Contain Yourself, Boy

Not exactly what I was thinking about, but it'll do in a pinch.  I pulled three muscles just looking at this.  Medic!
Not exactly what I was thinking about for this topic, but I’ll take it.  By the way, I pulled three muscles just looking at this. Medic!

I am not on Facebook.  Or Pinterest.  Or Myspace.  I can also confirm that I don’t have a Tumblr account, have any knowledge of Instagram, Four Square or Tagged.  I am unsure of what some of those “share” buttons on my own blog even do, and am afraid to get anywhere near things that ask me to “Digg it” or go to “Reddit”.  I’d rather “forget it”, to be honest.  And as for Google + and Ning…well, I would have a greater chance at composing a polka in Sanskrit than figure those things out.   I am practically Amish, frankly, in my social media thingies (are they called thingies even?) I will admit to enjoying and using my Twitter account.  I also have a Rubik’s Cube and an abacus that I enjoy too.  I am also sure I have my old VCR with a copy of “New Jack City” still stuck in it (spoiler alert – Chris Rock plays a crackhead).  So…what does this have to do with anything other than my sheer ineptitude and unwillingness to join the 765 billion people who use those outlets?

Well, there is this thing called self-containment.  I haven’t seen very much written about it – there’s a bit of a paucity when it comes to the topic of unrevealed inner workings in a world where revealing everything – from the type of soup you ate to what you think of your boss to what colour undergarments you have planned out for the next day – is a de rigeur thing.  Self-containment isn’t about Big Brother (Google?) watching over you and/or invasion of privacy.  It isn’t about anonymity or being open and forthright (although it may play a part in it).  It isn’t about hiding behind a keyboard while pouring vitriolic venom onto an unsuspecting audience (hate the game, not the playah?  Whatever).  To me, self-containment is the ability to not overshare, to keep a certain part of ourselves / our lives unbreached, to enjoy a portion of our inner landscape on our own without questioning eyes, to have a modicum of self-respect and dignity towards our own selves.

A yes...the infancy of our shameless naked truths revealed on the interweb, stripped down to our base selves.   Or, just a creepy shot.
A yes…the infancy of our shameless naked truths revealed on the interweb, stripped down to our base selves. Or, just a creepy shot.

Now, this whole thing about turning into our own WikiLeaks with cute puppy pictures and Brown Betty recipes attached is nothing new, of course.  I am sure there are a plethora of folks who at this very moment are spilling everything about themselves like an oil pipeline onto the internet, nary taking a moment for introspection or couching it in a manner to make sense of it holistically.  Not to say that we don’t or can’t share pieces of our lives with others.  That’s the reason why the social media sites are so popular.  “Look at me! Look at me!  Like me! Like me! Retweet me! Retweet me! Enough about me, what do you think of me? ”  And there isn’t anything inherently wrong with Facespacetwitterdigg.  It’s how it’s used at times, and for a sober alcoholic, this leads me to a different outlook on these phenomenon and the idea of sharing.  Or oversharing.

As bloggers who are in different stages of this Booze Bingo we play (I23 – “I had 23 beers today!  I win…weeeeeeeee!”) – active, looking to quit, quitting, struggling, recovering, recovered – we have the tendency to write anonymously.  Not all of us do, but for the most part, we keep a certain distance from our scribbling, for obvious reasons.  So while anonymity hinders a lot of the oversharing that I may want to indulge in, it certainly doesn’t stop me from detailing all the minutiae of my day in any other fashion – on the laptop or away from it.  But for this alcoholic, there is a premium that comes with an overabundance of revealing without the countermeasures of boundaries, self-love and respect.  And this whole self-containment idea doesn’t just live in cyberspace.  This also applies to real life – disrobing emotionally to others regarding our alcoholism, or about anything else that pertains to our inner life.  There was a barrier that I had, and I crashed through it too many times.

If I could put a face to my ego, it would be this devilish man.  It reminds me of how often I would "phone it in" in my life. Six million reasons, doll.
This reminds me of how often I would “phone it in” in my life. Six million reasons I keep a killer ‘stache like this, honey.

