Hideous Me, Glorious Me.

Who couldn't resist these two-tones tasty tidbits?
Who couldn’t resist these two-tones tasty tidbits?

I never liked chips when I was growing up.  In fact, my folks didn’t really keep chips in the house.  No Pringles, no Lay’s, no crunchy treats lying around.  Oh now and then, there would be some, but my folks usually ate them, late at night or with dinner.  Sometimes they would ask me to get the chips for them.  There were often ruffled chips, sometimes smooth.  The salty tang never agreed with me, and gladly gave them the chips, content to eat my chocolate and cookies.

When I was a bit older, my father would let me have a chip.  I ate one or two, but still didn’t have a taste for them.  I would chug some water as a chaser and disappear into my room, listening to the crunching and chomping coming from downstairs. I played with my Dungeons and Dragons and tried to program my computer, lost in my own thoughts.

When I was 15 years old, my friends and I grabbed some chips and went out to a park.  We ate chips, talked about the things that we 15 year old outcasts normally would talk about – girls that we’d never have a chance with, the bullies, our latest comic book creations, the newest death metal bands.  I still wasn’t crazy about chips, but the guys liked it, so I did it to be a part of it all.

It was about the time I turned 17 years old that I finally got a taste for chips.  The red powdery residue staining my hands didn’t deter me from grabbing pack after pack.  I wasn’t picky, so any cheap brand would do.  The sodium-packed potato crisps danced on my tongue and I found that I started to enjoy them more and more.  We found ourselves less interested in trying to score with women (i.e. having one actually talk to us) and more interested in the newest flavours of chips.  They started to make them locally, and I even went through a phase where I was making them in my house.  Slicing the best potatoes as thinly as I could, and frying them in clean canola oil, topped with sea salt – you couldn’t find a finer chip. 

The Devil himself - ruffled style, with a hint of mesquite smoke and a dollop of damnation
The Devil himself – ruffled style, with a hint of mesquite smoke and a dollop of damnation

Eventually, I found myself enjoying chips more than the guys did.  I started to keep a few bags of chips at home just in case the guys weren’t interested in hanging out.  I started to get the larger bags.  After getting married and moving into our own house, I made sure that we were stocked with chips at all times.  My wife enjoyed them too at times, but found that she was good after half a bag.  I, on the other hand, kept wolfing them down.  I noticed people were giving me looks and starting to wonder about this unnatural attention to chips I had.   So I started to hide them. 

I found myself having a few packages before going for dinner or to a party.  I would still get at the pretzels and peanuts, but chips were the real deal.  I would eat chips when I got home.  I hid packages in the house, and had to work at getting rid of the wrappers without causing suspicion.  I even swore off a few times, but found the crisp clacking of a new package too much to resist.  I renewed my interest in chips with a zesty vigour.  I couldn’t stop eating them.  I thought about them all the time, even though I thought it odd at first.  But soon enough, I had to have them as often as I could, and when I didn’t get them, I got cranky.  I lied, cheated and stole to get my chip fix.  The big bags needed to get bigger.  I spent more and more on these, and found myself at stores I wouldn’t normally visit to get chips.  It was all I could think about, and when I didn’t have chips in me for a day or two, I felt physically ill. 

My home life, my work life, my mental landscape and emotional well being were being affected greatly by these greasy dip scoopers.  They weren’t just chips – they were life-sustaining bites that were as necessary to me as breathing.  I didn’t care if they came from the dollar store or if I found them on the ground.  I didn’t care if they were gold plated or if they had been rolled in cigarette ash.  I wanted them, any way, any how.  I couldn’t imagine not eating chips, but I couldn’t imagine continuing to eat them.  I was getting sick, and life looked grim.  I couldn’t look myself in the mirror any more and I knew that my life was falling apart.  But I just couldn’t see it.  I was licked.

My life, at the best of times
My life, at the best of times

If I were to describe this to any bloke or lass on the street, they would think me mad. If I substituted “alcohol” for chips (or gambling, drugs, sex, binging, purging, porn, etc.) they would still think me mad, to some extent.  They would understand the words, but not the full blow of the context and intention.  They could empathize to an extent, but would stop at the doorway, unable to move into the Realm of the Addicted. They just hadn’t been down that path, so they could only go so far.

