I know. I get it. With everything going on in the world, here I am addressing a new problem: I can’t take compliments. At least it’s not my opinion about something on the news. I joke, because I think on the surface it does seem like a superficial problem, but as I keenly remember my mindset during my alcoholic and porn addict years, I’m noticing some parallels with what’s going on with me now.
Imposter Syndrome is not nearly the issue for me it once was. I am either living an authentic life to the best of my ability, or I’m at least buying my own bullshit, finally. It’s like that line in The Great Gatsby about how it’s better to be born a beautiful fool. I prefer to think I’m just being genuine, and if I’m being genuine, imposter syndrome isn’t necessary.
Prior to recovery, I knew I was full of shit. I argue with people that if you are an imposter, is it really imposter syndrome. I didn’t belong as a politician, or a film festival organizer, or probably doing half the duties I did as a publisher. It was no secret I was only an OK husband and a half-decent father. You could compliment me, and I probably appeared to take it fine, but I didn’t. I took it as the fake version of me was what people wanted. The compliments were just telling me the fake me was better than the real me. I already knew that.
Recovery Doesn’t Fix Everything
And I rode a pink cloud for a long, long time thinking that it did. I’m smarter than that. As I’ve said 100 times, “If you liked chocolate ice cream when you were an addict, you’re going to like chocolate ice cream in recovery.” Drilling down to the core and understanding where that trauma comes from and then dealing with it is absolutely freeing. Blindingly freeing.
I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t have an easier time than most in rehab. I walked in at the exact perfect time. Most people aren’t that lucky. I was ready to get well all through rehab. For that matter, all of professional recovery. Beyond that, the lawyer I had at one point never had to work as a public defender. I didn’t go to super high-end rehabs, but they certainly weren’t government-funded. When I returned to working in early recovery from home as a freelance writer, I rarely struggled to make ends meet. Some months I made far more than I did as an addict.
I share these things because I think they softened a lot of early recovery for me. For many, early recovery is a time of being unemployable, untrustable and settling for less-than-optimum care. I didn’t have to do this. I think some of those struggles may have been better for me to go through back then. I’m so lucky to have what I have. I understand most would trade positions with me. But sometimes in understanding that, you lose sight there’s still so much work to be done on your mental health in how you relate to your character, personality and everything that makes you individually you. It’s more comfortable for me to say, “I’ve got it all!!!” and try to believe my own bullshit than it is to say, “I have 90% of what a functioning person needs and I have to stop bullshitting that last 10%!”
Unfortunately, that last 10% I’m now trying to work on includes taking a compliment. Recovery didn’t fix that…yet.
What Happens If I Deserve the Compliments?
During my addict years, I faked life. Or at least I told myself I did. Compliments were great but I didn’t hear, “You’re a fantastic writer and a great researcher,” when somebody complimented an article I wrote for a magazine or newspaper. I heard, “You’re still doing a great job conning them into thinking you’re a writer! You just bought more time!” I could not entertain the idea I wasn’t faking it.
Now though, it’s very different. I’ve got over 40,000 followers on TikTok which means there are a lot of people seeing the videos I put out and I get a lot of compliments about them. I understand just how important they could be to someone suffering. I wish I could have seen them 10 or 20 years ago. But the only unique thing about me is that I’m just the guy who has the ability to share my story and information without shame.
Still though, isn’t that unique enough? Why shouldn’t I take pride in the fact I’ve been building this porn addiction outreach thing I’m doing for over four years? Why shouldn’t I bask in the thanks? It just doesn’t feel right.
So to those who appreciate me. Thank you. I appreciate you. Even if I’m awkward AF showing it.