So how does one lose all their friends in 5 minutes? Well, it’s not that hard actually. Just tell them the truth, that’s it.But please don’t be fooled, this is easier said than done and it will, of course, have its consequences. I myself have yet to do this, but it must be done no matter how much it’s going to hurt myself or my alleged friends. And, the idea here is not to hurt anyone, it’s just about being honest with myself, while at the same time, eliminating some of my “friends” by revealing some personal secrets.
But trust me; it will be better this way, because no matter how awkward this moment may be and through all the weird stares that I’ll receive from that moment on, it will be worth it knowing who I can trust.
I always kept my private life separate from my co-workers. I fear what they will think of me and if they will judge me. The thing is, that yes, some of them will judge, but not all of them will. It’s the ones who will judge me that I am concerned about.
I wonder what they will say about me when my back is turned.
I wonder if they will tell others what I have told them.
I wonder if they will lose respect for me and lose their trust in me.
It’s usually at times like this, when I’m torn about what to do, that I say to myself,
“Fuck them and fuck what they think”
That is also easier said than done. It’s the not knowing part that will drive me insane, me not knowing what they are really thinking. One would think that in today’s times- “a more accepting society”- it would be easy to share something personal with a co-worker. With the vast amount of information readily available on the internet and all of the current movements, slogans and campaigns taking place on social media and everything being “pro-this” and “anti-that”, no one should have to feel ashamed to tell a friend what he or she is going through.
I work with plenty of people, who come across as accepting and understanding, but it is some of these people who will be the first ones to point their finger at someone who looks weird to them because they don’t live in the same neighborhood as they do, or even worse, because they just don’t look the same way they do.
And the thing is, is that I’m not even trying to expose all of my skeletons to these friends of mine, I’m only trying to tell them that I have anxiety and sometimes I get depressed. They would have nothing to worry about when I show up to work quiet and miserable. I also want to tell them that I’m sober for a serious reason.
My office mates and others outside my office know that I don’t drink but I haven’t told them the truth because I fear their ridicule. I know that they won’t tell me how they really feel about my reasons for being sober, it’s the look in their eyes that will give it away and that look in their eyes will make me hate them for their insensitivity. But the day will come when I will stand up to the intolerance of people and fight against stigma. Acceptance and understanding of mental health and addiction issues are what I will fight for.
When this day comes, I will look at whom I choose, in the eye and say,
“Hi, my name is Richard De Fino and I’m sober. Why? Well, it’s a long story, but I would be happy to tell you.”
They will look at me either like they are completely interested in the sake of understanding and want to learn more about something that they are truly unfamiliar with. Or they will give me that sly and deceiving look; like they know that they’re about to hear something juicy and can spread it around the building later for some good old fashion water cooler talk.
If anyone stays, I will continue to say,
“Well I’m sober because I’m an alcoholic, which means that I cannot control how much I drink, at least not when I’m home alone. If I take one drink, then I drink the entire bottle, and then, in a complete drunken stupor, I reverse out of the parking spot in my driveway, back up into a tree and drive to the nearest 7/11 to buy some cheap malt liquor. On my way home I drive too close to the sidewalk’s curb and put dings and scratches in the rims of my car and make it back home in time to pass out on the floor next to the dog.”
If they’re still seated and listening I will continue. I will go on to say,
“I’m also clean, which means that I once did drugs, but now I don’t use them anymore. I didn’t do drugs as heavily as I abused alcohol, only because, beer and liquor is legal and cheaper to buy. I used to take a lot of painkillers, anti-anxiety meds, amphetamines and the occasional bag of cocaine here and there”.
I’m assuming at this point most of the people who I will share this with, would have walked away. For the ones who have decided to stay, I will continue.
“Well, I started abusing alcohol and drugs on account of the way I grew up. My father psychically abused me and my mother was mentally abusive. I watched the only two people who I truly loved, my Grandparents, die right in front of me and I needed an escape from my life. I found that alcohol was a great escape.”
Some will look right through me hoping that I finish soon because I am making them feel uncomfortable and they don’t want to be rude and tell me. Very few people will be intrigued. For those who are intrigued, I will go on.
“And then things really got out of control when I started suffering from really bad panic and anxiety attacks. The bad thing about the attacks was that I didn’t know what was happening to me. I reached out to my father for support and he told me that I was losing my mind and going to hell for being a sinner. So after about a year of having undiagnosed panic attacks, and not understanding what they were and believing my father that I was losing my mind, I found a new, alternative way to ease my pain and escape my day to day struggles. One night, in order to find out if I was truly sane and not dead, or dying, I drunkenly took a razor blade to my arm and cut my upper bicep twice. As I watched the blood trickle down my arm and pool on the floor near my naked toes, I then understood that not only was I alive, and not losing my mind. I was just sick and needed help.”
For the three, maybe two people remaining, I will finish the story for them. I will conclude by saying,
“I was confused and lost when I was a kid. I made some mistakes that I cannot take back. I do not regret any of them because they made me who I am today. I’m not ashamed of the scars on my arm, they remind me of how strong I am to come out of such a negative situation and make something of myself. Everything is okay now for me. In fact, I’m just like you. I put my socks on the same way you do, I have a bank account, I can go grocery shopping, I have a car, I pay my own bills, I never killed a small animal, and I never inappropriately touched anyone. I just don’t drink anymore and I suffer from the occasional panic attack.”
Five minutes later, for the one person who is left when I finish talking, I will say to him or her,
“Well, I do love coffee, do you want to go get one? My treat!”