There isn’t an alcoholic out there who hasn’t woken up, teeth itchy and tongue wall-to-wall carpeted, and not only cringed at what they did, but also what they said.  Ohhhhhh noooooo…I said what?  To who??  Nothing like the ol’ social lubricant dripping with too much grease and releasing the hounds.  I have had these moments, and I have had them sober.  Yes!  Emotional hangovers, they are often called – revealing perhaps too much in a vulnerable moment or some sort of emotional breakdown at some point.  Spent.  Burnt out.  Seeking comfort in just shutting the hell up for the rest of that day.  I have suffered a few of these in my sobriety, and have had to reset the Emoti-a-Meter (TM).  Instead of chugging water and aspirin, I pop large chunks of quiet measures and perspective to recalibrate myself.

Blabbing all about my dark and inner secrets to, let’s say, the bus driver or the hot dog cart dude at 3 am, is something I’ve probably done.  Not a big deal – unless that weiner peddler was my bud or my brother.  Where things fell apart for me was when I would reveal too much to too many folks.  Seeking sympathy. Seeking a last ditch effort to connect with someone.  Seeking to be seen.  Seeking to be heard in a world where I felt insignificant and useless.  Seeking to just be heard, period.  In exposing myself completely and with reckless abandon, I failed to see that I was harming myself, in a way.  I was showing full disrespect to myself…and that was par for course, because I loathed myself anyway.  So what’s a few extra sentences in my day, anyway? So what’s the big deal in demonstrating this “honesty” that people speak so highly of? What’s the damage in baring myself as the human being that I am to my fellow man?

Whoa.  A little...much.
Whoa. A little…much.

What it comes down to it is that I didn’t have boundaries of any kind.  I didn’t respect my own, nor did I respect anyone else’s.  By blurting out whatever was going on with me, which in my active alcoholism was usually unhealthy emotional turmoil, I engaged others in a conversation that they didn’t want nor need to be a part of.  I imposed my sick self onto the personal bubbles of others, and almost dared them to not take my own drama for the sake of my own temporary relief.  I didn’t engage in proper, useful and helpful two-way engagement with another person.  I took hostages.  I performed drive by’s.  I suffocated others with my runoff.  Threw pigs down a well for the sake of hearing splashes.

What I have learned in my recovery, amongst other things, is that sometimes there are some thoughts, actions, beliefs, etc. that are for me and me alone. There is a sanctuary within that precludes inviting others in like I would invite someone to check out my latest Facebook contribution or to join a chat room (am I using the right lingo here? Oh where is my rotary phone to call my godmother about these things?)  It’s not to say that I am keeping secrets or harboring some evil plan for world domination (well…).  But there is a part of me that needs to be just with me. My Own Private Idaho, of sorts.  The unfiltered, the raw, the swaddled, the whispered, the clutched, the loved, the broken, the repaired, the chosen, the protected.  A place within me where I can explore the core of me and to process, uncover and collapse as needed.  To sing within.  To dance privately.  To quell the noise above.

This is sort of what my inner chamber looks like.  Except think more "Tiki Lounge".
This is sort of what my inner chamber looks like. Except think more “Tiki Lounge”.

And that goes to this blog, or my tweets, or any other sort of public platform. The fantastic breadth of sober bloggers out here write on different levels of anonymity and privacy.  Some of us are quite open, some more guarded.  We all reveal to our comfort level.  But for me, I also have to be aware of several factors in what I share and how much I share.  Outside of anonymity (another topic for another day), there is the fact that people I know in my personal life who read this blog.  There are details that need not be disclosed.  There are things that can be misrepresented, misconstrued, misinterpreted, misdiagnosed.  There are things that, frankly, don’t need to be aired because this isn’t the forum for them or I don’t want to bore the living bejesus out of y’all.  Discretion and respect rule the roost in this regard.  And judgement.  Lots and lots of judgement.  Something I lacked for much of my life.

