How Do You Handle Compliments, Affection, and Support?

Karen Madej

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Well-meaning, kind and generous potential interactions with people who you know and like, yet you spurn them because you feel unworthy. Finding excuses to prove you are nothing special.

You don’t need or want unsolicited help. You can do it all by yourself. You have cared for yourself throughout your life. Why would you need any help now?

You bit your tongue when your colleague paid you a compliment. You knew it must look odd. So you taught yourself to say thank you and smile. Inside you cringed with discomfort, still convinced you didn’t deserve it.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Leo Buscaglia

Your mother abandoned her five-year-old. You cannot admit that your father stayed.

Your mum left her family, maybe your dad would leave too. This deep dark knowledge kept you afraid. No matter what, you kept suppressing the hurt.

Over your lifetime, many alcoholic beverages helped ease the pain. Did the alcohol make you an alcoholic?

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Are drinking and how you deal with life related?

According to Ria Health, when considering your own drinking habits, start by asking yourself:

  • Is drinking affecting my overall happiness?
  • Is it having an impact on my relationships?
  • Do I feel less healthy physically after drinking?
  • Is drinking alcohol getting in the way of my life?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these, it may be worthwhile to reassess your relationship with alcohol.

Pleasing others

You made sure you pleased him and your Polish step mum. You also pleased your teachers, your work colleagues, your customers, your husband, and subsequent boyfriends. No matter the cost to you. Giving them every chance to understand you. Leaving them all when they failed over and over to please you.

Sometimes you swallowed criticism, other times you sulked and wallowed in what you perceived as a personal slight.

When you sat next to a bowl of fruit punch at a party two days before your sixteenth birthday, you discovered the concoction was delicious. You did little mingling with the other guests. Too shy to start a conversation, the punch and you got well acquainted. You observed everyone else, yet remember very little about the evening.

You recall your dad picked you up in his car and took you home. You remember his face when he asked you if you’d been drinking. You denied it, you’d only been drinking fruit punch. He looked disappointed. You didn’t know what he meant until the next morning.

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A warning sign ignored

The hangover left you fuzzy and nauseous. You didn’t remember a thing except hugging the punch bowl. Your dad told you someone had spiked the punch. What would he know? He’d never got drunk once in his life. You learnt to be more observant while sober.

In Bologna, Italy, a few months later, your best friend and owner of the punch bowl and you stayed with her father and his girlfriend. They introduced you to Cinzano on the rocks. As an apéritif before a fabulous meal, it heightened your taste buds’ experience.

Looking back, you know that moment tricked you into a lifelong relationship. Not just with you, but others who thought nothing of drinking heavily three or four times a week.

A pleasure to drink you

You progressed to Holsten Pils or vodka and slimline tonic, whichever took your fancy after a day’s work. You started working full time at eighteen. You rarely remembered the short walk home from the pub where you went with or without your new housemate.

Your husband to be proposed three times on New Year’s Eve 1990. He told you you finally said yes the third time he asked. You believed him and felt obliged to honour an answer you gave, but had no memory of.

You married and continued drinking gallons of vodka. Gaily stating you couldn’t possibly become addicted because you hated the taste.

For a time before and after the birth of your son, you focused on self-improvement. You got your business and finance qualifications. Promotion followed. Of course, you didn’t mention your pregnancy until after you knew you had impressed the interviewing board.

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More warning signs ignored

You did well as a mum and at work. Your marriage failed. The divorce long and drawn out. A battle for custody fought and won, but you felt sorry for your ex. He’d already threatened to kill himself if you took your son with you when you left. So you settled for joint custody. Every other weekend.

Every time you stressed out with overwork or got upset because you did something you thought wrong or out with colleagues after work in Holborn, London, you turned to your real new friend.

Gavi de Gavi made from the Cortese grape in Piedmont, Italy. A delicious ice-cold white served in a large goblet. Reimbursed on expenses. Your stress has nothing at all to do with excessive alcohol.

Before the lifetime of alcohol addled events, your best friend had another party before the new school term. Still living at home, you bought a bottle of Cinzano on the way to the bus stop. You don’ recall what prompted you to drink the entire bottle and then pass out on the bed in your friend’s mums’ spare bedroom.

Probably another excuse to hurt yourself.

What has this story got to do with compliments, affection, and support?

Whether a misconceived idea of having to be independent, strong and self-sufficient because the people you love either leave you or cannot please you, so you leave them. Or no respect for your personal health and well-being, you still clumsily decline support from friends.

Ridiculously stubborn in refusing most offers of help. You know you can do it alone. You live alone. Think alone. Drink alone. You’re not hurting anyone, are you?

You take enormous pleasure from helping others when opportunities arise. Most of the time your world of writing doesn’t need interaction with actual people. Your secure bubble where friction, stress, and unpleasantness live outside. You created this world. Only select friends and family welcomed.

These days you blush at compliments and acknowledge them with thanks. And the only affection offered and joyfully accepted is from your son. You live for his hugs. His head resting on your shoulder while watching a TV show together. He puts on a Pacman like mouth and catches your kiss blown to him as he jogs down the stairs on his way home.

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Sober six days a week, you’re getting better at accepting compliments, affection, and support now.

Are drinking and how you deal with life related? According to Ria Health, when considering your own drinking habits, start by asking yourself:

  • Is drinking affecting my overall happiness?
  • Is it having an impact on my relationships?
  • Do I feel less healthy physically after drinking?
  • Is drinking alcohol getting in the way of my life?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these, it may be worthwhile to reassess your relationship with alcohol. If you need further advice you can do this quiz on Ria Health.

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Karen Madej is a writer and editor for several publications on various platforms. She enjoys writing about politics and climate change. Her goal is to help feed as many homeless people as possible and campaign for Universal Basic Income at every opportunity, while also giving the UK government a hard time through petitions.

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