Having spent the last few weeks in the company of teenagers, I’m more convinced than ever that the act of having a real (non abbreviated conversation) is going to be a thing of the past. In fact, I have no idea what they are saying most of the time because not only do their fingers communicate in shorthand but now their mouths seem to have followed suit.
It’s a whole different lingo and it makes me feel as though the English language as we know is disintegrating in favor of the quicker, easier, lazier way. One teenager I spent time with had her phone with her 24 hours – it had become an extension of her hand. If she was doing her homework, the phone was in the hand that didn’t hold her pen; she sat with it while we watched DVD’s, constantly tapping away in the background. It was next to her while she ate meals and she slept with it at night, the only clue that she was no longer texting came via a loud crash from her bedroom – it was explained the following morning that the crash was her phone dropping out of her hand and landing on the hardwood floor after she had fallen asleep.
The normal moods and rants of the average teenager seemed to be perpetuated by the jingle of his or her phone and the subsequent electronic epiphany. There was laughter and cursing, tears and frustration. I wasn’t sure how much of these reactions were down to teenage angst or the misinterpretation of an emotionless text. A few letters that are zapped between teenagers seem to have the ability to insight feuds that I can only recollect happening to me on a face to face basis in the school playground. Only when I saw that persons face or heard their voice could I see if they were joking, angry or about to beat my head in.
The teenagers I met didn’t seem to want face to face time or actual conversations with their peers. In fact, it seemed like an inconvenience when I suggested they call the offending person and clarify what exactly the issue was. It was exhausting just to watch as they went from their cell phone to the internet, bearing their souls and innermost feelings on Facebook with 400 of their closest friends – each of whom, incidentally, got to put their two cents in and fuel the shit storm further.
So what does this rant about teenagers and texting have to do with recovery? In the past I have communicated with my peers via text, and for the most part, it worked out okay – especially if I was sociable and in good spirits. The problem came when I wasn’t and I wanted to isolate. That was when texting became my disease’s best friend; no one had to see my face or hear the depression in my voice – all I had to do was zap a quick note that all was great, followed by a smiley face, or if I really wanted to seal the deal and convince the recipient of my well-being, I would throw in a recovery slogan like, “I couldn’t be better, I’m letting go and letting God!” When the truth was, the only thing I was letting go was my ability to be honest – as I sat on the couch crying, munching chocolate and pretending to be fine. As a recovering alcoholic, I needed to be accountable and rigorously honest. I found that I couldn’t do that if I was able to hide behind a keypad instead of making a phone call. Because instead of verbally saying “I need help,” I’d find myself texting “ I can’t make the meeting tonight – don’t worry about me though, I’m doing great :)”.
For now, it seems teenagers, texting, and all the drama are bound to go hand in hand. But in recovery we are learning to live in the real world and decrease the drama. This means having open conversations, face to face meetings, and other personal interactions with people who can see through the smiley face bullshit and figure out what is really going on. The best thing I did in early recovery was pick up the phone and talk to my sponsor on a daily basis. It was her suggestion, not mine. At the time I hated the idea of speaking to her every day, but it just so happened that I hated the idea of drinking again just a little bit more, and so I did what she suggested 😉