I remember going to some dinner thing at my in-laws years ago. My poor wife just wanted me to act like a normal, sweet guy so her family wasn’t absolutely terrified. That didn’t happen.
First, the one thing I never could help doing was to get jammed out of my freaking mind before any sort of social event. Then I dress up as if I was actually successful – some mix of a Wall Street hot shot / glamour model / Harvard intellecutal. Upon entering, all of the self-indulgent stories and jokes I rehearsed come barreling out of my mouth. I’m sure everybody is looking at me with awe and envy. Um, yeah they were looking, but only in disgust. The only person in the room who is actually comfortable is me. Everybody else is annoyed beyond belief and suffering my presence.
Quick little reminder to any addicts out there who happen to be in one of your manic, show-off phases: Nobody is looking at you. Nobody cares what you’re doing. Nobody cares about your intellect, your achievements, your body or your wit. Heads only turn to see the freak show who is clearly high on crack or heroin or booze, and is acting like a complete asshole.
So what’s the problem with sauntering into rooms like I own the world? What’s the problem with The Charlie Show? What’s the big deal with being loud, obnoxious, cocky, and manic? Doesn’t everybody love me and my demented sense of humor? Doesn’t everybody think I’m The Man? Um, yeah sure they do – in my MIND.
What I am really is an embarrassment. I am a phony. The gap between who I’m pretending to be and who I actually am is practically endless. Addicts love to exaggerate everything. They turn everything, good or bad, from a molehill into a mountain. If I made $1,000 on some deal, it turns into $10,000. If I made $35,000 last year, let’s just call it $100,000. If my GPA in school was a 3.2, why don’t we turn that into a 3.95 with honors? But if I failed today at work, it’s because of some prick client and obviously had nothing to do with me. Addicts are frauds.
This is narcissism. Every addict suffers from it. We have no clue how deeply we may be affecting others. We forget that other people also have feelings, thoughts, worries, sadness, successes and accomplishments. But that doesn’t matter to narcissists. Nope. The only thing that matters in this world is ME. Don’t you know that? A good wake up call for me was when I realized that not everybody is wondering about me every second of their lives. In fact, most people aren’t wondering about me at all, let alone preoccupied with me, as every narcissist assumes and perhaps even wishes.
Getting better was feeling the shame of who I was. But only for a little while, because eventually I had to learn how to accept and love myself again – in a healthy way. We addicts are not doormats. We must stand up and protect ourselves. But it sure is useful (and humbling) never to forget the absolute shitheads that we once were.
Now I get it. Now I see how unattractive it is. Now I can strive to get out of myself day after day, which can be an entire Life Purpose in and of itself. Now I can spend some time thinking about others, and perhaps even lend a hand. The best thing an addict can do is to spend some time not thinking about themselves. Go ahead, Charlie, think about someone else for a change.
God, teach me to be more other-centered…