If you’ve read me before, or know of my work, then you’ll know that I grew up around poverty, abuse and not much hope; even my doctor had pegged me for face down in the gutter by 30. Yeah, looking in on my life at the beginning you’d have not held much hope for me. See, I didn’t have much of a good start to life.
As I’ve written many times before my Dad was abusive. My Mum has attachment issues, I had no brothers or sisters to feed from, and the only place I felt truly at home during my childhood was with my Gran and Granddad.
In my household alcohol was a strong motivator for anything. If you had been successful, “yay, let’s get drunk.” If plans had gone wrong, “Uh oh, need to get trashed.” If we wanted some entertainment? “Let’s drink and watch TV.” There was absolutely an excuse for getting drunk for every emotion conceivable, so I grew up thinking this was the zone that I needed to live in. Getting drunk was the way to be, and the state to live in.
Long story short, I seen the error of my ways, cut out the alcohol (and later the drugs) and began living a very healthy and fulfilling lifestyle that has brought me much success; Money, relationships (intimate and friendship), my own family, repaired extended family relationships and so on. My life right now couldn’t be happier. Like, honestly, as I write this I am very content.
But with this contentedness life sure has threw in it’s curve-balls every now and again. See, as I began to become fulfilled and happy I began to realise that not many people around me existed in the same mindset. Very few actually.
There is a lot to be said about the phrase, “Happy people don’t want to tear others down.” I’ve came to realise that people generally want to surround themselves with others of a similar mindset. My first challenge was trying to stave off the constant ridicule from my peers about, “getting sober” and being, “a boring person,” which I later realised was their own insecurities about the way in which they were existing. If I stood up and said I had a problem then they would have to recognise this too. It didn’t go down well and I had to end up letting a lot of people go for my own sanity.
Now when you’re a happy and content person you generally want others to be happy and content too; it’s not a nice feeling seeing others around you sad, down or making the same mistakes you have done in the past. And it’s also really hard not to preach to them. I’ll often find myself saying, “Why don’t you do x, or y” or, “you should do z” and I lost a lot of friends doing it this way. In my mind I wanted them to be happy, like me, but I guess in their mind I would be coming off as preachy and snobby. I get this though, because I’m the same. It took a lot of internalised thinking but if someone was to “tell me” how it should be then I’d probably go and tell them which bridge to jump off. I DO know now through experience that they are just trying to help in the only way that they know how, though.
One thing I found during my many years in Mental Health and Management is that the same way doesn’t work for everyone. If it worked for me, then it may not work for the next person, and advising this could probably do them more harm than good. I once tried to help a lady overcome her life barriers through writing but her family got in the way and our work relationship ended. See? What worked for me doesn’t necessarily work for other people. Life is complex, and complicated, and it’s why I generally try and stay away from pushing my opinion onto others. I live through my experiences, and if this helps any other people then great, if not, then I hope you enjoyed the read.
I’ve found listening is the best tool in my arsenal. Just sitting there and listening to someone. Whatever they have to say, whatever they want to talk about — just listen; we’re so focused these days on trying to answer what is said to us that we don’t sit down and actually listen to what is being said. Just enjoying what your friend, or whomever you are talking to is discussing. Living in that moment; embracing their content. People don’t generally feel listened to. The first time I felt properly listened to I was 27.
27 years old!
No-one had actually heard me until then; sat me down and asked me a whole bundle of questions about my life and had no expectations or assumptions of what I was going to say. They just listened. And answered very few times. I bet there are people out there that have never experienced this before, which is why I’m trying to listen more than I speak. Sometimes I can be guilty of opening my mouth and letting my belly rumble, my Granddad used to say that as a way of saying I should think before I speak.
So, now with the modern advances in technology, with social media and everyone I know now sharing the most detailed and intimate parts of their lives; things that were never up for grabs in the early 2000’s, it’s quite hard not to want people to feel the same way as I do, or try not to force my happy opinion on one of my poor unsuspecting friends. I’m now trying to practise listening more, and just being that friend that’s there but never forces people into anything.
Just being there, to talk to, helps.