Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Never Satisfied"

This is one of those 'what it used to be like' stories.

Before I got sober, my then-fiance (and now ex-wife) and I took a cruise up in Alaska. It was beautiful. I'll never forget the sight of waking up to the mountains as we floated by them in the iceberg-filled ocean. I really hope to get back there someday.

The cruise was supposed to be a honeymoon trip. We started planning it a year in advance. Very early on, my mom caught wind of the fact we were going. Before long, she had decided that it would be a great idea if the cruise became a family trip. She made her proposal to me which included a very sweet deal of my parents paying for most of the cost as well as upgrading our tiny cabin to a balcony room. It wasn't public information yet that the ex and I were engaged. In fact, when the inital plans were being made, I don't think it was even official between the two of us.

As time went by, the trip became even less and less like my original intentions. A trip which was supposed to be a honeymoon for my fiance and me ended up being a six-person family vacation that included both my parents, my sister, and a family friend. The cruise line we had chosen was overridden and another selected. Once onboard the cruise, it turned out to be nothing like what I'd hoped for. There were no activities on the ship for people the age of my fiance & me. In fact, the average passenger age seemed to be about 75. The food was accordingly bland and even though the ship was big, we were never far from my family--the entire trip.

At the end of the second day, I broke down. It didn't matter how drunk I got or how high I was, I was still miserable. My fiance asked what was wrong and I told her about all my frustrations with how the trip was nothing like what I'd wanted it to be. I was falling to pieces, in tears. But instead of putting her arms around me, instead of saying she understood, and that it was okay, that we'd try to make the best of things, she started crying herself. And then she screamed at me:

"You're never satisfied!!!"

Sometimes, I think back on that trip and wonder if my impression of the natural beauty of Alaska isn't even more vivid because the rest of the trip was so miserable. And I think, too, that one of the reasons the memory stays with me is because it was such a confluence of so many issues from my life. I can look at it and own my shit now, of course. I fourth-stepped this trip a long time ago: I was the one who failed to stand up to my mother. I was the one who let myself be swayed by my parents' money. I was the one who chose to marry my ex-wife. I was the one who chose to stay with her even after I'd been given multiple examples of her not being supportive and emotionally unavailable. And I was the one who wasn't present for my life because I chose instead to be loaded all the time.

This comment, though, this idea of never being satisfied, it stays with me. It is true that I am much more satisfied now than I ever have been before, but fully satisfied? Not really. Is anyone ever? Maybe. There are probably many people who are totally satisfied with their lives, don't feel the need for change, don't want more, etc. I'm not one of those. I don't think it's a disease thing so much, though my disease can definitely amplify this feeling. I think it goes back to the being a seeker aspect of myself. There's also the issue here of perfection. Part of my not being satisfied does come from that knee-jerk yearning for perfection. Because I learned growing up that everything is supposed to be perfect, that I'm supposed to be perfect, and if everything isn't perfect, well then it's my fault for not making it so and I'm a failure. That part of it, that is definitely my disease.

I can't do anything about the past. I can't go back and tell my mom, "No, mom, this trip is just for me and ____." I can't go back and un-marry my ex, or talk to the me of the past and wake him up to the fact that he deserves better than the day-to-day heartache of being with someone who isn't what he needs and can never be. All I can do is keep moving forward and do my best to not make the same mistakes. I can have boundaries with my parents and keep them strong. I can make sure that I get involved with women who are truly loving and supportive and know how to show it. And I can stay sober so that I can show up for my life; it's what makes the first two possible, after all.

There is a healthy way to never be satisfied. It looks like this: being grateful for how good things are and still striving to make them better. It's being in touch with yourself, knowing you are enough, and continuing to strive for improvement in the areas that need work--because there's always areas that could be better.

Not everyone lives their life this way, or has to, but I do. The issue today isn't so much one of not being satisfied, it's one of being a seeker, someone who is trying to get as much out of life as possible. Because life is short. Because, really, I'm not even supposed to be here, above ground. For whatever reason, God has decided to keep me around, and one of the ways I show gratitude for that gift, the gift of my very life, is by pursuing it to the fullest.

So yeah, I'm never satisfied. How 'bout that?

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