How do you respond to negative input?
I can remember, like it was yesterday, the first time an old timer exclaimed with incredulity, “Son, I spilled more than you ever drank”. My offense? I quit drinking at 22 years-old while he’d waited till he was in his sixties.
My eyes narrowed slightly and the corners of my mouth curled slightly into a wry smirk, “If you hadn’t spilled so much, old-timer, you might have quit when you were my age”, I replied. Now I’d love to tell you I was that witty but I wasn’t. I was prepared in treatment for the first time someone hit me with that.
I held no resentment after that, in fact that became a defining moment in my sobriety. I belonged because I said I did, not because some old-timer thought I hadn’t tried hard enough to drink successfully. Besides, I didn’t quit drinking to please that old fart, I quit to save my life.
However, when viewed through the lens of today’s “fat shaming”, where people snap photos of themselves fitting their entire body in the legs of an old pair of pants, or in a two-piece swimsuit after their third kid and certain people absolutely freak out as if some law of decorum were trampled, the magnitude of some old guy calling out a young kid like that takes on a new meaning.
Folks, this world is inhabited by a lot of really decent people. It also has its fair share of jerks. That isn’t the end of the discussion though. As in the instance I described above, the crappiness of a jerk can be used for good. In recovery we learn early on that it is good to take an honest inventory of one’s life on a regular basis (to some extent, daily) and to look at that inventory critically. Where do I fail, or succeed? Where can I do better? Did I cause misunderstanding because I didn’t explain myself well enough (I’ve been guilty of that one many, many times – especially on this blog). The point is, criticism is never without merit. It can be looked at objectively before I make the decision that I have something to improve or decide that the offender is simply an ass.
This is obviously against the current whiny nature of things. Far better to cry over my last piece of that large pizza that someone who made better choices than I do is bad for being happy with their good decisions. Damn them!
Let’s go back to my initial scenario… Imagine if I had been dumb enough to give that old-timer’s statement weight rather than smack him back (verbally of course). Imagine I contemplated it seriously… Maybe I didn’t have enough experience with drinking to quit. Maybe the doctor was lying when he said my liver enzymes were as bad as a 60 year-old chronic alcoholic. Hey, maybe I should go out and get loaded after all of that crap I went through to get sober!
If I were weak enough to allow another person’s assessment of my life, after having known me for all of 30 minutes, to change the course of my life I would deserve to be drunk in a ditch. That inventory I spoke of earlier demands rigorous honesty. If I look at his comment objectively, I can see that the old guy is not a jerk, there was something more than that. He was reacting to something I said about getting sober and things finally working out in my life after all of that wreckage… The truth is, he was just an angry old man. He was jealous. In other words, he was simply sick in the head.
There is no such thing as fat shaming when the situation is used properly. There is no spoon Neo.
When I was heavier, I didn’t need anyone to shame me – I had enough on my own. Once I took control of my life and started making the right decisions, there was no cause for shame. I became one of those people having to buy new clothes.