It was a huge surprise for me to see this woman (let’s call her Diana) on Saturday. I went to a monthly meeting for alumni of an addiction therapy facility, where more than a year and a half ago I started to change my life. Those meetings are a very good idea — those who went through the therapy can get together for a couple of hours once a month to see each other, exchange thoughts and experiences, and give and receive support from people who are fighting back against addiction. That is also a place for those who are in therapy now to see those who already experienced the struggle and see that change is possible. There is a group of 8–10 stalwarts who go to almost every meeting (me included) but Diana showed up there for the first time.
She was in my group in the autumn of 2020, and she has a gift to leave a mark in the memory of everyone she meets. We talked for a while — she had a relapse but has been clean for 15 months now, still continues an outpatient therapy, changed jobs, and moved across the country. On the outside, she is doing fine. But she is also struggling — she said that much. She still gets easily triggered and unsure of the whole idea of being sober. The struggle with addiction for her is a daily fight to stay up above the water. She is also the sweetest and warmest person you can imagine, but also the one with a constant craving for reassurance and, well, just overall neediness — to be liked and to be a center of attention.
Oh, and did I mention that I like her a lot?
I probably should mention that. We talked and talked, during the break in the meeting and after a meeting as well. I was trying to reassure her that she is strong enough to stay sober, that she has already done so much that it would be crazy to throw it away, and that she knows what she needs to do to keep going. I was supportive and firm and comforting and encouraging all at once. It seemed to be working, and it seemed that it was something that she needed to hear. But something happened while we were talking. I became aware of my speech. The actual words I was saying were coming out differently — there was a change in cadence, the flow, the pronunciation, and the accentuation. You name it — suddenly I was talking in a different manner and it was so significant that I was aware of it as it was happening. It actually felt like I was standing next to myself and was watching a performance of me talking in a profound and assured way. It happened unconsciously. There was absolutely no intention on my part. Hell — I didn’t even know that I can change the way I talk without any effort on my part.
We parted ways and I hope that she stays strong and continues her sobriety. But the way I changed my speech pattern while talking to her bothers me still. Why it had happened? How come? And where did it come from? What was the reason I suddenly sounded like a therapist, doctor, or caring family member? Was it because I really like her? We haven’t seen each other for more than a year and a half. Nothing happened between us while we were in therapy, and nothing ever will. Why this unconscious and unexpected change? I cannot answer any of those questions. What I can do is to keep observing myself in reaction to other people and things around me. Keep being aware of changes (no matter how minute) in me and analyze those observations. Since I stopped drinking, I already surprised myself with who and how I really am so, so many times — no different from the surprise last Saturday.