Dear Hip Sobriety,
I left alcohol behind in Nov 2013 by reading books on how to break addiction and participating in the online community Hello Sunday Morning. My question is now that I embrace an alcohol-free life - which I love and am grateful for - how do I stop this hypocritical thinking I have against "over-drinkers". I used to be one, and now I cannot watch others binge or stand seeing someone drunk - it is disgusting to me. I feel like somewhat of a sober snob. I refrain from the need to tell people how much more they could love themselves if they just stopped using that shit, but sometimes it is hard. I get judgmental if my husband has three beers, and he does not have a problem at all. Why do I see binging at every turn? And how do i stop judging others for drinking?
Love, Discovering Me.
Dear Discovering Me,
I couldn't love this question more. And I'm going to answer it first by saying "been there, DONE THAT", and second by telling you a very long story that has nothing to do with drinking, but everything to do with the answer you seek.
I came back from a six-week trip to Italy last year in late May. I'd been through Kundalini Level I training, I was unemployed, starting Hip Sobriety, couch surfing, and about to start my second yoga teacher training. I’d just gotten a tattoo of an eagle on my breast, one of a heart on my back, I wore feather earrings and tie-dyed yoga pants most days of the week, and considered myself a free-spirited-world-traveling yogini.
I was very Zen and I knew things. And I was certain that people - just by merely being in my presence - would know that I was very zen and knew things, too.
The first week of June, my Zen all-knowing ass walked into a Peet's coffee to meet up with a group of people from my neighborhood who were carpooling to yoga training. And that's when I met Bob.
He was in my carpool. We had mutual friends, we didn't know each other, but we knew of each other. And after a few seconds I knew the thing that us sensitive types tend to know immediately.
Bob did not like me.
I spent the first few weeks of that yoga training consumed by a Bob-flavored hell. If I spoke, he looked away. If I told a story, he interrupted it. If he told a story, he addressed everyone but me. He brought fruit and food for the other carpoolers, took interest in their affairs, and when it came to me he couldn't even bring himself to make eye contact. By the time I'd get to the studio in the mornings there would inevitably be a hate-filled lump in my throat. I'd sit in meditation and think only of Bob, searching for the answer to the deeply confounding question - why doesn't Bob fucking like me? I'd watch him in our classes, noting his interactions with other people, looking for evidence that he didn't like all humans and it wasn't personal. But I couldn't make the case. It was, in fact, just me.
I threw A Course In Miracles at It. I reasoned that this was happening for a reason, reminded myself that every relationship was an assignment, and told myself I was meant to learn from it. And then one night at dinner, after recounting the dynamic to a friend, was reminded I wasn't the Dali Lama or Jesus Christ, and to just fucking get out of the carpool like a normal human being. So that night I texted another friend from training, explaining my situation, and just like that, I was out of the Bobpool. Except, I wasn't. Because the next day? The Bobpool disbanded, and he joined me in the new one. I told God I got it. "Okay, loud and fucking clear. Bob is here to teach me! Thanks!"
But I didn't get it. At all.
In this new carpool situation, his disdain for me only grew, because there were fewer people to dilute it. One morning, I found myself at the end of my ability to deal. Alone and on our way into Starbucks, I asked him point blank whether or not he liked me. Without going into severe detail, let's just say that Bob confirmed my suspicions in a very un-yoga way.
I was staying at a friend's house during all of this, and a few nights after the Starbuck's incident, I found myself in her kitchen explaining The Bob.
Her: "How are you processing this?"
Me: "Well, I listened to Lean In on audio tape this weekend and this is clearly a sexist issue."
Me: [Quotes some Sheryl Sandberg.]
Her: "Do you even like him?"
Me: "Oh, no. I totally fucking hate that dude. I have since day one."
Her: "That might be a place to start."
She asked me if I'd ever heard of the shadow, Debbie Ford, or the book The Dark Side of The Light Chasers. I hadn't heard of any of these things. So she grabbed her copy of the book and handed it to me and said she thought it would make sense of this for me. My life has never been the same since.
If you are not familiar with the shadow, it is essentially the person we would rather not be. The things present in ourselves that we disassociate with as not being of us because we deem them bad, ugly, less. Shadow is all the things we suppress, reject, deny in ourself; a dark place. We think that if people were to see these shadow elements, we would not be liked, regarded, loved, and so on.
We can't see the shadow very well in ourselves. But we can see it very, VERY well in other people. In fact, the more we judge a brother of something, the more likely it is our own shadow we are judging (even though we usually don't know it.)
The next day, to get to the bottom of The Bob, I took a piece of paper out and wrote "Shit I Hate About Bob" on the top, and then began to list out all the shit I hated about Bob. Here were the top 10.
- Show-stealer/attention seeker.
- Parties but pretends to be a "yogi".
- Spiritually disingenuous, not "really spiritual".
- Catty and gossipy; bitchy.
- Name caller.
- Excludes people/favorites people.
