It wasn’t until after I got sober, that I realized I’d been wearing a mask  and have been an illusionist for a great many years.  In fact, I wore several of them. Alcohol played a great part in the wearing of these masks.  As a defense mechanism, I locked up the real me at a very young age swearing I’d never let that person out again. I became who I thought people wanted me to be and never let anyone in to see who I really was. I became hard, unfeeling unless it benefited me and cold.  I was ashamed and afraid that if I let people get too close, they’d see how very ugly and insecure I was. When I looked in the mirror, I hated the reflection looking back at me. Truth of the matter is, I did enough self loathing to last me a life time. I was lonely, full of fear, anger and contempt.  On the outside  I seemed very confidant  self-assured. I needed the help of the bottle in order for me to pull this illusion off.


Eventually, as a direct result of the bottle,  that false confidence built it’s way up to , arrogance, egotism and being extremely self-centered.  Of course, I didn’t see it. I’d gotten so used to hiding behind my masks and I ‘d been doing it for so very long that I couldn’t define what was real and what wasn’t. For lack of a better way to put it, I couldn’t see past my own bullshit. In my head, I was the person I portrayed myself to be. Of course on the inside, I was still the same ugly, insecure, self-loathing person I always was. On the rare occasion that I got a glimpse of that ugly person, the bottle made that reality go away.


When I got sober, in reality, I had been faking it for so long, I had no clue who I was or how to go about finding that person. I was also terrified of showing feeling. It was always my experience that when you showed any kind of feeling, it showed weakness which I deemed dangerous.  I found Emotional and Mental Sobriety much harder than Physical Sobriety. To my surprise, not drinking really didn’t bother me as much as you’d think it would considering how much I drank and for how long. No, it was the emotions and feelings that came with being sober that bothered me the most. It’s what I had the hardest time with.


I had to take off my masks…I’d worn them for so very long that I didn’t know how to  live without them. It took time, but as my recovery progressed, I started to take them off one by one. Over time, I began to learn to love myself and was no longer sickened by my own reflection. I began to discover a sense of self-worth the I never knew existed. I also realized that all the alcohol didn’t make my “act” easier, it just made me as ugly on the outside that I felt on the inside.


Having to feel still isn’t my favorite thing. I hadn’t allowed myself to do it for more than half my life. I’m still a work in progress. But I’m no longer afraid. I’m still trying to discover who I truly am, but I’m definitely not the person that I used to be. As long as I don’t take that first drink, I will never have to be that person again.  The bottle kept me anchored in the past even though life was moving on with out me. I was drowning in it day after day.  Recovery threw me the life line I needed. I guess you could say that I was blessed with a “Do over” and I have every intention to take advantage of it to the fullest. Today, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I now know what it feels like to have a true sense of self worth, self respect and happiness. It’s no longer a struggle for me to live day by day. My smiles are genuine. I see the world in color today rather than black & white.  No more running, no more masks and no more pretending.

June 1, 2014
AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist.

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