And that how it is trying to explain alcoholism to a non-alcoholic.   Good intentions and open-mindedness can only bring the non-addicted to the precipice of where we once called home. I understand that they don’t understand – how could they unless they’ve been there? It’s like a woman trying to explain to me what it feels like to be pregnant.  I watched my wife go through the whole thing – from the cravings, to the feelings of extreme uncomfortableness, to the sickness, to the floundering emotions, to the shivers and shakes, to pain and bloating.  But I can never express what it’s like to be pregnant.  Never.  And while I did exhibit those same physical symptoms myself (but for entirely different reasons), I cannot impress upon a non-alcoholic what it was like to be me.

Me inside hideous me.

Candid shots of me before the first cup of coffee are criminally cruel
Candid shots of me before the first cup of coffee are criminally cruel

That is why the power of being amongst those who have walked The Dark Path is so intense and majestic.  Being able to listen to another alcoholic speak for only a minute and just get what they are saying is magical.  And healing.  The fertile ground that we mulch with our experience and love and acceptance is the same fertile ground that we grow with others in.  We all know that feeling of trying to clutch at sobriety with the desperation of a drowning person, only to find the waves lapping over us and pulling us beneath the undertow, tossing and tumbling until we are lucky enough to come up again, hoping to grasp onto something tangible.   And I found that the hand of another alcoholic, one who had recovered, one who had a solution, one who had traversed the  gap requiring faith and hope, was the thing I was able to hold tightly onto.

The non-alcoholic will never understand the crippling loneliness, the endless self-loathing, the chronic discontent, the never ending anger, the ceaseless sadness and the churning feeling of hopelessness that comes with alcoholism.  That is alcoholism.  The non-alcoholic will never understand that drinking isn’t our problem, it’s our solution.  If you knew how I felt when I didn’t drink, you’d drink too.  That it’s not being drunk that’s the problem, but being sober that is, because when those countless fears, resentments and pain start to bubble and burst forth from within, there is no other way I know how to deal with them other than to self-medicate.


Having a bad day?  For non-alcoholics, a bubble bath and perhaps venting to a friend is the balm that soothes.  A bad movie and a cry can ease that discomfort.  Playing squash and eating a plate of tacos might turn the tide and do wonders for the soul.   But for alcoholics, we need the poison – bourbon, vodka, beer, coolers, wine, cocktails…whatever we have, and lots of it.  And it will be lots, because we don’t have an ‘off’ switch.  We are hard-wired to drink to oblivion – that is the only path, the only direction, the only destination. Complete and utter destruction of self and anything that stands in it’s way.  Anything less is a waste of time.

We have been berated, questioned, pleaded with, screamed at, negotiated with and given direct commands to stop.  We have been asked “Why can’t you just have one?”. We have been harshly stamped with the label of morally weak, or of lacking in willpower or being behaviourally maligned.  We are told that we are selfish, bad, mean, useless, a waste of skin.  And that’s usually from ourselves!  But sometimes it’s mentioned to us by others in their frustration, anger and desperation to see us change, to stem the bleeding.  Our intelligence is questioned, our integrity doubted, our dignity queried, even our own humanity is cross-examined as we drift further down into the sink hole of our alcoholic existence.  Oblivion. Me.

Me inside hideous me.

To the non-alcoholic, we are a baffling lot.  We do things that clearly harm us and others.  We are self-destructive in every manner befitting a mad person.  We are bright in almost all aspects of life and can balance much, except when it comes to alcohol.  We put alcohol in front of everything else, even when it is apparent that we are losing those very things we claim to love and cherish.  Because in the end, the only thing we cherish is what alcohol does for us.  Or what we think it does for us.  We try to hit that window, that small narrow window, where everything is right.
Where my insides look like your outsides.  Where I can come out and play.  Where I am fit into the puzzle of life for just a brief, glimmering moment.  And there isn’t anyone or anything that can take that moment away from me, a moment that is due to me because everything else in my life feels like my soul is being torn apart like a piece of paper through a shredder.  And I live for that moment.  And then it dissipates, like a shooting star, and I am left with me again.

Me inside hideous me.

You won't feel a thing, ol' fruit! Chin up!
Ah yes, how dapper I looked before my first aperitif of the evening, pre-soiree. 

