It’s lovely and terrifying at the same time and leaves me feeling a little exhausted yet exhilarated from the honesty.
In this program, I have also learned to shut up. Specifically, to shut the fuck up when I feel the urge to say something that may or may not be valuable to a conversation or interaction. Someone in a meeting once said that we should all ask ourselves these questions, in this order, when faced with a challenging person or situation and we’re tempted to jump in:
– Does it need to be said?
– Does it need to be said right now?
– Does it need to be said right now by ME?
Considering these questions and being content in silence allows me to really listen to other people and realize that their points of view are not merely there to serve as a bridge to the next thing I’m going to say. Listening takes me out of myself and my own head and shows respect for other people. It keeps me from swallowing ME whole. And makes being right about something completely unimportant. Turns out I was carrying myself and all of my righteousness and self-centeredness around like a big bag of shit, and that shit was heavy.
When I put it down and walked away from it, I finally found myself.