Worried About All the Wrong Things

Image by Matthew Grant, click to visit site.

Image by Matthew Grant, click to visit site.

This week I’m spending a lot of time working on a speech I’ll give Tuesday—and practicing the delivery of it on my computer’s video cam.

Wince is too sweet of a word to describe what it’s like to watch it back. If, like me, you still want to believe folks who say you don’t look your age, I can’t recommend this approach.

Trust me, it has occurred to me that I might just be worried about the wrong things. It’s not about me, right?

Still, since I’m too distracted by revelations about my face to write a post, and since Sober Mercies releases in paperback this Tuesday, it seems a good time to run an excerpt that seems to relate.

Here it is:

“In typical, self-centered fashion, I had imagined that treatment would be all about me. I had pictured myself spending a lot of one-on-one time with the staff psychiatrist while he probed my psyche to solve the mystery of what drove someone as nice as me to drink myself blotto. Sure, I knew the other patients would be there, hovering in the background.

But in my mind, the camera was always focused on me, front and center.

It was nothing like that.

I quickly learned that rehab is nothing if not a group activity. It’s like one long experiment in the study of how people develop intimacy with strangers. Naturally, whether or not this is a good thing depends largely on who your fellow residents happen to be. These are the people who will see you with bed-head at six a.m. when you stumble half asleep down the hall to have your vitals taken. Who will learn your most shameful secrets. Who will see you exposed for what you are—a blubbering drunk in Banana Republic clothes.

Who won’t like you.

It was true. Right away, several of the residents decided I thought I was better than them. During dinner in the school-style cafeteria that first night, a lesbian and meth addict named Geneva mocked me for being so “put together.” She said I looked like one of the damn counselors. She was sure if I met her on the street, I wouldn’t give her the f*@*#ing time of day.

Others at the table nodded or snickered.

I had half-expected this—not quite fitting in. But I was taken aback by the open hostility. I went to my room and cried. What did these people want from me? Should I not put on makeup and blow-dry my hair? Should I wear only T-shirts? Forgive me for not knowing what a “tweaker” is! (It’s a methamphetamine addict.) I don’t think I’m better than any of them! I insisted to myself.

And yet, I did think I was different. I just wasn’t in the same category as these hard-core alcoholics and drug addicts. I’d never stolen anything. I’d never spent time in jail or on the street. I’d never woken up naked in Vegas, unsure how I got there and who was in bed with me.

That night, I phoned Dave and told him I’d met a drug-addicted lesbian named Geneva who hated me on sight. I told him I missed him. I missed Edmund (my dog). I missed being at home in our house on our wide, pretty street where no one ever looked at me funny, wore pajamas to dinner, or asked me what I was ‘in for.’


On the upside, before I came to treatment, I had envisioned myself here curled up in a corner, sweating profusely, delirious with pain, and perhaps suffering small seizures. But that never happened. Much to my relief, during those first couple days, I was given Valium to help me cope with the physical symptoms of withdrawal.

In the meantime, because I was new and detoxing, I was temporarily excused from most of the program activities. Since I didn’t have a roommate, this allowed me plenty of time to wallow in self-pity. In fact, I was so worried about being ostracized that I forgot to worry about not being able to drink.

At around eight on that first night, the irony hit me. Instead of climbing the walls with craving as I’d expected, I was alone in my room, calmly reading a book, desperately upset because a lesbian didn’t like me.

Obviously, I had worried about all the wrong things.”

P.S. Just so you know, Geneva turned into a great friend and I eventually realized I was exactly like all the other residents.  :)




  1. I love that I can depend on your honesty.

  2. DaintyWordPressBlogFarmChicks says:

    I found a post on an open discussion forum and thought I’d share it.
    It’s a cheap shot at the man but it is funny when one considers
    the level of debt Uncle Sam has accumulated. Seventeen Trillion ain’t peanuts.
    Banana Republic Status for the US of A is a scary thought.

    Hillary Clinton gave President Obama the daily briefing. She concluded by saying: “Yesterday, 4 Brazilian soldiers were killed.”
    “OH NO!” the president exclaimed. “That’s terrible!”
    His staff was stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the president sat, his head in his hands.
    Finally, the president looked up and asked, “Just how many is a brazillion?”

    This must be the Recovery One Oh One room. :-)

    So you are a Lesbian…, really???