I hate you because really I hate me.  I look at the world with a negative slant because I am not on the level with my own spirit.  If I felt I had one.  I am ruthless with others because I gut myself on a daily basis.  I leave myself hanging for the vultures of prey to feast on and feel that I deserve it.  I want to be punished, but am too cowardly to do it.  So I get you to do it for me.  I want you to hold me, love me, tell me that it’s all going to be okay, but I don’t want you anywhere the hell near me.  Get AWAY.  But hug me.

Me inside hideous me.

This is why I could never have one drink.  This is why I could never just walk away from the bar without my belly full of booze.  This is why I needed full on white out.  Or black out.  Or brown out.  Any kind of out was preferable to being in pain, in distress, in me…hideous me.  This is why I cannot ever have  a drink again, because if I ever did, the demons inside would roar again, the physical beast would kick in, the mental obsession would crank up again and I would be off to the races.  Again.  And I can’t ever predict if I would get back to recovery.

But luckily I am not anywhere near that.  I can’t say that every alcoholic is in the same boat.  I hear over and over again how some go back out and are never seen again until their bodies are discovered.  If they are discovered.  Some hang around and go back and forth into sobriety, losing more and more of themselves the more they go out. Some disappear into the tapestry of despair never to emerge.  Some fade slowly, and some disappear with the speed and intensity of lightening.  Crashing down hard.  Dead .  Or alive with dead eyes, broken spirit, crushed hearts.

I could have showed Jim just how easily I could put time in a bottle...25 years in my case.
I could have showed Jim just how easily I put time in a bottle…25 years, in my case.

This is why I need to have the fellowship around me, to be a mirror, a sounding board, a landing pad, a gentle stroke, a kick in the seat of the pants, a kind ear, an easy shoulder.  I need to be surrounded by men and women who understand everything I just described above without actually describing it.  To just say “I’m feeling vulnerable today” and they intuitively knowing where I am coming from, what to say, what not to say.  To be amongst my peeps and just know that I belong to something greater than the sum.  I feel the Creator within and without.  A sapling in that fertile ground, ready to sprout and grow and give shade and support to the new saplings growing around me.

To the non-alcoholic, they need not understand this.  They need not understand about chips, alcohol, drugs, or whatever else it is that spoke to our sick souls.  What they see is that they have a wife, sister, daughter, mother, aunt, cousin back. What they care about is that their husband, brother, uncle, son, boyfriend is back.  Or not even back, but new.  Different. Open. Involved. Present. Clean and clear.  Happy.

Because in the end, we get a chance to sober up, recover, and learn to live life in a new way.  We lose the old us, the angry us, the disappointed us, the shamed us, the guilty us, the hurt us.  I am not longer me inside hideous me.  I am me inside glorious me.  Majestic me.  Serene me. Loving me.  Accepting me.  Wanted me.  Giving me.  And that’s the glow that others see in us, what we see when we capture a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror as we pass down the hall.

Keep glowing everyone.  Keep glowing.  Your shine brings me more light and more joy.  The joy rubs off on those around us and leaves an indelible mark on them, and rebounds back on us. You are you inside glorious you.  Let it out, share it, show it off, give it away, reflect it, praise what gave it to you, let it loose, cherish it.  You are me and I am you and we are just perfect in our imperfection.

Gloriously imperfect.


23 Comments Add yours

  1. Beautiful post! Thank you.

    1. Thank you – I am glad it struck a chord with you 🙂

      Love and light,

  2. I’ve got my Glow on!

    1. I know you do. You always did 🙂

      Thank you for shining so brightly, KM. I need sunglasses up in here 🙂

      Love and light,

  3. Isabelle says:

    Wow…your insight constantly touches me. But this time you reached the core.
    Thank You

    1. Thank you, Isabelle. I think we all have that core, and I think that is why when we share our stories, there is so much we identify with. It may not be the circumstance per se, but those rumblings, those feelings, those fears, etc. They all hit so close to home.

      Thanks for being here.


  4. good2begone says:

    Great storytelling…..and switch to reality for the punch. Epic. I had absolutely no clue where you were leading to. My initial impression was it was headed toward the monthly/yearly chip. Switching chip for whatever obsession is brilliant. I had to read the whole post twice. Wonderful word imagery and honesty. Kudos and thanks!

