“Who the Hell Wants to Be the Setting on a Dryer?”
“Normal Is Just a Setting On the Dryer: And Other Lessons from the Real, Real World” -Patsy Clairmont
As human beings, we are social animals, instinctively wired with a need to feel a sense of belonging and to feel loved.
Sadly, our increasingly toxic Western “civilization” perverts this into a sick need to betray who we really are so as to “fit in.” We buy things we don’t need, we bury our core selves under layers of “achievement” and “things,” we do things that conflict with our conscience, and much more when we sacrifice our souls at the alter of “being normal.”
When faced with the possibility that we won’t fit in with society writ large, we easily sucomb to years of indoctrination that the “tribe” will ostracize us, leaving us naked, isolated, and defenseless, and are driven to trade authenticity and integrity for the comfort of “being normal.”
I know this fear all too well, as I spent many years torturing myself for having Bipolar Disorder (which does catalyze some ignorant and cruel segments of society to discriminate and ostracize the sick person) by tenaciously striving to be “normal” and barely limping through it.
Even before I was diagnosed, the terror of not being normal was there. In my freshman year of college, it was readily apparent that I wasn’t reasonably well-adjusted like many of my peers. I was crawling in my skin and barely hanging on by my finger nails. Then I took an abnormal psychology class and became obsessed with the notion that I would wind up with a severe mental illness, suffering immensely and becoming part of society’s “detritus.”
Ironically, I discovered that I did (do) have an SMI and spent the next 20 some years surviving the hell of varying degrees of depression, hypo-mania, mania, and addiction. My life was chaos and “failure” (according to my indoctrination). At rock bottom in 2010, I was isolated and existentially exhausted from fighting to survive. My self-worth had shriveled to almost nothing. And I had lost the will to keep fighting.
By the grace of my Higher Power, I dragged myself into the doors of AA. It was there that I found the meaning of real love and true belonging. I had found my people and a sense of belonging, which, as Brene’ Brown asserts, is far healthier and authentic than “fitting in.”
Spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and/or financially broken in some way, we in AA share many common problems in living life on life’s terms, with the only prerequisite for “membership” being a desire to stop drinking. And we share a common solution to our demons and emotional/behavioral handicaps.
The spiritual solution of AA gives us a counter-cultural way of living, rife with gratitude, forgiveness, honesty, humility, hope, faith, courage, integrity, brotherly love, amends, willingness, surrender to a Higher Power, love, and service. We are not saints by any stretch of the imagination. These are guideposts that we practice with progress, not perfection.
AA also gave me at least one other priceless gift: the core belief that no human being is “detritus.” We all have redeeming qualities if one looks hard enough. “God doesn’t make junk.” And we don’t have to “fit in” by being “normal.”
Those of us with alcoholism, addiction, and sometimes mental illness too, and who have made AA the basis of our lives, are far from “normal.” But we have found a Fellowship of “our people” who accept us unconditionally, love us, and hold us accountable to remain the good people into whom the Higher Power of our understanding and AA have forged us. No earned virtue of course. We were driven there by pain.
And I thank my Higher Power every day.
After all, who the hell wants to be the setting on a dryer?