The Show’s Over
October 2022 | Relapse | Emotional Sobriety

The Show’s Over

Fueled by liquor and fear, he had so many roles he forgot who he was. Then one day, he got to play himself

One of the biggest blessings of getting sober through the Steps of AA is the knowledge that I no longer have to be an actor in life. From the time I was born I had a role to play. I was the youngest of four and I had a brother who was, let’s just say, a wild child. He was so wild he could have been cast to play the role of Evel Knievel.

My role was the responsible brother, someone like the character Tom Hanks played in “Saving Private Ryan”. I was always chasing after my brother and getting him out of scrapes. I thought I hated playing that role, but somewhere along the way the lines got blurred. I crossed the line from dreading my role to needing to be the hero of the play. I needed the adrenaline rush of coming to the rescue.

However, like all plays, the lights would eventually be turned off and the curtain would come down. The audience would leave and the real person inside the character would come out and let his hair down. This is when I learned to “change hats.” I could be someone else. I could be anyone I wanted to be.

When I look back, I see that I was wearing all sorts of hats. I had different clothes for every occasion. I had preppy clothes, hunting clothes, sports clothes. I had going-out clothes, father clothes, husband clothes, old friend clothes, new friend clothes, church clothes, humble clothes and $2,000 suits. The list goes on and on. I was a chameleon. I played these roles quite well and got rave reviews.

Meanwhile, I slowly melted away inside. The more I drank, the harder I worked at my roles, the worse I felt. It was soul-sickening. Even more confusing was when the roles would collide. As alcohol took greater control of my life, the roles became even more intoxicating and frightful.

As is the case with many alcoholics, it wasn’t just the physical effects of alcohol that brought me into the rooms of AA. It was the utter confusion of not knowing who the hell I was any longer. Was I the person I was born to be? Or was I one of the many characters that alcohol had turned me into? I was living a complete lie. I had lost my soul.

I was exhausted by the time I got to AA. In fact, after my first AA meeting, I overheard a guy turn to someone else and whisper, “Who’s that homeless person?” He was talking about me. I had become the bewildered one. I was a drunk looking for help in the only place I could find it.

Upon getting sober, I heard that my Higher Power could speak to me through anyone. That very thing happened to me when I read this book by a non-alcoholic person, who wrote, “You can only wear one hat.” He said that “if you ever find yourself being someone that you are not, if you ever find yourself acting in a way that is not you, or if you ever find yourself waking up in the bed with someone that you don’t know (including your spouse), you are wearing too many hats.”

Wow, I thought, that could have been written just for me. I was literally wearing too many hats! Something about that made me start to pay attention to what my sponsor told me to do. One of his suggestions was that I should “compare me to me,” which meant comparing the characters I had been playing to the real me. That was the beginning of learning who I really am.

Today, I know who I am and what I like. More importantly, I know what I don’t like. The real me can say no today without fear or trepidation. The real me can also wear the same clothes to everything.

Although I still like nice things, I now find myself liking clothes without labels. This is odd because before I quit drinking, I wouldn’t be caught dead without the latest and greatest. I was a label junkie. As the “Twelve and Twelve” says, I was grandiose. I was grandiose all the way down to my car, my house, and yes, even my clothes and hats. I like things now because I like them, not because they get me in the club or define me.

Today I feel blessed to know that there are no acting awards for real life. I now have freedom to be myself anywhere and around anyone. I no longer have to worry about who I’m supposed to be. I’m also OK if the show doesn’t go my way. This frees up so much energy to be useful to myself and others.

Another blessing of practicing the Steps is how it opened up a spiritual side in me that I never knew existed. It was like finding the third number on a combination just magically opened over time. This has allowed me to become the person who others and my Higher Power saved my life to be.

This is my encore. The only applause I am listening for is my Higher Power’s. If I get that, I’ll not need to take a bow, I can just watch from behind the curtains as the audience enjoys the show. I no longer need to be on the stage.


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