What is the difference between strong disagreement and resentment? That is the question I find myself asking this evening, after two days of taking part in a long and testing online debate about alcohol taxation, in which many people disagreed with my view that increasing tax on alcohol is a good thing. The reason I believe that taxes on alcohol should continue to increase is because they have historically proved to be the only reliable method of decreasing national alcohol consumption. In a country where binge drinking is becoming the norm, suggested better ways of dealing with the problem seem few and far between. I don’t think education and information alone are enough to discourage people from binge drinking. It took a public vomiting incident to stop me drinking, but for the vast majority of people my age who drink excessively, that sort of thing is water off a duck’s back.
Anyway, my views have proved unpopular on the social networking site where I have taken part in this discussion for the past two days. A lot of people just won’t accept that it is fair to restrict the drinking habits of the normally drinking majority just because the alcoholic minority can’t control themselves. Which is fine, we all have different opinions on things, I accept that. I shouldn’t be surprised when most of the drinkers I talk to balk at the idea of having their choice to drink as much as they want taken away from them. It does sting a little when I am constantly told that I am wrong, and all day I’ve been unable to stop dwelling on this discussion, going back every few minutes to say something so that I’m guaranteed to have the last word on it. Why can’t I just back down and do something else with my time? Why am I so bothered that a lot of people who I’m never likely to meet disagree with me strongly? Because it’s generally nicer when people are agreeing with me; it’s nice to have my opinion validated sometimes. That may be a selfish thing of me to expect. I can’t help feeling better about myself when people are in agreement with me, just as I can’t help feeling worthless when everyone’s telling me I’m woefully in the wrong.
Although I may never meet these people I have a picture of them sitting there and judging me right now, because I have dared to go against the popular opinion. They could be thinking: “What a loser, what does that guy know? He’s an alcoholic!” If they are thinking that about me, of course it’s entirely their problem in reality, not mine. My step 4 work should have taught me that other people’s opinions of me are immaterial to me, because I can’t control people’s opinions of me. All I can control is my own behaviour and so far I don’t think I’ve done or said anything particularly wrong.
I want to find my voice, to be respected and liked all at the same time. The trouble with finding one’s voice is that you have to encounter other people’s voices along the way. I can’t reasonably expect to go through life without being disagreed with, criticized, disliked even. Because I’m an alcoholic, whenever any of these things happen they tap into the lonely, childish, old part of me that didn’t have a voice when I was younger, and it hurts a bit. I spent my childhood being censored, criticized and marginalized. Though strong disagreement is a part of normal, everyday life (as internet discussion forums prove) I can’t help being reminded of the past whenever I experience it. That’s who I am, it’s part of my make-up.
So, should I just avoid internet forums altogether? Believe me, I’ve asked this many times over the years, and the fact that I seem no nearer to finding the answer is very irritating. I know I have the choice just to ignore the discussions where I’m likely to be criticized, and focus on the ‘fun’ and lighthearted topics – but I don’t want my use of the internet to be restricted in such a way, and it’s impossible to avoid disagreement altogether, as I’ve already said. So, I can either switch the internet off entirely and do something more worthwhile with my time, or I can enter these discussions with my controversial views in full knowledge of the fact that not everyone will like me.
At the beginning of today’s blog I asked what the difference between strong disagreement and resentment is, because at times today I have found myself seriously resenting all the people who have criticized my point of view. Is that resentment a normal reaction or another reflection of my illness? I’m so confused, I don’t know whether I’m allowed to resent these people or not. I don’t know whether I’m allowed to be pissed off because someone said my alcoholism biases my point of view or not. Most worryingly of all, I don’t know how to move on from this. It’s sat with me all day and is likely to keep me up for a good few hours tonight, as heated online discussions often do. How can I express my unpopular opinion without potentially getting people’s backs up? Other people just seem to be able to say what they think, become really popular and move on, and it’s really annoying.
I’m so focused on this today rather than anything else because, as I must have written before, the internet is a big part of my life, and this finding my voice business is very important to me at the moment. I don’t want everyone to agree with me, nor do I expect the spikey nature of the internet discussion forums ever to change. I guess I’d just like to find a way of continuing to feel normal and OK about myself after I’ve logged off.