I looked at the list, gasped, and then laughed and probably said "Oh my fucking God" out loud about 20 times. The things I "hated" about Bob? They were the things I hated about me. And not only were they the things that I hated about me, they were the things I hated about me that in the not-so-distant past had dominated my way of being in the world. The list I wrote about Bob might as well have been titled "Things Holly No Longer Thinks She Is Capable Of Because She Is a Spiritual, Zen, World-Traveling Yogini Who Knows Things."
All of the things I saw in him that made me hate him - ALL OF THEM - were deeply present in me. Yes, some were less prominent than they had been (selfish, dramatic, insecure, fake, catty, gossipy, bitchy, name-caller), some were muted entirely ("party/yogi"), others were still very alive and active (attention seeker/show-stealer, exclusive/favorites). I WAS BOB.
The point of this VERY LONG STORY is to prove one very big point to you. And that is that it wouldn't drive you so fucking crazy if you didn't still hold yourself in some judgment for having in your previous life binge drank and gotten disgustingly drunk. If you didn't think that this new sober version of you was some how more worthy and superior than the version of you that drank to excess, you wouldn't see those who are still engaged in your old ways as inferior or wrong. And you for sure wouldn’t want to change them or think you knew better than they.
There's a lot of talk about being different versions of ourselves, of fucking our past and sleeping with our future, of setting ourselves on fire so we can rise from the ashes like a phoenix. But these principles - while all very helpful in some capacity - can do more harm than good. Because they can lead us to believe that there was something wrong with who we were in the first place, and make us think that in order to be "good" we have to cut off the parts of us that were "bad".
This is what I did. I denied the parts of me that I thought were flawed and didn't belong in this new improved version of myself - the bad parts. During this Bob time, I actually found myself in deep pain (read post here). I was holding myself to an impossible bar, thinking that I had evolved past human-ness. There is an AMAZING quote from Debbie Ford that says "if we put ice cream on top of poop after a few spoonfuls we will taste the poop again." And this is what I had done. I had put ice cream on poop and had pretended that the poop was just no longer there. And my shit stank. It stank bad.
Discovering Me, you are who you are today because you binge drank and got disgustingly drunk. You are where you are today not despite what you did, but because what you did. And so it goes that to be who you are today, you have to bring all of you along for the ride. The party girl. The binge drinker. The stupid drunk. The bitch. THE JUDGER! They are part of it. A big part of it. And we LOVE them for it.
But easier said than done. So here is a list of some things/thoughts/practices that might help.
How To Not Be A Sober Snob. 5 Tips To Move Past Judging Drinkers.
1. Recognize the other person is you. This is one of the five sutras of the Aquarian Age from Kundalini yoga, and one of the best tools you can use when in judgment of another for anything. When we recognize the other person is us - and what we are seeing in them is simply a reflection of our own perception and judgment of self - we can empower ourselves by using it as a chance to look deeper at what is really going on. In times when I'm in judgment of another I try and witness why it plugs in so deeply - what is it I'm seeing in them, and what can it show me about me? It's fertile ground for major ah-ha moments.
2. Understand that giving it is how you keep it. This principle comes from A Course In Miracles, and is one of my favorite ways to deal with judgment. It follows that what we give to others we inevitably keep for ourselves. If we give love to our brothers and sisters, then it is love that we keep for ourselves. If we give anger, it is actually us who suffers and carries around that anger. And if we give judgment, then we will for sure keep judgment for ourselves. I know I can't judge another without being subject to judgment from myself and fearing judgment from others. You give it, you get to keep it.
3. Call on compassion. Another one of the five sutras of the Aquarian Age is "Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times." What this means is that we are already in a world of hurt. All we need to do is watch the news or the Real Housewives. All around us people are scared and in pain. If you can instead of holding another in judgment for their actions find deep compassion for them - regardless if you know better - you will operate in this world in a way that most people can't. A Course In Miracles says that everything is either love, or a call for love. This is true. Everything we encounter is one or the other. And the only way to respond to either is with love right back.
4. Mind your own process. This is probably the hardest thing for me. Because I have found things that work for me and because I want to share them, I do find myself thinking "if she just did what I did, then…" But the truth is this: we all - each and every 7.2 billion of us - has a path, and no two paths are ever exactly alike. So what may look like someone's wrong process/decision/idea/choice/etc. to us, might actually be EXACTLY what that person needs. It is not up to us to decide. Marianne Williamson has said "God did not put us here to monitor other people's process." And she's fucking right. We aren't here to decide what is right or wrong for other people. That doesn’t mean that you can't teach or demonstrate or fight for what you believe in or shine your light. But it does mean that your will ends where another's will begins. And for a very good reason.
5. Read and work The Dark Side of The Light Chasers. There is NO WAY that I can do any justice to the work that Debbie Ford has done in a blog post. This was one of the most eye-opening and life changing books I ever read, chalk full of examples, exercises, practices, thoughts. It goes far beyond the simple ideas presented here. It's gold and it will change how you judge yourself and others FOREVER. Promise. Swear.
Okay, Miss Discovering Me. I hope this makes sense and didn't veer too much off course. At the end of the day, this is the best way I know how to answer a question that plagues very many of us on this side of the bar scene - the burden of knowing how great sobriety is.