Listen, I am not prescribing a blogging burka of sorts, a messaging muzzle or a roll of duct tape over the keypad.  We are social beings and for me, this blog and other outlets give me a voice and places that allow me to share with others a bit of my internal mechanisms.  A sort of what it was like then, what happened, and what it’s like today kind of simplicity.  A window into my own realm, a place to showcase my struggles and resolutions.  And in return I get to bear witness to other people’s work and emotional / mental / spiritual landscapes.  It’s a conversation that never ends, with brooks and streams and inlets all coming together in a wave, pattern and flow that feeds into a body of language and understanding that we all get to feed from and feed into.

Sometimes I have to just file stuff under "What the hell?"  It's right beside the much maligned and underused "Who let the dogs out?" folder.
Sometimes I have to just file stuff under “What the hell?” It’s right beside the much maligned and underused “Who let the dogs out?” folder.

Self-containment gives me the perspective and wisdom between what I can broadcast and what I should broadcast.  Knowing the difference gives me a sort of internal breathing room, a place to house what is for me and me alone, and still plenty of space to be forthright and honest at the times I need to be, or choose to be.  I can be of service to myself and to others when I come to the table with clean motives and not there to throw up my emotional garbage and walk away for others to clean it up.  I take responsibility for whatever it is I transmit to others and make sure my boundaries and intentions come from love and respect.  I show up when I need to show up with whatever tools that allow me to reach into you and to tell you that you’re not alone.  I allow my heart to be open and receptive to what you have to share.  And I have every right to disclose or not disclose, to receive or to not receive.  It’s about the level of appropriateness in any given situation or forum.

I have been accused of being too honest – both when in my active days (a rare backhanded compliment, considering the epic amount of dishonesty I engaged in while drinking) and in my sobriety.  I am not sure if they are positive things, but I will take them in the spirit they were given.  But I know I have to reign in that instinct to open up too much at the wrong times and the wrong places. Sometimes what someone needs is for me to be quiet and listen.  Or share just enough to let them know I understand.  And that is a big lesson for me – self-containment gives me the gift of portioning myself as needed.  Fluid and yet responsive to the situation.  That is something I was unable to do in the past.   Self-containment gives me the opportunity to check myself at the door, look in the mirror, adjust my hair and decide what I am bringing to the party of life.  I get to continue building and respecting boundaries – for me and others – and get to feel out what I need to say and what I need to not say.  It’s about balance and self-love.  And self-love is the name of the game.

Digg it?

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul I love this! I AM a facebook junkie but can’t stand how some people feel the need to share EVERY single thing about themselves, their kids, their parents, etc. I also thank God everyday that Facebook was not around when I was a teenager or in my twenties. Who knows what kind of crap I would have written late at night. Someone was looking out for me:-)

    1. People ask me often if I am on FB and when I reply I am not at all, they look at me like I have five heads (I have three). But I hear about all the politics, the hurt feelings, the unfriending nonsense, the people from the past hunting you down and wanting contact…yikes. No thank you. But I do realize that for some, it’s a legit way to stay in contact with loved ones or friends. I guess it’s like anything out there – it depends on how you use it. for good or evil…lol.

      Yeah, late night drunken ramblings…who needs that as part of their hangover package? ugh.

      Thanks for the comments, Kristin…wonderful.


  2. REDdog says:

    A necessary cautionary tale well told, Paul. I don’t trust myself to not get caught up in the momentum (frenzy?) that can happen, its like the words are driving the message, ya know? So I included a new “edit zone”, my nearly 18yo daughter! After re-checking for spelling mistakes (bloody USA English is NOT the same as Strine), grammatical & syntax errors, topic relevance, logical flow, whether I feel I’ve mixed metaphores and changed tenses enough to give an English Lit. student an aneurism, before hitting Publish I ask myself “Does my Princess really need to know that?”…Good stuff as always mate, love yer work. LLHnR REDdog

    1. Ok – you had me look up “strine” – it was what I thought it was, but interesting to read (it was coined in 1964, apparently!). I like your edit zone. Friendly, approachable, unpaid…ha ha. I like how she is Princess…very sweet. I think we probably have a lot of similar spelling, both being from the Queen’s English. My spell check is American, so I have often given up adding all the “-our” words to my dictionary (like odour instead of odor, behaviour instead of behavior, etc) because it’s time consuming. Oh well.

