Imposter Syndrome and Radical Gratitude

For the last two years I’ve been working on Step Nine in alignment with my recovery, which is to make amends to all the people I have wronged. This is a particularly raw process, especially since I have a pretty large ego, and I’m not very good at vulnerability. Making amends is the definition of being vulnerable. It’s telling another human that you’ve not only screwed up, but that you harmed them in the process and until now you’ve been unwilling to admit that, probably causing more harm or distance from them. It’s humbling, and it should be.

The saddest part of my recovery is the amends I can’t make because some of my harmed loved ones are dead. This has led to a number of new emotions that I’m working through – regret, shame, and deep grief. These are new emotions for me, and without pills to mask them it’s even more raw than I imagined.

Recovery means developing new coping skills to beat back these new demons, and the others that spring up because of the new vulnerability. My newest demon is imposter syndrome. I’ve always felt capable, even while in the throes of addiction. Actually, my addiction fueled my illusions of grandeur. I had boundless energy and was able to produce quite a lot of work. Sadly, the work was shitty, but I really didn’t see that until much later. Now I question everything. How can I hold myself out as an expert if I’ve failed so spectacularly? How can I give business advice or marriage suggestions or parenting tips? All things that people ASK me for, mind you, not things I hold myself out to be an expert at.

But then it occurred to me. They might be asking me because I’m overcoming adversity – I’m still in the state of it, but I’m coping. I’m progressing. I’m not stuck. Maybe I’m not an imposter after all, but someone that can continue to just simply say, “Here’s what’s working for me. Maybe it will help you.”

I’m learning to be less of an ass in this regard, I hope. Radical gratitude helps. I’m grateful for sobriety. I’m grateful for the forgiveness and love of my family and friends. I’m even grateful for the friends that shun me now because they remind me of what’s at stake if I screw up again. I’m grateful for work. For people that trust me. For grace. For a clear mind. For the health I have, and the health I’m working toward.

Imposter syndrome sucks, but I’m grateful for it as well, because it reminds me that people are looking to me for answers. I have that responsibility. And it’s a chance to do good, be transparent, and remind everyone, myself included, to just do the best you can. That’s my amends to myself.