Day 158 - Into The Wild of Attachment Theory
I think I have more to say on this topic. Sorry for those of you that got enough on this yesterday...
What fascinates me most about attachment theory is just how much I never thought about it before reading this book. I did not think about something so fundamental as how much closeness or intimacy I needed or wanted in my life or how I dealt with other’s need (or lack thereof) for closeness in their lives. Now how the hell can I be out there in the world trying to have relationships and not even have a clue about this?
It has caused me to really consider this. I have always wanted to be close to people but have honestly found it hard. I lump the whole in my life into two camps: BS/AS. Before sobriety/after sobriety. I suppose there are a million other ways to categorize my life but this is the most easy benchmark for my growth. My life BS was pretty much BS. It was kind of like I was a living example of what NOT to do with your life. Almost like I was living an instruction manual on how to totally and completely ruin a life.
So back BS, I was out there selecting all the wrong things for the wrong reasons. Everything I did was in support of my addiction in some form or another. I picked friends that drank like I did so that I could drink with abandon. I picked boyfriends for the same reason. I didn’t really want to be close to anyone, I just wanted them around all the time to take up space and time so that I would not have to spend one minute alone with myself. People were just things that I used so that I could get away from me. Booze served the same function. My attachment style in this time period was like an anxious avoidant. I would work really hard to get you to be in my life so that I could quickly ignore you, take you for granted and then wholly abandon whatever relationship we had in search on another less intense and intimate one. I clung to people seemingly only to prove that I didn’t need them or want them. My greatest fear back then was being real. Allowing anyone, ever, to see who I really was. Makes total sense: I was a shitshow.
Then AS, that is where it all began to change. All of it. Me and all the many levels of dysfunction. Day by day, month by month and year by year, I began to work on all the demons that chased me, all the issues that stemmed from all that happened before. I began to slowly and methodically unpack all my crap and take an honest look at it. There was a lot of it. And looking back now, I can see that what I really shouldn’t have done was try to have any relationships in those early years. But I was as addicted to them as I was the booze so that was not going to happen.
Today, I can see that I have always wanted to be close to people but lacked some sort of fundamental ingredient that allowed me to actually connect. I missed something in the whole “how to be intimate with people” outline so I just kept repeating the same old mistakes and getting the same old results. Probably mostly because I could not and would not admit that I wanted a relationship despite the fact that my behavior was almost compulsively geared toward finding one, getting one and leaving one...over and over and over again.
If I look back, all of my relationships with men ended because I could not or would not get closer to them. I could not or would not allow them to see who I really was. My fear of being truly seen, too paralyzing. Too hard. Too scary. There are other reasons why my relationships thus far have failed but at all of their core is this fundamental issue with my ability to be close.
It kind of makes me laugh. Looking at my life, seeing how much energy and time I spent pouring myself into these relationships without addressing this most fundamental issue: my ability to really connect and tolerate the emotional proximity of others. I see myself as a stray dog, wanting the food you have in your hand but being terrified of you. I want to be close enough to get the treat, but not so close that you can actually get ahold of me and keep me. And just like that dog, I am forever on the outside. Forever, hovering around the lives of others, begging for scraps and finding all the people who will give me that and only that. I am grateful that this image engenders in me an empathy for this very confused manner in which I have tried to attach.
Today, I am capable of owning that I crave intimacy. I want it, need it and am willing to do the work required to have it in my life. In fact, I have grown so far in the other direction, I have left several long term relationships and friendships because of their lack of intimacy and/or ability to allow closeness. This is huge growth for me. I can see it. I can feel it.
Today, almost 25 years AS, I have relationships in my life that are deep, meaningful and intimate. The people I am in relationship with know how I feel, can be close to me and vice versa. I am kind of marveling at it. I realize that I have been doing the work on this and didn’t even really know it. This blog has been a huge part of that. While there will always be a part of me that really wishes I could have just stayed quiet and not felt compelled to share in intimate detail the inner workings of my mind and heart, there is a larger part of me that is so grateful that I was able to override my fear and just put it all out there.
I am learning that the hardest but best thing I can ever be is simply who I am. Not the dressed up prettified version of myself but this open, bare, naked version of myself that is real, in her pain, her joy and her life. One of the most important questions I have come to ask myself is this: How do I show up? The follow up question has become this: Is how you are showing up supportive of your desire to be close to people? If not, what do I need to do to change it?
It only took me 25 years preparing to drink and drinking, and now another 25 years to sift through all of my dysfunction to arrive where many people arrive 25 years earlier; at the simple yet profound conclusion: a life worth living is really measured by the quality of your relationships with other people.
Christopher McCandless, the subject of the book Into the Wild, leaves society and sets out to live a life based upon his own will, direction and sole support. He eschews all assistance from others and retreats to the Alaskan wilderness. He lives his life there intentionally and purposefully cut off from contact with all other people. One of the last notes in his journal before he died in that self imposed isolation was this:
Happiness only real when shared.
Yep, so let’s all commit to working our own self imposed Alaskan wilderness like isolation, and do the hard work to allow ourselves to be close to the people in our lives. Allow intimacy to be the goal. To allow authenticity to be the manner in which we all love and are loved. I, for one, do not want to live in isolation, self imposed or otherwise, one more minute of my life.