      Anyway, thanks for the kind words, as usual. Frenzy is the operative word. I am glad that this kind of thing didn’t exist when I was younger – I probably would have ran over it and demolished reputations…just like I did in real life. Adding another forum and dimension to the madness would have been painful and unnecessary. But it does happen – Big Brother is out there, eh? <—-Canadian expression coming out.

      Have a wonderful day / evening (?), my antipodean friend.


  3. tfay64 says:

    “Self-containment gives me the opportunity to check myself at the door, look in the mirror, adjust my hair and decide what I am bringing to the party of life” I love this – and I’m borrowing it (with credit) Paucity? I have to look that one up. Anyway… excellent points and thank you for sharing. I like. Lots. Have a great Friday!

    1. Borrow away, my friend…lol.

      Thanks for reading and commenting – I love the interaction we all have on each other’s blogs…a wonderful thing indeed!


  4. One of the trickiest things about blogging for me is telling my story without telling anyone else’s story. When my lessons overlap another person’s, I have to find a way to write about it from my perspective only, which can be hard without crossing the boundary of telling a story I don’t have the right to tell. But it’s worth the effort because the result is usually clarity rather than gossip. I definitely felt more free to vent when I wrote anonymously but I never wanted to wake up with morning-after-blog regrets! When I drank, over sharing was my way of being heard so when I see someone doing it, I try to listen to the message under the details. Great post, Paul!

    1. The one thing I have learned in writing, and through 12-step recovery, is that I focus on my story and my experience only. I don’t speak on other people’s behalf. When I speak out of my own life and experiences, there is no dispute. When I speak about others, I could be wrong, I could be misrepresenting them or I could be misunderstanding them.

      I love what you said about clarity vs gossip – that’s exactly where I try to come from. Do I pass with flying colours every time? No way, Jose. But I do my best to come from my own path rather than someone else’s.

      Wonderful comments, Karen – love them.


  5. byebyebeer says:

    Boundaries. Thank you – you put a word to why withdrawing from social media has felt healthy for me. I used to be way into twitter, but gradually quit because of what it did to me. I found myself sucked in and overwhelmed, at first in a nice way and then in a fantastic way and then sort of a terrible way and, wait, doesn’t this sound familiar? This addiction sure is addictive.

    I feel an almost romantic nostalgia for what life must have been like pre-internet, though it was so long ago now. I’ve thought of ditching my smartphone for something smarter for me. Some people can handle these things, but I’ve found I feel more at peace with less.

    1. I love what you said about Twitter. I found that I can get wrapped up in it at times, as I did early on…in fact, I went through those phases you mentioned. Now, I just take it at it is. I don’t panic if I have “missed” something. I check it daily, but I don’t get wrapped up in it – I can read and not get drawn in. I don’t need to check every single tweet that I may have missed. So I have been able to manage that one. that’s big for me!

      I am glad you mentioned healthy there – I sometimes wonder if I am doing something because I want to or because I need too – they aren’t always compatible.

      Wonderful insight as usual, BBB.


  6. Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon says:

    MAN….I to feel like shutting my Author FB page down….WHY?…..Everyone seems FAKE! I’m surely not going to PAY someone for a Freakin “LIKE”…..It’s not a good place to be anymore. BUT…..Great Post, and that is why I have given you another *Girly* Blog Award Nomination for *THE INNER PEACE AWARD*…..because you Inspire me in my Recovery Paul! If you chose to pass on the LUV…Simple details are on my Blog post *Another Fabulous Award*….and your blog will stay on the blog roll 🙂 Hugs & Blessings! Catherine

    1. thanks Catherine – I am flattered! You are much too generous 🙂

      I didn’t know you can pay someone to “like” on FB? Really? What a crazy internet world we live it.

