Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Blame - it's not the game I play any more.

I’ve got to tell you, folks, I am angry. 

I am angry about Brett Kavanaugh being appointed to the Supreme Court, despite being accused of sexual assault, where he will be able to make decisions about, say, whether women have the right to an abortion FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. I am angry that the woman who accused him was mocked by the President of the United States, who believes it is a ‘scary time for men’ and that a man who has just got a promotion has ‘lost everything’. 

I am angry that abortion is still ILLEGAL in Northern Ireland, and that now women will be travelling from the UK to The Republic of Ireland to get abortions because, thanks to the people repealing the Eighth Amendment, it is more available there than it is in the country I come from.

I am angry that people, displaced from their homes by war or natural disasters have made it to what they thought would be a tolerant and progressive Europe, only to find that the French military ‘police’ slash their tents and steal their sleeping bags to make Calais an intolerable environment so they will leave…and go where? 

I am angry that three people in the UK who were trying to protect an environment big business and the government are determined to destroy by fracking were imprisoned for protesting that destruction, and that it feels like nothing will stop the madness that is climate change and the trashing of the only planet we have to live on. 

I hear ya sister. 

I am so angry about so many things that sometimes I think I will burst, and spray steaming hot bile-y anger all over everyone. And like most angry people, my first knee-jerk reaction is to find someone to blame. 

Blame is the act of making someone or something responsible for what’s going wrong. It is road rage - yelling at someone you nearly hit because they weren't bloody paying attention. It is all the excuses you use to explain why you are perpetually late. Or it’s  when you've had a really gruelling day and everyone else has pissed you off, so you have to have a drink.

People with addiction issues are often big players of the blame game. I can definitely relate to this. For me, the person I blamed the most, the person I held to be most at fault for all the things that were going wrong with my life, was myself. I turned all that rage and anger inward, and blamed myself for everything. I was a bad person, I did everything wrong, nothing about me was ‘right’, and I drank, and then smoked, to try and make that feeling go away. It didn’t work.

The problem with blame is that it can turn you into a victim, into someone who has no power. As soon as you make something someone else’s fault, you take away any ability you have to change what’s going on. You are refusing to take responsibility for your actions and their consequences, which reduces your power to make any changes if you don’t like what’s happening. 

This doesn’t mean that everything that happens to you is your ‘fault’. That’s just another way of placing blame, this time on yourself. A lot of people with substance abuse problems have been through trauma, abuse, or neglect, and none of it is their fault. But blaming the perpetrators of that abuse creates victims that have no power. Instead, we need to realise that while what happens to us may not be our fault, we are responsible for how we deal with it. We can choose to be a victim, or we can choose to be a survivor. 

What really struck me about the #Metoo movement is that speaking out and sharing stories was a way for women to show that they weren’t victims. It wasn’t about naming and blaming, but about taking control of their situation, being responsible for how they reacted, and choosing to survive and inspire other women to do the same. 

My problem right now is that I'm at a crossroads; there is no point in pointing the finger, and anyway, I know that there is no one person to blame for all the things I’m angry about. Donald Trump and his ilk seem like easy targets, but they are a symptom, not the disease. I don’t want to go down the road of blaming myself, of feeling like I’m not doing enough, not caring enough. I have beat myself up for long enough to know it achieves nothing. 

It feels like my anger has nowhere to go. 

But my sobriety journey is teaching me a lot, especially about taking responsibility. For me, that's what this whole trip is really about - being honest with myself about the things I am doing, and choosing to try something different rather than believe that I'm not able to change. I don’t want to feel like a victim any more, in any area of my life. 

I’ve realised that when I feel most helpless, and most like a victim, is when I am angry without hope. That’s when I want to blame others for the state of the world, because it is the easy option in the face of seemingly insurmountable hopelessness. Anger can be a tool, but on it’s own it is a blunt instrument, as likely to hurt the wielder as those it is wielded against. But what if I can shape that anger into a weapon? When I am angry and inspired, excited about the passion and achievements of others and hopeful that change can happen, then I, and others, can be a force to be reckoned with. 

In Berlin over 200,000 people gathered to demonstrate their opposition to fascism, racism and sexism. In London, feminist anti-fascist groups protested against ignorance and hatred. Women are marching, shouting that they are not a pussy to be grabbed. Ireland declared, with a two-thirds majority, that in the twenty-first century it is no longer acceptable for the state to control women’s bodies. I have no doubt that if the anti-choice faction in the USA get their way, people will take to the streets. They will not meekly ask, like victims. They will not say ‘please’. They will demand, they will shout, they will make themselves heard until they get what they need.

It is time to stop looking around for who to blame for the things that are happening. I am not a victim. I am angry and hopeful. I can, will, and must take responsibility for the changes I want to see, both within myself and in the wider world. I am finding inspiration from all sorts of places - like these amazing people preparing for mass civil disobedience over the climate crisis, ready to go to jail if they have to. There's a women's march in Berlin in January, and you can be damned sure I'll be there. I'm going to stand up, speak up, and stop playing the blame game. 


If you can relate to what you've just read, let's continue the conversation! Sharing stories is one of our most powerful tools, so leave a comment below, check out the FREEDOM junkies' facebook page, or join our group.

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