• David Sales

I Find Belonging by Letting Myself Be Found

My People Were out There, but They Couldn’t Find Me - Originally Published on Medium.com

Ever feel you don’t fit in with the crowd?

You might consider a new crowd, because these aren’t your people. There’s a place where you belong — a community of your people, but they can’t find you. Make it easier for them and your life will change.

I spent years trying to fit in. Whether it was family or work, I tried and tried some more. Sometimes, through blunt force mimicry, I would scratch out a little acceptance within the crowd. It still felt terrible. I was an impostor.

When would the real Dave show up and expose me as a fraud?

He always did.

I repeated a cycle of buildup and burn down. I could reach a certain level of success, but I couldn’t fake it forever. Relationships? Fake. Careers? Fake. The only lasting truth in my life was my slow slide into addiction and alcoholism. There’s no faking your way out of death and I went right to the front door of it.

After many relapses and a failed suicide attempt, I had to dig in. By dig, I mean a deep, archeological kind of excavation.

With the help of Jennifer, a great substance abuse clinician I trusted, I explored the dark corners of past lives. I found some pretty creepy things there. Childhood trauma, fear of abandonment to name a few.

Hidden away, under several layers of emotional dust, lay my need to fit in. It didn’t seem like a big deal. Don’t we all want to fit in? I had just taken it to an extreme level where not fitting in meant there was something wrong with me.

I had spent my life creating different personas to force myself in, moving farther away from my authentic self. I measured my worth by how accepted I was.

I was so busy trying to stick my square peg into the round holes that surrounded me; I didn’t consider there might be a place where square holes existed.

Jennifer asked me to consider the possibility that maybe it wasn’t me. Maybe it was them. What if I discovered who I was and lived under his values? Would new people — my people find me? It was worth a shot.

My counseling helped me rediscover myself. I nurtured this new person by making 3 key changes that allowed my people to find me.

You got nothing to lose. You don’t lose when you lose fake friends. -Joan Jett

No Faking — I Wore My Life

I had made a big mess. My life was in shambles. All I had left was a smoking pile of wreckage. It was embarrassing. The thought of facing it was nauseating. The thought of moving to Costa Rica became super appealing. I had to do something.

A decision came, probably out of sheer exhaustion, that I would wear it. I would own my life for what it was.

I started writing again. It was bad writing, but it was real. I wrote about my life, my failings, and my struggles. Part confessional and part cries for forgiveness these blogs were raw and rambling journals. But they brought me out of hiding. I wore my life everyday like a suit of truth.

Did I over share? Was it humiliating sometimes? Check and check.

Some people, uncomfortable with my rawness, disappeared from my life. Others stayed, and some even emerged from shadows to share their own personal struggles. These were the first genuine connections I had experienced. There were humans that got me… and I got them.

“These are the people that are important in my life,” I told myself.

Writing became a cornerstone of my recovery. Not only did it increase connections with new people, it helped me further understand myself.

Wearing my life, in my writing and in public, filtered out the people that only had the round holes.

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. -Lao Tzu

If I Needed It-I Gave It

We all have needs and we’ll try to fill them any way we can. For me, it was alcohol and other substances. Without them, it forced me to find other ways.

I heard people in recovery talk about turning your thoughts to helping others. I tried it. If I wasn’t getting what I needed, I gave that very thing to someone else.

If I felt unheard, I read another blogger’s work and commented on it. Heck, if I needed a little positive encouragement, they likely needed some too. Other than a few friends and family, no one is reading your blogs when you start out. A subscriber submission, or a comment on your piece? It’s huge, and might be just encourage you to write another one.

If I was lonely, and no one called me, I called someone. If I felt down, I gave a stranger a compliment.

This type of giving what I need is my first line of attack against my unmet needs. Often it comes back to me in spades, but it doesn’t have to. The act itself gets me out of my head.

I can’t tell you how many people I clicked with, especially online. My social media timelines are more positive. Why wouldn’t they be? I’m seeing posts from my people!

I think every human being in the world appreciates being encouraged and acknowledged. -Asghhar Farhadi

Where There Was Love — I Went

I think every human being in the world appreciates being encouraged and acknowledged. -Asghhar Farhadi

We all want to feel loved, right? Of course, but we get picky. I identified a shocking trait of mine. I only wanted love from certain people. How selfish and ego driven is that? Yuck.

Again, that unhealthy desire to fit in, even if it was wrong for me. They weren’t ever going to love me. Not the real me. Love requiring me to be something I’m not, simply isn’t the love I need.

My ego had to go, and I started saying yes to invitations I would normally decline. I opened myself up to new experiences and different people. It didn’t always result in deep connections, but I didn’t feel obligated to act a certain way. After all, they invited me.

Most times though, people invite you places or want to spend time with you because there is something they like about you. They see something they have in common and want to introduce you to other people like you.

This has encouraged me to reach out more and when I meet someone who I feel comfortable with, I try to explore the connection further.

Today, where and with whom I interact, has transformed because of these shifts I’ve made. I feel authentic, and my life is filling with genuine connections. I’m more securely tethered to the planet knowing there is a place for me on it. Life just seems a little easier.

I remain a flawed human, and I can gravitate to the pull of old habits, but I recognize immediately the uncomfortable feeling of being an outsider. I often step back and see that I’m in the wrong crowd.

Discovering I have people, and by letting them find me, I am gifted with the sense of belonging I’ve always wanted.

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Disclaimer - I base my articles on my own personal experience as a recovering alcoholic and addict. I share about what has helped me, what I have learned about myself, and are to provide insight into my recovery. I encourage anyone struggling with mental health and addiction challenges to consider talking to a professional clinician. You are worth it.