While defining Narcissism seems to be up for debate these days, often glamorized as the ideal of the handsome, self-absorbed alpha male driving cool cars and scoring with all the hot girls, it is a debilitating condition that in reality suffocates genuine self-image with an idealized version.
Thinking beyond the gist of this is to lose the point, because in recovery a winner-take-all mentality precipitates for better or worse. Nearly every addict met in rehab jumped into their respective drug of choice with an attitude aimed at being the best smoker, drinker, fucker, whatever… Just being the best at being the worst. Winning.
Transforming that perspective through acceptance and willingness to let go have been crucial components of sobriety. Taking ownership of my past and sharing it with others, honest and unforgiving, taking that resumé filled with “wins” and basking in all the glory of being alive today is the rebirth discovered since rock bottom was last found.
What makes this time of year particularly painful is the competitive nature of the holiday season and the way that winning trickles into nearly every facet of life. Keeping up appearances is a suffocating approach that society drowns us with every holiday season. Best wife, best clothes, best gifts, best parties, best church service, best charitable contribution, best everything. Best life.
For this narcissist, winning happens upstairs when everyone else says that things are better for me than they are for them. Ten years ago, after three months in a psychiatric hospital, another month of rehab, and four months in a halfway house, being better led to the worst. Right around Halloween women were had and after Thanksgiving drinks were taken. Because that’s what addicts do: they consume. After eight months of trying to not-die, finally free in a new town in a new state living in a big new house, all those wins added up to an attitude of “I do what I want. ’Cause I win.”
Winning like Charlie Sheen, only with fewer dollars and less glamour, but right along those same lines of defining what it means to conquer the world. Fast women, easy money, drugs, and leisure. Conveniently forgetting earlier in the year — during a blackout — drunk a women was assaulted, police were fought, and criminal charges were handed out like stocking stuffers.
Hey, it’s all in the past, right?
Defining Narcissism is tough, but defining Nativity is much easier. It is basically the circumstance of being born, the place of origin… Nativity is the birth of Jesus, and he is a winner. My birthday is on the same day we recognize as His birthday, too. I’m a narcissist and He’s a winner so that should work out well — like two peas in a pod.
Perception and reality are blurry concepts this time of year. While scraping up from rock bottom the peak was found nearly immediately after shit stopped hitting the fan. Today, ten years later, with nearly the last 5 now sober that peak has been reached again relative to perspective. Of course the resumé is better today, the reasons to justify winning are more tangible, less subjective and more objective to the values of society but these peaks are relative to perspective nevertheless. It is amazing how depression can override triumph and turn the goals of recovery into the tools of relapse.
Because it is never enough. There is never enough money, booze, drugs, women, never, ever enough.
The reality is that addicts end up on borrowed time. Like many others, death was tempted often as a consequence of chemical dependency. Not only is opiate and alcohol addiction extremely difficult to beat — it is even more unlikely to sustain when mental illness sneaks around the back to kick you every time things get better. Rather than accept this blindly, to lose focus on how the reality of today is amazing in light of the misery of yesterday is to underestimate the past and overemphasize today.
This year, thanks to the honesty of others in recovery, that slippery slope may be avoided and the spoils which addiction is trying to convince me of lately will be denied. What cannot be denied is the bond of addicts and the tremendous help we give to one another without anyone ever really knowing how honest words can change everything.
Thanks to all the addicts out there, this Narcissistic Nativity is no longer about the birth of hedonism to mask pain, but an affirmation of progress and comfort in relative gains that mean more than all the tallies in the win column society used to envy.