“You know how you always want more for the people you love?” he says. “We want that for you, too.”
I sigh. I can piece together what he’s saying, connect the dots, and understand how it makes logical sense. But it’s so hard for me to feel it.
We’ve been talking for a while at this point about how I seem to not center my own life and happiness — and instead how I tend to creep into the margins of other people’s. Not because I’m dependent on them. But because I seem to believe that I’m only entitled to a fractional share of pleasure. Of joy. Of happiness.
It’s a very uncomfortable conversation. We’ve been trying to have it for over a decade now.
Any time I come anywhere near close to actually discussing it, I shut down completely. I cry.
This is strange for me. I’m not generally an avoidant person. In fact, I tend to be that person who very bluntly wants to discuss the elephant in the room. And when it comes to self-analysis, I jump right into my own depths.
Except for this…
“You deserve good things, too,” he says. “You don’t always have to come up with a justification for it. A reason that it benefits someone else, too. You can do things just because they make you feel good.”
I’m so uncomfortable that I don’t know what to say. I’m so uncomfortable I don’t know how to even be.
The Vertigo Involved Staring Down Such a Slippery Slope
And it’s only much later that it comes to me. Or begins to — in a series of painful flashes.
I can remember the last time I was comfortable with selfishness. Or at the very least, self-indulgence. I can remember experiencing a lot of joy that just benefitted me.
It was during a period I now regret. Deeply. I don’t discuss this much on the blog, and it often comes to a big surprise to people who know me, but I used to have a drug problem. I went through a treatment program.
And it hurts to look into the truth, but I can see it: I’m afraid if I start doing things just because they feel good — and not because they help others too and/or are important for my growth, development, and health — that I’ll find myself getting addicted to drugs again.
Gosh, that hurts to even type. It’s quite a scary prospect.
Anyway, once it hits me, I cry uncontrollably for a few hours. And then I approach my partner with it.
He shocks me: He’s so kind. So relieved — a strange thing maybe. But I can feel it emanating off him. “I suppose you’re relieved that I’m finally telling myself the truth about it,” I venture. “Instead of finding other ways to rationalize the multiple ways I practice self-denial.”
“I am,” he says.
I tell him it feels like a slippery slope. That if I start doing something safe-seeming — like spending more time on ceramics simply because I enjoy it and not constantly telling myself I’m doing it because we need more plant pots (although we do) — that it’ll be a slippery slope. And I’ll wake up one morning having destroyed this entire new life that I’ve worked so hard to build.
“Well,” he says, after a long pause. “You know what the slippery slope is, right?”
I cringe. “It’s a logical fallacy.”
I know he has a good point. But there’s still an awful lot of vertigo when I stared down such a slippery slope that’s hard to shake.
Trusting That Things Really HAVE Changed
“Anyway,” he continues, “you’re older now. Your frontal lobe wasn’t finished. And you have such better social support.”
I nod. “It was never about the substances. Not really. It was all secondary to trauma. To feeling isolated and alone. I was on the run from bad things that had happened to me. And I’m not anymore.”
We talk for a while. It’s one of the best conversations we’ve ever had.
But I do leave it still feeling uneasy. Still feeling afraid. Part of me is still unconvinced that things really have changed. That I can trust myself in a way that seems to come so naturally to other people.
But he tells me that this is normal. So I’m trudging forward with an open mind, hoping that time will come in and help me figure this out.