Soon after I got into recovery I began to hear people say something like, I went to a party last weekend with a bunch of normal people. Sometimes they called them Normies or said it differently. And nobody ever defined who these so-called Normies were, but everyone knew; they were social drinkers or recreational drug users.
I didn’t give it much thought past the fact that it sounded cool so I joined the band. I started using the term. I didn’t use it often. I didn’t have a reason to because I didn’t go to parties often or hang out with such people that much. However, I did accept the definition of normal offered in the saying. And I did so without realizing that I was defining normal for myself as a result.
One day I used the term normal people during a conversation with my sponsor and he stopped me in my tracks. He asked me why I called social drinkers normal. I thought about it for a moment–it took some time because I had never pondered the reason deeply–then I said, “Because they can drink normally.” It seemed like a good enough reason.
He went on to tell me that drinking doesn’t make anybody normal. Then he said something that would eventually lead me to a revelation. He said, “As long as I don’t drink, I can be as normal as anybody.”
Suddenly I had two conflicting ideas in my head; the idea that social drinkers were normal and the idea that as long as I didn’t drink or do drugs I could be as normal as anybody. These ideas began rubbing against each other in my mind. For a time I didn’t give them much conscious thought. I simply let them carry on their battle in the background mind clutter that occupies my brain in an area I don’t often consciously visit because I feel my brain needs that space to itself. But I did notice that it started to bother me when people said, I went to a party last weekend with a bunch of normal people. I also quit saying it myself.
One day I woke up with a new idea. I decided I was giving social drinkers too much credit when it came to being normal. Drinking or doing drugs creates an abnormal state to begin with. Even social users of mind-altering substances do this to leave normal behind, if only a little bit, and only for a little while. Suddenly I had reason to consciously ponder this new attitude toward normal and I began giving it serious thought. I would ponder it, then let it be, giving my brain time to work on the thought without my intentional interference. When the idea would pop into my head I would think on it some more and then relegate it to the back of my mind for more undisturbed debate.
Again I woke up one morning with a new idea. I have found that I do this quite often. The new idea was that as long as I considered normal to include drinking or doing drugs, I was excluding myself from my own definition of normal. This seemed a detrimental way of looking at life, one that needed to be changed, yet I didn’t know how to change it. I set out in search of a way to change normal–at least for me.
More time passed and again I woke up with an idea. This time it actually became the working title of the book, which was, Becoming Normal: The Next Step In Recovery. I liked the sound of it and even thought, “That sounds like a great title for a book.”
By this time I was already keeping notes. While I had kept notes I began writing even more notes with this title in mind. I wrote about everything that seemed to have anything to do with normal or becoming normal as well as other ideas that came to me.
The more notes I kept on this idea of becoming normal the more I realized that I could define my own normal. The more I came to see that normal is not a state one attains, like reaching a finish line in a race, and that normal changes, shifts, and is modified, whether by me, by others, or by the world. Since this seemed more and more true the more I studied it, the more I came to see that I would never become normal–at least not permanently. I would always be becoming normal.
Sure, I might reach the goal. I might hold onto normal for a time. But soon my idea of normal would shift and a new goal would be set. I would again go back to becoming normal as my perspective changed and my outlook on life was altered either by myself or the world around me. And I began reaching for this new goal.
Still, the seed for the book was firmly planted. I watched it grow until I put my notes together and decided to do the actual writing. And when my editor mentioned that the title might not quite fit, I listened. When he suggested we look for alternatives I did my best to come up with something different.
Being my first book, I felt a lot of pressure to come up with the perfect new title. This pressure kept me from thinking well about it. But when he suggested the title, I knew it was right and jumped at it. An Ever-Changing Perspective seemed perfect because that is exactly what becoming normal means to me. As normal changes, I change. As I change, normal changes. My perspective on life and the world have everything to do with how I see life and how I see normal.
Still, the most important thing to me today is that I fit into my definition of normal. I have to fit. If I don’t, I fall all the way back to the days when I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere; when I never felt normal. And that is an uncomfortable place indeed.