      Thank you for the encouraging words – you are a fabulous blogger and friend.


  7. Paul,
    I wanted to thank you for this particular post. I think it is very well-written, and it addresses something I think a lot of us face. I know I have had issues with oversharing and boundaries in the past, and I know from experience what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that oversharing and dumping of burdens as well. However, this is a specific part of my character/previous-and-sometimes-current behavior that I have not yet fully addressed and analyzed. In the times that I have looked at this aspect of myself, I’ve come back with more questions than answers, and have realized that this oversharing was a bit of a paradox. As you said towards the end, you have been accused of being too honest, although dishonesty was actually your MO at the time. I feel like this part specifically applies to me… I was oversharing because I was, as you said, reaching out to others in some desperate plea for attention… I wanted to spill what seemed like the most bare and honest parts of myself, partly because I just needed to feel connected to people, but I think also to prove to myself and to others that I was honest, open, and forthcoming, even though I knew deep down I was far from any of those things. My verbal diarrhea was a mask for my closed and dishonest nature. Anyway, I’ve gone on a tangent. Just wanted you to know I identify.

    1. Thanks for this – you speak a lot of truth here…yours and mine, as I too see myself in your words. THe idea of verbal run ons as a mask for my closed and dishonest nature….bang on. I also like what you said about revealing inappropriate yet true nuggets of our core to come across as truthful, when really we are swimming in deceit. You wrote in a few scant sentences what it took me hundreds and hundreds of words…lol. Fabulous.

      And what you said about being on the other end of it- I understand that completely. That might be another post, in fact. I never thought of that, but it has happened to me countless times, from my treatment center and onward. ugh. But I do understand where they come from, these guys spilling all over me…lol.

      Thanks for the wonderful comments.

      Have a glorious day.


  8. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Excellent post indeed. I’m not on ANYthing but wordpress. Someone did direct me onto twitter a few months ago “You should be on it, it’s amazing, I have 100000000 followers & you can too, and you’ll be on the pulse” & I thought, hmmm, can be a good thing to be very current, and I opened the account, reached out to a few – but not consistently, and 20 hours after the news that hit and it was just another message bank to check, and I just couldn’t keep it up. WordPress is seriously all I can manage.

    Now, re the waking up and “OMG what did I do/say” – that is such a tragic state of being, and yes I have so been and been again, and then again. It’s just tragic, we do.

    Really valid, great post. Cheers.

    1. I am so happy to hear that you’re not on anything else! Sometimes I wonder if I really need twitter, but I keep it around for when I post, and there are some like minded folks out there that I enjoy their words and presence. “Another message bank to check” – I *loved* that! I may steal it one day (I will give credit, I promise) And I understand what you mean about WP – I follow a hell of a lot of blogs – probably too many for my own capacity to comment properly on all, so simplicity (and time) are things that I am trying to get to. I clearly don’t always succeed 🙂

      Thank you for being here, Noeleen. Made my day.


  9. jamilynaz says:

    Great post. As a rookie blogger, this was something that I really needed to hear. And as an alcoholic, this was something that I really needed to hear. 🙂 After so many years of lying through my teeth, it is very tempting for me to put everything ‘out there’ into cyberspace just to prove that I can now be honest. “Look at me! I’m an open book!”
    Thank you for giving me something to think about.

    1. Hey Jami,

      Thanks for the kind comments – I am glad this resonated with you. The idea of being honest for the look of being honest isn’t really the proper motive, is it? And I did that in real life over and over again – a bad motive covered by a good motive…something that we are all great at doing in our active days. There is a different feel when we are honest for the sake of being honest and in the spirit of sharing and helping others see themselves in you.

      And you certainly do that in your blog. Thanks for being here.


  10. good2begone says:

    I made a vow to myself when I started my blog. No names or photos of family. I write on my experience with family and life but I would rather have anyone who reads it relate to the experience and not the person.

    Great post, Paul. Boundaries are needed. Thank you for the honest insight!

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