Can’t Afford To Get Jaded

by Ken J.

Once you’re a pickle you can never go back to being a cucumber.  I’m not a gerkin; more like a jumbo dill … When I was young I watched people, and based on their behaviors I picked out those I wanted to emulate and those I wanted nothing to do with. Based on those ideals, I started drawing lines in the sand; points I would never cross. But as my alcoholism progressed I found myself doing just that.

The first time I would break one of those barriers I would be disgusted with myself. I’d feel demoralized, embarrassed and ashamed. The next time I would cross that same barrier, I didn’t feel quite so bad. I wasn’t as embarrassed, not nearly as ashamed, and hardly demoralized. The third time . . . was a piece of cake. I was pretty jaded.

Becoming the person they wanted to be

When I got sober I was relieved to hear that so many alcoholics were jaded as well. Listening to drunkalogues helped me to realize I was not alone, and that I could choose not to judge myself based on the actions of my past. In a sense I was able to start over.

I remember hearing someone talking about becoming the person they wanted to be. They also seemed to be attempting to distance themselves from their past by attributing all of their unacceptable history to their alcoholism. It was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing. That way of thinking led me to my mistake; interpreting starting over as innocence. In a sense, I re-wrote my experiences. They became the experiences of that “other me.”

Just because I got sober, I didn’t get my virginity back

Redefining myself in sobriety I actually became judgmental and intolerant. I was an insufferable prude. A friend of mine actually told me that just because I got sober that I didn’t get my virginity back. That’s reducing this issue down to my sex life, but it really does apply to all of my behavior and attitudes. In spite of working the steps, I was still living in a black-and-white world where everything was good or bad, right or wrong, and functional or dysfunctional.

Unlike pregnancy, where you either are or you aren’t, life is a spectrum of gray. The reality is that I came to Alcoholics Anonymous jaded, and I can’t undo that. Add to that 20 years as a nurse, and 33 years of sobriety, and I’ve encountered the unimaginable. I had a professor in nursing school who said, “If you can think of something, someone else has probably already done it.” And it’s essentially the truth. I can’t remember the last time I heard anything in a meeting that shocked me.

I am able to turn that into understanding and compassion

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Years ago I was in my hometown in Nebraska. They were dealing with a local incident of child molestation, and it was a huge deal for them. But then, there hadn’t even been a murder in that town since 1969. I’d been living in the big city for decades, where we are inundated with horrible crimes on the nightly news.

It occurred to me that being jaded isn’t just due to personal experiences, it comes from the world around us as well. So that’s kind of the key for me. I can’t be “un-jaded”. There’s no going back on my experiences. And it’s impossible to live in a vacuum. Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Taking all of the darkness and sadness that has caused me to be jaded, I am able to turn that into understanding and compassion. The insulation from shock and horror allows me to be strong and supportive. For me, being jaded prepares me to move forward.

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