    1. You know, coming from you – the master storyteller himself – this is big props. So I will take it. Thank you.

      I have to admit – I almost *did* go the “chip” (medallion) route, but found it didn’t really have anything to do with what I was going for, and frankly, I don’t want to be so predictable any more (even for me!). So thank you for the compliment. I am glad it engaged you, kind sir.

      Have a wonderful evening and groovy day tomorrow – look forward to more of your own style of fantanstic storytelling over in your corner of the world. Always a blast.


  5. Digs says:

    Gorgeous, inspiring, beautiful words Paul. You touch me deeply every time but this one is off the scales. Thank you for being you.

    1. Aww, thank you, D. I wasn’t sure about this one, to be honest. I thought it too much, well, *much*. But I am very honoured that it touched you in some way. As much as it pained me to be in that state for so long, part of me wishes to remember it too – I don’t know if I want to forget what it was like. But I do enjoy the payoff these days…and look forward to having more revealed. As I hope it for you, and for others.

      Thank you for being here – means a lot to have you comment. 🙂

      Love and light to you,


  6. I will just be repeating what everyone else is saying, but still, I need to do it: this is a beautiful, touching, inspiring, illuminating post. I not only related to it on a gut level, but I actually got some real learning lessons out of it with current, non-alcoholic issues in my life. So thank you.

    On a lighter, yet sadder, note: I can actually relate to the first part of this post AS WRITTEN: chips for me are what sugar is for you, so as I first read, I actually knew where you were going with it, but I still related on a literal level. Sad, very sad, but true!

    Don’t forget to email!


    1. Thanks Josie.

      Yeah, I think we all have that *thing* after the booze. Some wean off of those things (I was a coffee freak for about 6 months after quitting alcohol – about 10-12 cups a day, but now have 2 a day) but for something like sugar for me…not so lucky! I think we get into two camps – salty or sweet. I was never a chip eater growing up, and have them only now and then. But I know it can be rather addictive 🙂


  7. There is such truth in the differences between alcoholics and non-alcoholics.They just can’t understand our lack of ‘off’ switch. Reading your post reminded me of all the times I tried to explain to people who could drink socially that once I started I couldn’t stop. And then having to deal with that self-loathing because I was so weak and stupid.
    Thank goodness for the fellowship of those that have been there and have come through the other side. We know that when we share our stories of recovery there won’t be judgements but there will be lots of empathy and understanding.
    Love your posts Paul. You truly glow 🙂

    1. Thank you Carolyn, and thank you for the warm and wonderful comments.You are right about there being no judgement in the fellowship of others who have been there…and may still be there. That is the beauty of what we all do – here and out there – sharing with one another, identifying and supporting. No judgement, no shame.

      You glow too, my friend. 🙂

      Love and light,

  8. Ok, so I was eating crisps when I started reading this post. Correction. I started reading your post, while thinking I really mustn’t eat any crisps, then felt compelled to eat some crisps. Posh English Tyrell’s crisps, if you must know …. Then I got to the point of your post, (which I secretly knew was coming, but allowed myself to think was actually about crisps so I could feed my desire for said crisps). But seriously. This was essential reading for me, because although I am married to an alcoholic (and separated from him, too), and although I journeyed with him through his recovery, I still don’t understand addiction. I understand it intellectually, yes. But I don’t accept it. I can’t accept it. So, I read your posts and posts by others in recovery so I can better understand what may be going on inside him. Because he doesn’t talk about any of it with me. And, sad to say, he is still inside the hideous. I don’t think he will ever find the glorious in himself. He’s off drink, but his self-loathing persists. He often tells me he doesn’t like to look in the mirror. He means that metaphorically. I don’t know why it is, but he doesn’t believe in himself. I’m not sure what has kept him sober for the last 14 months. But I sense he is treading dangerous ground.

    1. I hope those crisps were still yummy!

      I have read some of your struggles with your alcoholic partner, and for me it’s essential reading because I get to see what it’s like to be that partner. I think of my wife and what she must have gone through. Like you, I think she understands it intellectually, but it is very hard for her to understand the complexities and the simplicity of it. The horrid facets of addiction are only available to those who have tread that path, and so it’s difficult to explain to non-alcoholics what lies underneath the actions. Many just see the actions and not the things that propel those actions. And that’s where some people are unclear. Hell, it took *me* time to understand it, and I am one of them!

