The Drunk Diaries: Letting Go of Shame In Order to Maintain Sanity
April 26, 2012 § 8 Comments
It occurred to me sometime in the last couple of years that after many drunken nights of regretful actions that I would have to either stop caring so much about the mistakes that I had made OR I had to stop drinking so much.
In other words, I had to stop caring so much about the mistakes that I had made.
“The difference between guilt and shame is very clear – in theory. We feel guilty for what we do. We feel shame for what we are.”
- Lewis B Smedes, Shame and Grace
Alcohol is an interesting life lubricant and shame, regret, and guilt are the filthy residue left over when the beer, liquor and wine are finally excreted from the body. We naturally get rid of alcohol quickly but there’s always something left over and it’s embedded into a place that’s much harder to get stuff out of: the mind.
When I have had several drinks, my mind starts to believe that the world has become “ideal.” The notion is basically that when I am drunk, if I believe it to be true then it will become true. That the only thing stopping me from accomplishment is effort. That I won’t know the answer if I don’t ask the question.
My sober mind rarely believes any of these things because the sober mind has one important trait that the inebriated mind does not: Rationality.
Rationally speaking, I usually come up with reasons to believe or even know as a fact that the answer is clear without asking the question and even if I should ask the question, I am certainly not in the right mind to do so. Nothing that you do when you’re drunk is better because of the fact that you’re doing it when you’re drunk.
Unless you’re an outlaw in the 19th century removing buckshots from your ass after a shooting accident, it’s almost always better to do things while you are sober. It is almost always a terrible idea to try and do anything while you are drunk. Why? Because you are drunk.
You’re decision-making is going to be at it’s lowest point of accuracy. You’re rationalization is gone. You’re view of the world is tainted by beer-colored glasses.
And yet you do it anyway. Why? Because the character traits that are greatly enhanced while you are drunk are things like courage, ego, and a feeling that you can have the world be exactly as you’ve always wanted it. And the worst part about it is that you can’t be talked out of believing any of it because you can’t rationalize and make good decisions.
Once you’re drunk, you’re fucked. The best possible thing that can happen to you in that moment, if you want it to, is to pass out early if you’re lucky enough. Avoid the guilt and shame altogether, before you make an ass of you and me.
If Lewis B. Smedes is correct, then the actions we make are guilt but the part that really hurts is what those actions say about us. People often say that “a drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts” but I disagree.
My sober thoughts are never: “Bah meh drinky. You.. you… you don’t even know man… you don’t even know. Fuck you man, I love you dude.”
Perhaps the real truth in the phrase is that “A drunk man’s actions are a sober man’s wishes.” (Or woman. I know some of you ladies like to toss more than a few back, too!)
There was once a time when a new girl started at my place of work and she was also completely new in town. We chatted and she seemed like a really cool chick and we had similar senses of humor so I knew she’d probably be a cool person to hang out with and she also liked to get very drunk. I did not have any particular feelings for this girl but I offered to show her a few spots around town because she did not know anybody and because I could probably use the company at the time.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I wouldn’t have slept with her if the proposition happened to arise, but I really am the type of person that would do something like this without a hidden agenda.
We hung out a few times and in showing her around the city I also got to see a few “touristy” things for the first time. It was fun. She was a fun person. I had no conscious thoughts that this was some girl that I really wanted to date or “be with” and all I knew was that it kind of felt like hanging out with a dude because she could drink and wasn’t offended or anything like that.
But then apparently one night I called and left a couple of phone messages. This, I do not remember. Not a single word of it. Didn’t even know that it had happened, but I did kind of wake up with a feeling that something was off or that I did do something.
I sent out a feeler text message and lo and behold it took a day for her to respond and she of course said something to the effect of “Oh you’re fine. You didn’t say anything bad.”
Okay, great. I didn’t say anything bad. We’re all good.
But then the most honest thing about her text message was that it took her a day to respond. That was the real message and that was the real truth; I had creeped her out. Look, it’s not the first time that I’ve creeped anyone out and it probably won’t be the last but God damn it: Creepiness is in the eye of the beholder.
The most fucked up thing is that to this day, I do not know what I said. After a month of her avoiding me she finally told me that I left a message that was, and I quote, “Loving and passionate.”
WHAT? HOW? WHY?
Those were my reactions but my reaction was also “That’s amazing and hilarious.” Because to me that was absolutely ridiculous. I didn’t leave a message that said something like “I wanna fuck you like an animal” (which I would never do) but I left a message that was loving and passionate which both makes perfect sense because of my personality but also made no sense to me because I did not love this girl.
We had only hung out a few times. I didn’t spend any of my free time thinking about her. I couldn’t possibly have any of those kinds of feelings for her. Yet, at the same time, I did call her. I don’t know why I did and I don’t know why I left a message like that and I never will know why but it is interesting and it is also fucking hilarious.
Deep down I did want to date this girl? Really sub-conscious is that what you’re telling me? Or was it only because I was on a mini-vacation with friends and I got so blacked out that I could have thought I was calling the T-Mobile Girl and leaving a message for her.
I don’t really know. But I knew that I felt guilt and shame for it and that now there was this girl that not only thought I was a creep but in my estimation was completely wrong about me. That kind of shit will weigh on your mind like the tell-tale heart. Those are the kind of things that make me feel crazy with regret and wanting to have one more chance at avoiding that moment. That’s why I absolutely had to stop having any shame and face that fact that as a person, I am going to fuck up sometimes.
By telling this story to the world I could be fucking up but embarrassment, shame, guilt, regret… the one thing that all of these things have in common is that they are road blocks to other parts of life like chance. Or invention. Or amazement, laughter, wonder, and any number of moments that will forever define the outrageous stories of your life.
It might not always feel comfortable and it might not always feel right but if you’re not hurting anybody else, there’s nothing wrong with taking a chance on something different even if it hurts yourself. These stories about myself, the times that I completely fucked up, are some of my favorite stories to tell about my life. We just have to be willing to let go of the shame.
Otherwise, we’ll be trapped and unable to enjoy something that may have been profound.