My approval rating

In any other life, I might be a celebrity or perhaps running for office.  Such is my obsession with my ‘approval rating’.  i.e. the constant need to fit-in and get approval from people.  The funny thing is, this need for approval is an unconscious one.  I do not post on facebook and count the number of friends I have.  In fact, I get edgy and uncomfortable when somebody praises me.

In the past, I hadn’t quite zeroed in on this thirst for approval.  But something interesting happened over the weekend.  I should have been happy – My job situation is working out, I’ve been off the booze for over six weeks now and as a couple, we are making significant strides in getting a handle on our lives.  Instead, I was weighed down by my black dog and that didn’t seem right.  I went out on a long drive tracing back the events of the past couple of days to figure out what was happening and here’s how it all fit in.

I was comparing my career, achievements, financial well being etc., with that of people I knew.  Friends mainly, which makes it even harder – I am jealous that somebody has it better, followed by judgment that they have it easier in some areas of their life.  Not exactly how you win friends and influence people.  It was triggered by a piece of news that an acquaintance found a job in the same firm that I didn’t get recruited into.  Plus it was becoming very clear that we are running out of funds and we would have to be very careful with our spending.  A double whammy – Somebody else won a prize and would do better in their career plus they had more money to boot.  By this time I’am feeling depressed, worried about the future.  I can’t win this race and I’am a loser.

See, I grew up in a poor family and some of my early childhood experiences (more about those later) have been those of scarcity.  The experience of living on the other side of the tracks  have created some non-negotiable (non-negotiable in my mind) decisions about what a dignified and safe life means.  You do not have dignity, safety or respect if you are poor.  If you are poor, the society does not care about you.  You are not important, a human being, somebody who has a voice and feelings and needs.  You could be a doormat for all they care.  My childhood memories have been about trying to get that respect by being smart and well behaved, hoping to secure enough financially to never having to face scarcity again.  Being smart could be the ticket out of the mess.  Being well behaved since I had to continue to receive the support I needed (cash or kind) and had to suppress the sense of indignity that resulted from said support.  Plus, to show them that I will make it in spite of all their negativity towards me and my own lack of resources.  That I would make up for my deficiencies with my smarts and creativity.  Constantly looking for their approval.  Fighting the ‘not good enough’ tag placed on you, but feeling that way nevertheless.

This is my formula for my approval rating:  Am I marching towards gaining their respect  or approval (through my ‘achievements’) and do I have enough money so I’ll never have to experience such poverty again.  I recognize that this reads like a cartoon super hero fantasy story.  Unfortunately, my adult brain is wired exactly like this (or so it seems).  As any number of wise people and their books would say, I’am living somebody else’s life.  Perhaps this explains my identity crisis.  It’s a bad formula really, since both the variables are not under my control – I cant control what others think about me or my past.  And my current mood reflects how bad the formula is.

What worries me is the sense of depression –  Nothing I do seems to get my approval ratings higher.  I’am now getting to a point where I’am giving up the fight, being a victim – i.e. If only I had a better set of circumstances, I would have done better.  Not a fun place to be in.  Towards the end of my drive, I was desperate to come up with a solution for this and here’s what I need to figure out:  Do I still need an approval rating?  Can I be fine without getting everybody’s respect or a ton of money?

Patience and faith

It’s been over five weeks since I haven’t had any alcohol.  I was expecting this to be pretty easy, since common sense says “Do not poison yourself and you’ll be just fine”.  The effects of not drinking should have been good right?  My experience has been the exact opposite.

  • The body is more tired since it is not getting enough calories – seems changing eating habits takes a while.  Most of my calories came from alcohol and a quick search on google will tell you that these alcohol calories are simply sugar.  To make up for the lack of nutrients in a beer diet, the brain apparently makes adjustments by reducing some hormones and increasing others.  Take out the beer and whatever’s left in the diet, the brain goes crazy.   Over the last few weeks, I’ve been on a sugar binge like never in my life.  Think tubs of ice-cream and anything with sugar in it.  As the body craves for nutrients, my lack of a proper diet, eating at the right times etc., leads to tiring out and feeling depressed.
  • Sleep.  It’s common knowledge that alcoholics drink themselves to sleep.  It was no different for me and alcohol was the sleeping pill on any given night.  Now take that away and I cannot sleep.  It looks like I’ve “lost” the skill to sleep by myself.  I have been up till 3AM or 4AM most days, wasting my time watching netflix.  One general advice is to read instead of watching TV and this helps sometimes.
  • Exercise or the lack of it.  Again, the problem here is the lack of a routine before quitting.  All of a sudden, exercise becomes an issue.  First, the body cannot do much (it’s sorta wasted out) and there is no energy to exercise (general fatigue and depression compounds this).  Secondly, I dont know where to start and how I can add this to my routine.  When one needs to start with figuring out a 24hr gym membership it soon becomes a lost cause.
  • They say that the root cause of alcoholism has to do with the soul.  Something’s not correct in the thinking, being able to handle stress etc., and it leads to drinking.  This root cause does not go away with quitting alcohol.  You hit the grand realization that there’s a shit load of work remaining to be done and that it’ll take a better part of your remaining life to do so.

In fact, the biggest downer is the fact that you started at -100 when you were drinking.  When you stop, you get to, say, -10.  You think that something big was accomplished, and true, it’s something big for you.  But the rest of the world carries on and in their eyes nothing has been accomplished.  You were stupid to have gotten to -100 to start with and now that you’re still not ‘normal’ do not expect a pat on the back!

Which brings me to patience and faith.  Without faith that it’s all worth it and that things are pointing in the right direction, it’s easy to give up( especially when you have a society and a bunch of people goading you to drink, but more on that later).  I have to believe (without any evidence) that it’s for the good.  That things will take care of themselves, if I stay the path.  And loads of patience.  I would love to have the effect and outcome I desire (which is be energetic, less depressed or moody, etc. etc.) fast, but things take their own time.  It’ll take some time (and I dont know how much) to heal the body and mind that was subject to copious amounts of alcohol for the last 3-4 years.

My engine used to run on alcohol, now I need to tune it to run on faith and patience.  It’s a work in progress and I can only believe that it’ll all be fine in the end.