      I hope that your husband can come around and look within. I don’t particularly like the term “dry drunk” but it sounds like your husband is in that dark place of not having a drink, and yet still having untreated alcoholism. So all those things I spoke of in the post are still present, but there is no self-medicating. That is why I need a 12-step program so that I can address all those issues and make the changes in my life so that I am not dealing with the anger, resentments, fears, etc. with drink.

      Thank you for your comments – means a lot to have you here.


      1. Thanks, Paul. Has your wife read any of my posts? I would be very interested to hear her views, too. I’m really grateful to have found so many people here from both sides of addiction. It has really helped me to better understand my husband and our situation. It worries me that my husband remains in shadow. He is making some changes – he is taking a course and re-training. But internally there are so many blocks. We have realised that we have reached the end of our marriage now, more on which later. Take care

        1. My wife isn’t on the blogosphere, and to be honest, doesn’t often even read my own blog, let alone others. It’s not that she’s not interested, but I know that although she went to two or three Alanon meetings, it’s not her thing. I think she just needed reassurance that she wasn’t alone (and she got that from those few meetings) and that was enough for her. Her seeing me work through this has been enough for her, and she is very much interested in moving forward. I think that if I were still in the grips of the grape, and she knew about it, I think it would be different. I don’t know. She has other ways of working through her own stuff, but blogs and other formal and informal support groups or ways isn’t how she normally does it. I can point her to your fantastic blog, though 🙂

          But what you say about blocks – that’s *exactly* what it is – we have all these things that block us from the sunlight of the spirit. Doing the things we do help to remove those blocks. The more I am unencumbered, the closer I am to the Creator, and the freer and more serene I am.

          I am sorry to hear about the marriage. I hope that you are able to heal from this. I look forward to reading more of your words, as usual.

          Thank you,

          1. Thank you, Paul. I’m glad your wife has found a way to cope with it. I know how she feels about al anon. It’s not my thing, either, which is why I started this blog. I’ve found a lot of support this way – and hope I’ve supported others, too. Everyone finds their own way, I guess. Take care.

  9. lifecorked says:

    Beautiful, Paul. Very well said. Missed you guys. Have been off in kid-land and just feeling a little “off.” But, I’m still sober – for that I’m grateful. And, grateful that you all know exactly what I mean when I say “off.”

    1. Thank you, Chenoa. You have been missed, that is for sure. I sometimes go over to Lifecorked just in case my Reader isn’t working and I have missed a post 🙂 And the thing is what you say is right – I know exactly what you mean by “off”. I hope things turn around for you. Prayer is the first step for me when I am feeling that…just giving it up to the Creator and say “dude, I am off – please help me and guide me to where I need to be, to be open to new experiences and to come to the day with an open heart and open mind” or something similar. I just keep myself open to what I need to be open too. And helping others works wonders for me too, even if I don’t feel like it 🙂

      I look forward to reading your next post.


  10. bornsirius says:

    So, I started reading this the day you posted it, and sadly haven’t had a chance to come back until now.
    I wish I had finished it the other day! I love it. The oblivion piece: YES. Sometimes, my obsession rears its ugly head. Does it want one drink? Never. I never even get the “I can just have 1 drink” lie. Nope. My obsession is all for getting completely hammered, passed out, vomiting my guts out drunk. That’s all it ever wants. And I love how you described it – wanting the oblivion to get myself out of the way. And you are the second person lately to describe that “special window.” Isn’t that the truth. Learning to live sober is also learning how life doesn’t always have that special window. In fact it seldom doesn’t. Life can’t be a fantasy world, as unfortunate as that is for those of us who would love it that way.
    Perfect in imperfection. Yes. I agree. Keep glowing, Paul.

    1. Thanks Laurie for the wonderful comments.

      It reminds me of that old expression – “If I could drink socially, I would get drunk every night”…lol. Even when we wish to moderate, we are already at the other end of the spectrum. Good ol’ alcoholic thinking there, yes? As for the special window, I think that I have had to recreate the whole idea of that, and that feeling special and wanted and needed and content has to come from within, that I am what I need…and that it’s not only good enough, but more than enough. A tall order, no doubt, but it’s a good thing to shoot for.

      So glad you’re here. Always wonderful to hear from you 🙂


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