  3. amazingtammy12 says:

    Hi! I’m a new follower of yours. Just dropping by to say I appreciate your posts and could really identify with you. I’ve been sober for almost a year now and struggling with emotional and physical issues. But this post made me realize that I’ve also been worried about the wrong things in life that cause me a hell lot of anxiety. (That’s why I turned to alcohol in the first place.) Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. :) God bless!

  4. David Petersen says:

    H: We met at Sky @ Janet’s dinner discussing faith & contemporary recovery last nite. I’m a former cleric, recovering addict & clinician who would very much enjoy a java connection to further the convergence (faith/recovery) dialogue.

    The advantage of high-register English and a high-crime using hisory have served as effective equalizers in my life & recovery. In the NA 90×90 decades ago, I heard my life story in a mosaic symphony…

  5. This is a wonderful post. It connected with me in ways you might not expect. Yesterday I looked in the mirror to check my appearance before going out to dinner and was struck by the thought, “I’m beginning to look more like me!”
    I stopped drinking two years ago (almost to the day) and so many things have changed in my life since then. When I looked in the mirror in those old alcohol fused days, I saw a stranger looking back. I would check her hair and make up and give her approval to go out into the world, but I didn’t recognise her. Now the real me is back and guess what, I’ve missed her. It’s so much more fun around here now that she’s back It was great to see her in the mirror yesterday, wrinkles and all. Good luck with your talk, be the real you and it will be a great success.

  6. Great post and as usual right on time. I had one of my self-centered, worrying about myself incidents today as well when I had to pick up my sick granddaughter at school. I walked in and said not, “How are you sweetie? What’s wrong?” But, “You better not be contagious I have a trip to take next week.” Face plant into desk, lots of self-recrimination and lashes with a very stiff, hard noodle, and a realization that at my age I am still totally self-absorbed and very immature. Lots of prayers for mercy, and lots and lots of grace to become the person I want to be.

    Smiles and blessings, Me

  7. I am new to your blog. A friend recently shared with me. I just want to say thank you for your honesty and transparency. I just love you already. I ordered your book today since soon I will be having my niece who is a heroine addict coming to live with me after she gets out of prison boot camp, and I believe your book can be an inspiration to her and help to me. God bless you abundantly.

  8. teetotaltexas says:

    This morning, I was trying to show my daughter how to use an old digital camera which, while broken for the purposes of photographs, still has its video function. In the process, I ended up videoing myself showing her because it was aimed at me, sitting across from her. When I showed her, then, how to play back videos…. ohhhh man, do I feel you! Wince is way too mild of a word– I think the word “yikes!” even flew out of my mouth before I could catch it. :) Reality is so much harsher than I can handle! (So I then promptly showed her how to DELETE videos.)

  9. First, let me assure you that you didn’t miss anything by not having the d.t.’s. Most unpleasant. Kinda like being forced to watch Dr. Phil for a couple of days with no way to turn the blessed thing off.

    Your post reminds me of a profound truth. In the words of the noted swamp theologian/philosopher Pogo (if you don’t know, ask your grandfather), “we have met the enemy and they is us.”

  10. I love this post and I loved your book Sober Mercies. I often worry about the wrong things. And nearly every time I’m focused on the wrong things, I realize I am focused on myself instead of being focused on God and others as I should be.

  11. Hello Heather! Thank you for the reminder this morning that it is not all about me! I am excited your book is coming in paperback. Now I can recommend it to my friends all over again! xo Joanne

  12. Sharon R. Huffman says:

    Worry is sort of like fuming inside, don’t you think? I agree with Stephanie’s thoughts. Even so, internal activity based on our needs about vulnerability are often off base (and crazy consuming). I appreciated your book and this excerpt.

  13. “You will know a new found freedom and happiness”. Once I took the focus off me, rearranged my thoughts around WIIFM – What’s In It For Me..”the audience”, admitted to myself, once again, that I am human and perfectly imperfect, my speeches have been anxiety free. I have found myself speaking from the heart and delivering an experience with the audience that I always longed for but could never accomplish. “Relieve me of the bondage of self”. Thank you AA!

  14. Sounds to me like you worried about the right things Heather!
    I don’t think you were focusing on yourself at all from the excert you showed. it sounds to me that you welcomed friendship and wanted to belong in fellowship with these people at a time that you felt the most vulnerable.
    The feeling of rejection is so horrible and we want to know why. That’s a normal reaction to try and fit it. We are not islands. The Lord made us to have relationships and Love our enemies.

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